A nine-day grind in Las Vegas will come to an end Sunday for Canada’s Team Brad Gushue, but it’s exactly the way they wanted it to end — with a shot at gold.
Gushue and his St. John’s, N.L., team — vice-skip Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate E.J. Harnden, team coach Jules Owchar and national coach Jeff Stoughton — were 8-5 winners over Team Korey Dropkin of the United States Saturday night at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas in the semifinal of the 2022 LGT World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by New Holland.
Canadian skip Brad Gushue, top, directs sweepers Mark Nichols, left, and Geoff Walker. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Steve Seixeiro)
Sunday at 4 p.m. (all times Pacific), Canada will take aim at its first world championship men’s gold since this same Team Gushue captured the 2017 world title in Edmonton.
And wouldn’t you know it — Team Gushue’s opponent will be none other than Team Niklas Edin of Sweden. It will be the third world championship gold-medal game between these teams; Team Gushue prevailed in the 2017 final, while Team Edin beat Team Gushue for the 2018 world title in this same Orleans Arena.
That may be motivating to some teams, but Gushue doesn’t see it that way.
“The last time (in Las Vegas) doesn’t matter,” said Gushue, whose team bowed 7-5 to Sweden in round-robin play earlier this week. “The motivation is that we’re at a world championship, we’re in the final, and we want to win. We’re competitive. It’s been a long year and we’ve been grinding, so you hate to get to the finish line and not put in a good game. Hopefully we can play well; if it ends up in our favour, great.”
Sweden reached the final with an 8-4 win over Italy’s Team Joel Retornaz.
The Italians and the U.S. will play for the bronze medal Sunday at 11 a.m.
In terms of execution, both teams were lacking at times in the Canada-U.S. semi. The first end alone featured more flashed takeouts than a typical 10-game game.
But it was the Canadians generating the early momentum. In the second end, Gushue made a perfect double takeout to score one, and Canada had Team U.S.A. in chase mode in the third, leaving Dropkin with a circus shot that likely wasn’t there, and he settled for a single.
Canada, though, missed an opportunity to stretch the lead in the fourth; Gushue’s draw to bite the button for a deuce was six feet heavy and Canada settled for a single.
Again and again, though, Gushue was making big shots to snuff out U.S. scoring threats. In both the fifth and seventh ends, he executed double takeouts that forced Dropkin to settle for single points, and those were sandwiched around Gushue’s open hit to score a pair in the sixth end.
“That’s why he’s the best,” said Nichols. “He held us in it. We certainly weren’t at our best, but he played really well. He’s the reason why we’re playing (Sunday).”
Leading 5-3 with last rock in the eighth, Gushue had a wonderful opportunity to put the game away with a short raise double-takeout to score three. But his stone overcurled and moved Canada’s second shot stone, leaving just one Canadian stone counting for a 6-3 lead.
The U.S. finally got its first deuce in the ninth on a lovely draw from Dropkin, but he couldn’t manufacture a steal in the 10th and Gushue didn’t need to throw his final stone.
“I feel like there was only one shot I threw poorly and that was the draw for two in the fourth end. I came barrelling out of the hack; it was like I was throwing a hit, which is so odd for me to do that,” said Gushue. “But every other rock, I felt like I gave it a chance out of my hand. Didn’t make as many as I would have liked, but made them when we needed to. I made some big doubles, some big-weight shots, which is not my forté. But I made them.”
He did indeed, and as a result, Canada and Sweden will renew their rivalry, with Canada holding the all-important last-rock advantage in the first end by virtue of its first-place finish in the round robin.
“To start the game off with the advantage of having hammer is always a bonus,” said Nichols. “We have to try to control the game a little bit more and put pressure on the other team. I thought we got a little bit better as the game went on today. We just have to get off to a good start tomorrow. We have to be ready to go from the first stone.
“We have one more game left. We’ve been trying our best to muster up everything we can all week. We’re doing everything we can to make sure we’re ready for tomorrow and we’ll do that again.”
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TSN/RDS2, the official broadcast partners of Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide live coverage of Canada’s round-robin games, in addition to all playoff games. CLICK HERE for their complete broadcast schedule.
The list of teams, schedule information and live scoring can be found on the event website, worldcurling.org/events/wmcc2022/
Click to read at Curling Canada: https://www.curling.ca/blog/2022/04/10/one-win-away-from-gold/