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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — It says something about the quality of the competition at this year’s world men’s curling championship that Canada had an 8-3 record heading into its final game and still hadn’t clinched a playoff spot.
“We haven’t clinched a spot yet, hey?” Canadian skip Kevin Koe said Friday morning at Enmax Centre after a 10-3 drubbing of Switzerland.
“I thought maybe that one would have done it but apparently not.”
The Canadians cut through the Swiss in only six ends, but the game was essentially over after just two.
After Canada scored a deuce in the first, Swiss fourth Benoit Schwarz was left with a draw against five in the second end and his last rock picked up some debris at the most inopportune time. The steal of five gave Canada an insurmountable 7-0 lead.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Koe said. “Obviously, it was a bad break for them in the second end with that pick and it was basically game over right there.
“On Thursday we had two real intense, close, well-played games and it drained a lot energy, so it was nice to get a bit of a break there today.”
The win moved Canada into a second-place tie with Japan (Yuta Matsumura) and Switzerland (Peter de Cruz) at 8-3. Defending champion Sweden (Niklas Edin) has wrapped up first place and a bye to the semifinals at 10-1.
Canada still had a chance to get second place and a bye to the semifinals with a win over 3-7 Netherlands (Jaap Van Dorp) Friday night. Japan was playing 4-7 Russia Friday afternoon, with a chance to get to 9-3, while Switzerland had a date with 2-9 China Friday night.
If Japan were to lose, Canada would get second place, but if all three teams finish tied at 9-3, Switzerland would get second place based on cumulative results of the pre-game draw-to-the-button competitions during the round robin.
“Everything is in play for us still, from what I’ve heard,” de Cruz said.
Italy (Joel Retornaz) also had a chance to get to 9-3 and complicate matters further, but had tough games against Sweden and Scotland ahead of it.
Whichever teams finish third to sixth will play in the quarter-finals on Saturday morning, with the semifinals set for the afternoon and evening draws.
“If we can get into the semis, we’d take that, avoid the extra game,” Canada lead Ben Hebert said. “But if we have to play an extra game, it’s no different from being in the 3-4 game at the Brier, which we’ve been in many times before. It’s all good.”
Of course, if Canada were to lose to Netherlands Friday night, it could conceivably miss the playoffs at 8-4.
“There’s a bit of separation between the top teams and the bottom teams, not a lot of upsets here,” Koe said. “I guess when that happens, more than half the field is gonna have a chance. With this extra game, as opposed to worlds in the past, there’s just more possibilities I guess.
“We’ve got to take care of business and we might be able to get as high as second. We’ve still got lots of upside if things go right. That was a big win for us with Switzerland ahead of us in the standings.”
It seems most likely that Canada will have to play a quarter-final game on Saturday morning, but that is of little concern to Koe and his teammates, including third B.J. Neufeld and second Colton Flasch.
“Our (Alberta) provincial this year showed us that we can get on a run,” Koe said. “We were down in the C-event and we had to win our last five and we got through and did it. The Brier was a little different, not losing a game, but it didn’t feel like we were running away with it at any time.
“This team, this year, has done well in the biggest games and the biggest games are still ahead of us this week.”
Canada seems to be heading into the weekend in good form, having played three excellent games in row. One of those was a loss to Scotland, but the Canadians still played well.
“We’re certainly trending in the right direction and that’s what you want,” Hebert said. “It’s good to see we’re playing well. Kevin is playing with a lot of confidence, B.J. is still throwing it well and we’re just gonna have to set the boys up and see if they can do some damage.”
In addition, Canada had good fortune on its side against the Swiss.
“Hey, you need breaks,” Hebert said. “We haven’t had a lot of breaks this week, to be honest with you, so I’m thrilled to get a couple. We played really good that game. We were all over them in the first end. Kevin missed a triple for three or four by a millimetre. We had them in big trouble.”
Through Friday morning draw
United States 7-4
y-clinched first place
x-clinched playoff spot
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