Canada will have the chance to win all three competitions – men’s, women’s and mixed doubles – at the Curling World Cup Grand Final in Beijing. Kevin Koe, Jennifer Jones and Laura Walker/Kirk Muyres will play in their respective finals after finishing the round robin on Saturday.
Calgary’s Koe knew he’d have to be perfect, and perfect he was. Koe, vice-skip B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch and lead Denni Neufeld secured a spot in the men’s final with two victories at Shougang Arena.
The team started the day with a 4-3 win against Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud. With the game tied 2-2 after six ends, Koe made a draw to the four-foot for two in the seventh for a 4-2 lead. It was the only end of the game where more than one point was scored as Norway was forced to one in the final frame, earning Koe his first win of the day.
But the work wasn’t done yet. Team Koe needed to win its final game of the day against Scotland’s Ross Paterson to clinch a spot in the final. Canada scored an important steal of three in the opening end after Scotland missed its hit attempt. Scotland recovered with a deuce in the second, but Canada maintained the lead for the remainder of the game with scores of two in the third and fifth ends. Scotland was only behind by one point after scoring two in the sixth and stealing one in the seventh, but Canada blanked the final end for the win.
“It’s been a bit of a grind. I mean obviously we’ve had good games and our bad games have been really bad, but it’s kind of the way we’ve been all year,” Koe said. “We’ve ground out the wins when we needed them. We played good today and got some help to get straight into the finals, so we’re really happy.”
Both Canada and Scotland finished the round robin at 4-2 and earned 12 points each in the standings. Koe’s Canadian team received the spot in the final because it defeated Scotland twice during the double round robin.
Koe will play China’s Qiang Zou (4-2) in the men’s final at 9 p.m. (all times ET) on Saturday. Zou emerged from a challenging pool featuring Canada’s Matt Dunstone, Olympic gold-medallist John Shuster of the United States and four-time world men’s champion Niklas Edin.
“It’s great for them, great for their country and great for curling and China and Asia as a whole,” Koe said. “Obviously they’re playing well, that pool was quite tough and they beat everyone in it. We’re going to be in tough but we’re happy to be playing right now and it’d be really nice to end off the year with a big win.”
Regina’s Dunstone was on the winning and losing side of one-point games. Dunstone, vice-skip Braeden Moskowy, second Catlin Schneider and lead Dustin Kidby secured a 4-3 win against Edin with a hit for one in the final end of their first game of the day. But the Canadians closed the event with a 4-3 loss to Zou after giving up a steal of one in the final end on a missed raise takeout.
Canada’s mixed doubles team of Walker/Muyres (Edmonton/Saskatoon) snatched first place in their pool with a 9-4 win against Switzerland’s Michele Jaeggi and Sven Michel. Canada capitalized on solid output throughout the three middle ends, scoring two with hammer in the third end and stealing single points in the fourth and fifth. Switzerland scored two in the sixth, but Walker and Muyres played a peel for three on the power play in the seventh end to win the game.
Walker/Muyres ended the round robin with a 5-1 record for first overall in the pool. They’ll take on 2018 Olympic bronze-medallists Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten of Norway (5-1) at 1 a.m. on Sunday in the mixed doubles final.
“During the middle of the week we didn’t know if it was going to be enough points to get to the final and we were a little sad, but now it’s awesome,” Muyres said. “That was probably our best game. Laura made just every shot and really set us up well. It feels good going into the final playing well and winning, so it feels awesome.”
Canada’s second mixed doubles team, Kadriana Sahaidak and Colton Lott (Winnipeg Beach, Man.), ended the event with a 7-6 win against Russia’s Maria Komarova and Daniil Goriachev. The pair finished second overall in its pool with a 4-2 record in the round robin.
In the women’s competition, Canada’s Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg lost both of her games on Saturday, but still placed first overall in her pool due to a strong start at the event. Jones, vice-skip Kaitlyn Lawes, second Shannon Birchard and lead Jill Officer opened the day with a 7-4 loss to China’s Yilun Jiang.
The Canadians finished the day with a 6-5 loss to Nina Roth of the United States. Canada had hammer in the last end, but the final draw attempt by Jones picked and resulted in a steal of one for the Americans.
Despite the losses, Team Jones finished first in its pool with a 4-2 round-robin record and will take on
Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni (4-2) in the women’s final at 4 a.m. on Sunday.
“We had a great start against America but maybe lost focus in the third and fourth ends. Then we had a couple of unfortunate misses to finish the game,” Birchard said, who celebrated her 25th birthday on Saturday in Beijing. “We are going to have to bounce back against Team Silvana Tirinzoni because they have been playing super good lately and we’ll need to be on our game.”
Canada’s coaching staff consists of Nolan Thiessen, Paul Webster and Geoff Walker.
First prize in the men’s and women’s finals is $27,000 US, with $13,000 US going to the runner-up. In mixed doubles, top prize is $13,500, with $6,500 going to the runner-up. As well, round-robin victories are worth $3,000 apiece to four-player teams, and $1,500 to the mixed doubles entries.