Canadian teams advance in World Seniors playoffs

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Canada’s teams won their playoff openers on Friday at the World Senior Curling Championships at the ATB Centre in Lethbridge.

Colleen Jones and her Halifax team (third Kim Kelly, second Mary Sue Radford, lead/vice-skip Nancy Delahunt and coach Helen Radford) were 5-3 winners over Scotland’s Jackie Lockhart in the women’s semifinal, and will battle Switzerland’s Cristina Lestander for gold on Saturday at 10 a.m. (all times MT).

Bryan Cochrane’s Ottawa squad (vice-skip Ian MacAulay, second Doug Johnston, lead Ken Sullivan, alternate Howard Rajala and coach Bill Tschirhart), meanwhile, prevailed 8-1 over Wales’s Adrian Meikle on Friday morning in men’s quarter-final action, and will take on Peter Wilson of Ireland in the semifinal Friday at 6 p.m.

In the women’s semi, it was a battle of former world women’s champions, with Jones coming out on top against Lockhart, whom Jones had never defeated in three past encounters at the world women’s championship.

But in Friday, Jones didn’t need to throw her final stone. The Canadians had two rocks buried in the four-foot, and when Lockhart, the defending world senior women’s champ, was heavy with her last-rock draw, the Canadian team was able to celebrate its victory.

“The semifinals are terrifying; it’s such a massive, pressure-filled game,” said Jones. “We’ve played Jackie a lot over the years, and she sort of had our number for a long time. She’s such a shotmaker and she’s not afraid of anything. It was a fun game to be in, and I could have cried tears of joy on winning. Each one of us just felt so passionate about winning it and getting to the final.”

Canada, a perfect 7-0 in round-robin play,  opened the game with singles in the first two ends, and was up 3-1 after five before the Scots came back to tie it with two in the sixth. But Jones was able to engineer a blanked seventh end to have the hammer coming home.

Now, she’ll attempt to win a leading 11th gold medal for Canada in the 16-year history of the World Seniors when she takes on the Swiss, who beat Patti Lank’s U.S. team 8-5 in an extra end in the other semifinal. The U.S. will play Scotland for bronze on Saturday morning.

“There’s always one more, isn’t there?” said Jones. “You’re only as good as your last game, so there’s one more. This was obviously a huge game to win, and we’re thankful for it, and we’ll celebrate it. But then we have to focus on the finish. Winning the worlds is what we came here to do, so we have one more job to do.”

The Canadian men, meanwhile, had an easier time of it against Wales. After a perfect 6-0 round-robin draw, Cochrane said his team was eager to get started in the playoffs, and it showed on the ice.

“Our team played really well today; it was fun just to watch as a skip to see how well our team played,” he said. “Not just throwing, either. Calling the weight for Ian and I to throw draw shots, the sweeping was bang on — we were pretty pumped up for that game. We got up two points and just kind of played the patient game against them, and I’m usually not that patient. It’s not as much fun. But we did what we had to do.”

A win over the Irish, who went 5-2 in round-robin play, would put Canada into Saturday’s 2 p.m. gold-medal game against either defending world senior men’s champ Mats Wranå of Sweden or Uwe Saile of Germany, who will battle in the other semifinal.

“Medal or not, it’s about playing the very best that we can,’” said Cochrane. “At this stage in our lives and our careers, we just want to go out there and be proud of ourselves, represent our club, our community and our country as best as we can. It’s not whether it’s gold, silver, bronze or whatever. That’s not going to be the end game as far as determining our success. We’re successful already. We’re Canadian champions, we’re putting on a good show here; you need some good breaks in curling, and hopefully they go our way tonight.”

Meanwhile, the World Mixed Doubles Championship playoffs continue on Friday with Canada’s Joanne Courtney of Edmonton and Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers playing Latvia’s Santa Blumberga and Andris Bremanis in the 7:30 p.m. quarter-finals. A win for Canada will guarantee a spot in the 2018 Winter Olympics mixed doubles draw.

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