The Canadian men’s curling team is one step closer to winning a historic first gold medal at the inaugural 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships.
Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., earned Canada’s spot in the gold-medal game following an 8-2 win against Japan’s Team Riku Yanagisawa on Saturday morning at Calgary’s WinSport Event Centre.
Canada, the first seed in the playoffs, takes on third-seed South Korea’s Team Byeongjin Jeong in the gold-medal game on Sunday at 9 a.m. (all times Mountain). The South Koreans defeated second-seed Team Korey Dropkin of the United States by a score of 9-6 to lock a spot in the gold-medal game.
“Just like today, really. Just get out and get off to a good start,” Gushue said of the key for tomorrow’s game. “Put our rocks in good positions and then control and manage the game. Really, it’s just about trying to be tied up coming home with the hammer or hopefully having a couple of points lead coming home.”
How Canada and its semifinal opponents in Japan qualified for the playoffs couldn’t have been any different. Canada’s Gushue, vice-skip Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden and lead Geoff Walker had a 6-1 round-robin record and were among the class of the field. On the other hand, Japan had lost its first four games, only to string together three wins to close the round robin and squeak in as the fourth seed of the playoffs.
Both teams had their own style of momentum to ride heading into the playoffs. In the end, Canada’s sustained crescendo of pressure on its opponents and high-scoring prowess outweighed Japan’s rapid rise to playoff contention.
Canada – backed by alternate Nathan Young, coach Jules Owchar and national coach Jeff Stoughton – opened the game with a hit for two and continued putting pressure on Japan in the second, leading to a Canadian takeover of the game.
With plenty of Canadian guards out front of the house, Japan was forced into playing some shots with high degrees of difficulty, including all sorts of long runbacks and raises. After Gushue’s final shot, Canada sat three counters gathered in the four-foot and button and behind cover. Yanagisawa attempted a long angle raise on his last, but the team quickly called an audible during the line call. The hope was to redirect its shot off a corner guard and towards the button. However, the shot sailed by, and Canada stole three for an early five-point lead.
“The way the ice is, it is kind of deteriorating as the game goes. It’s very important at the beginning of the game to get those rocks into position, and if you can get a lead, you can control it in the second half. If you have to play those finesse shots in the second half, they’re much tougher. We’ve been pretty aggressive in the first half of games to try and get a lead and then just hold on,” Gushue said.
Japan responded well after giving up a score of three. While the team hoped to score three, it settled for two. Gushue’s final shot jammed on a double attempt, leading to Japan making the hit and score.
The fourth end was the first in a string of three consecutive blank ends by Canada. Japan did look set up to play an aggressive fourth, but a highlight-reel peel triple by Harnden dashed any hopes of that. Harnden’s throw chipped off a corner guard and redirected into a Japanese rock in the back of the house.
“Any time you have the Maple Leaf on your back, and you’re representing your country, there is a lot of pride and gratitude there in wanting to win and make everyone proud and show the Canadian dominance in the sport of curling. This is a great opportunity for us to do that with one more solid game tomorrow, and it should be a lot of fun,” Harnden said.
Canada capitalized in the seventh end with a score of two. Gushue threw a draw through the port, which was guided perfectly by sweepers Walker and Harnden, to take further control of the game.
Japan conceded after the eighth end when Canada stole a single point.
The men’s bronze-medal game between Team Dropkin of the United States and Team Yanagisawa of Japan is tonight at 6 p.m.
The 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships continue on Saturday when second-seeded Canadian women’s Team Kerri Einarson takes on third-seeded Team Satsuki Fujisawa of Japan at 1 p.m. in the semifinals.
Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships are available by clicking here.
TSN and RDS2 will provide coverage of select games from the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships. Click here for the full schedule.