There’s a three-way tie for first place at the 2018 361° World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Ford of Canada, and Brad Gushue’s Canadian team is in the mix.
Gushue and his St. John’s team, which is rounded out by vice-skip Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Tom Sallows, team coach Jules Owchar and national coach Rick Lang, racked up their sixth consecutive victory on Wednesday night at Orleans Arena, grinding out an 8-5 win over Jaap Van Dorp of the Netherlands (2-6).
The win left Canada with a 7-1 record in the 13-team round-robin standings, deadlocked with Sweden’s Niklas Edin (whom Team Gushue defeated in the world men’s gold-medal game a year ago in Edmonton) and Scotland’s Bruce Mouat, who is responsible for Canada’s only loss in Las Vegas.
“We made a few mistakes to let them back in the game. We struggled a bit with rocks, but I think we did a pretty good job (adjusting),” said Nichols, whose team earlier in the day beat Norway’s Steffen Walsttad 8-2. “A couple wins (today), and that’s exactly what we want. We’re doing well going forward; we have to clean up a few misses here and there, but I like our attitude on the ice. We’re pretty laid-back and relaxed, which is what we need, and that’s how our team plays really well.”
It wasn’t a walk in the park for Canada against a young and rapidly improving Netherlands team, which opened the scoring with a single in the first end. Gushue was able to tap for a second-end deuce and stole one more in the third.
Canada didn’t take control until the fifth end when Gushue got some misses out of the Dutch and made them pay by drawing for three to go up 6-2 at the intermission.
Still, the Netherlands wouldn’t go away. They scored one in the sixth, forced Canada to a single in the seventh, and engineered a nice deuce in the eighth, thanks largely to a lovely hit-and-roll from Van Dorp on his first shot.
Gushue had a chance to get the deuce back in the ninth but was light on his last-shot draw, but Canada was able to run the Dutch out of rocks in the 10th.
“It was a little sloppy tonight; certainly not as good as the last two or three games we’ve played, but still some good shots made,” said Gushue, whose dad Ray was a winner of more than $3,000 in the 50-50 draw earlier in the day. “Personally, I feel really comfortable out there; I feel like I have my draw weight, and I made some good draws (tonight).”
Canada returns to the ice for two games on Thursday, taking on China’s Dejia Zou (3-5) at 4:30 p.m. (all times Eastern) and Rich Ruohonen of the United States (2-6) at 9:30 p.m.
The 2017 gold-medal game rematch between Canada and Sweden goes Friday at 11:30 a.m.
“Obviously I won’t think about (Sweden) until Thursday night because that game really won’t matter unless we win our two tomorrow, and get ourselves in position where we can fight for that (placing in the top two),” said Gushue. “We have to make sure we do our job tomorrow; that’s the priority.”
Round-robin play will run through to Friday with the top six teams making the playoffs; no tiebreakers will be played, so ties for playoff spots will be broken based on head-to-head results, and if that doesn’t resolve the tie, then the pre-game Last-Shot Draw distances.
The top two teams from round-robin play will be seeded directly into the semifinals, while third will play sixth and fourth will play fifth in the quarter-finals on Saturday morning.
The winners will advance to the semifinals later on Saturday. The semifinal winners will play for gold on Sunday at 8 p.m., with the semifinal losers battling for bronze Sunday at 3 p.m.
In other Wednesday night games, Scotland piled up a 9-2 triumph over Japan’s Go Aoki (2-7), South Korea’s Chang-Min Kim (4-5) downed Germany’s Alexander Baumann (1-8) 10-6; and Switzerland’s Marc Pfister (5-3) stole two in the 11th end for his fifth straight win, an 8-6 triumph over Norway (6-3).