Team Canada Undefeated At World Men's Curling Championship In Switzerland

By: Al Cameron - Curling Canada
| Published 04/04/2016

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Canada wins 100th world men’s championship meeting with Scotland

BASEL, Switzerland — Ben Hebert and Marc Kennedy remember very well the last time a Scottish team beat a Canadian team at the World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Ford of Canada.

After all, they were on the receiving end of that gutting loss, back on April 12, 2009, in Moncton, N.B. — the infamous Kevin Martin 10th-end throw-through game.

Since then, though, it’s been nothing but Canadian victories, 12 in a row — the latest coming Monday at St. Jakobshalle, where Kevin Koe’s current edition of Team Canada (including both Kennedy and Hebert) downed Scotland’s Tom Brewster 5-3 to remain unbeaten, tied for first place with Sweden’s Niklas Edin at 4-0.

Team Canada lead Ben Hebert delivers rock to sweepers Marc Kennedy, left, and Brent Laing. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Céline Stuckli)

Team Canada lead Ben Hebert delivers rock to sweepers Marc Kennedy, left, and Brent Laing. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Céline Stuckli)

No, it didn’t erase the sting of the 2009 loss, admitted Kennedy, but in the 100th all-time meeting of Canada vs. Scotland at the world men’s championship, it was a nice step forward for the current team.

“We got away with a couple yesterday, and we realize we’re fortunate to be in the position we’re in,” said Kennedy. “We came out today a little looser, a little more excited to play, the conditions were better and we made more shots. This felt more normal for us. The speed was good, the rocks were doing what we thought they would do, and as a result, the team plays better. It’s pretty simple.”

Canada's Kevin Koe, below, calls instructions to sweepers as Scotland's Tom Brewster looks on. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Céline Stuckli)

Canada’s Kevin Koe, below, calls instructions to sweepers as Scotland’s Tom Brewster looks on. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Céline Stuckli)

For the record, Canada holds an 80-20 advantage in the all-time series after Monday’s victory, but history was not on the minds of the Canadian team — just putting together a solid, clean 10 ends of curling following two sloppy extra-end victories on Sunday.

And, for the most part, it was mission accomplished for Canada, which dictated most of the game while keeping things reasonably simple.

“We played a little simpler off the start, but we played solid,” said Koe, whose team is rounded out by Kennedy at third, second Brent Laing, Hebert, alternate Scott Pfeifer, team coach John Dunn and national coach Rick Lang. “We didn’t throw as many draws, but we made most of them today. It’s still a little tricky for draw weight, but we played well — we were always in control. We weren’t really chasing much.”

Canada opened the scoring with a deuce in the second end; Scotland tied it in the second. Canada took one in the fourth; Scotland matched it in the fifth.

Three blank ends followed before Canada finally managed to set up an end in the ninth, and Koe finished it off perfectly — a hack-weight hit to score a game-turning two that would prove to be the margin of victory.

The last Scottish victory over Canada — in fact, Murdoch beat Martin three times during those 2009 Ford Worlds in Moncton — is still debated among curling aficionados who debate the merits of Martin’s decision to throw his first shot of the 10th end through the rings.

Kennedy, though, believes that loss had a profound effect on the team

“I still say to this day that if we don’t lose that game, we don’t win the Olympics in 2010,” he said. “That was the first real adversity that that team had faced. And how we responded to that was going to determine whether we were going to be an Olympic team. We learned our lesson, and we a stronger team because of it the next year. There’s always positives to come out of those horrific losses.”

Canada returns to the ice later Monday against a Japanese team skipped by Yusuke Morozumi (3-1), who’s won two of his last three world championship assignments against Canada — he had wins against Brad Jacobs in 2013 at Victoria, B.C., and Koe’s former team in 2014 at Beijing.

Team Canada Beats USA - Steals extra-end win to remain undefeated at World Men’s

April 3, 2016

BASEL, Switzerland — It was a perfect opening weekend in the win column, even it wasn’t always perfection on the ice.

It was a draining, but productive, Sunday for Team Canada's Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Céline Stuckli)

It was a draining, but productive, Sunday for Team Canada’s Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Céline Stuckli)

But it’s just all that Team Canada could ask for out of the opening two days of the 2016 World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Ford of Canada.

A stolen 10-9 extra-end win over John Shuster of the United States on Sunday night at St. Jakobshalle left Kevin Koe’s Canadian team from Calgary with a perfect 3-0 record — tied with Sweden’s Niklas Edin atop the 12-team round-robin standings.

Were all three wins works of art? Not especially, but when big shots needed to be made, the Canadians made them, which is all Koe was looking for out of an opening weekend devoted to adjusting to the time zone and frosty ice conditions in a cavernous building that is rarely used for ice sports, making draw weight an adventure at times.

World Men's Curling Championship 2016, Basel, Switzerland

Canadian skip Kevin Koe watches his shot against the U.S. on Sunday. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Céline Stuckli)

“It’s hard for us; we’re just so used to making so many shots, and we’re missing shots here by 20 feet, easy. It’s tough to get draw weight out here,” said Koe, whose team had a quick turnaround going into the evening game after a gritty extra-end triumph over Denmark’s Rasmus Stjerne in the afternoon draw Sunday. “But you know what? It’s the same for both teams. We just have to battle. Hans (Wuthrich) is a great icemaker, and sometimes this happens. The sheets will get worked in and more consistent as the week goes on. We got lucky today, but we’re 3-and-0.”

As was the case in the first two wins, the Canadians — Koe is backed up by third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing, lead Ben Hebert, alternate Scott Pfeifer, team coach John Dunn and national coach Rick Lang — were mostly at their best in the later ends.

It didn’t necessarily look that way in the late stages against the U.S.; Shuster made a simply brilliant runback double takeout to score what could have been crushing three in the ninth end.

But Koe came back to force the extra end by hitting for a deuce in the 10th end. And in the extra, Canada caught a massive break when U.S. third Tyler George’s peel attempt on a Canadian guard jammed, and left the Canadians sitting one in the four-foot.

Still, Shuster had a very makeable shot for the victory — a half-rock double takeout. But he was wide of the broom and left Canada with the stolen point.

“You can’t lose games like that and expect to win a world championship,” said Shuster, whose team dropped to 1-2. “We played great, and we’ve played better every game so we can build off that. But, we gotta wins those ones, bottom line. No reason to sugarcoat it.”

The Canadians, on the other hand, derived some satisfaction out of not being at their best but hanging tough when things weren’t going their way.

“One thing our team has been real good at all year is grinding,” said Hebert. “We came through the three-four game at the Brier, a lot of B- and C-event qualifiers to win ‘spiels. We’re not planning on going undefeated. But we’re certainly happy. Today wasn’t our ‘A’ game, but we’re battling and maybe we can come out tomorrow with a couple better performances.”

“Honestly?” added Koe. “I’m not really worried, just because we are 3-and-0. We escaped a little today, but we’re 3-and-0, I know this team, I know we’re going to get better, I know we’ll pick up on the ice, and I think the ice will get a little more consistent as well. I think we’re in a great spot.”

Canada’s overall record against the U.S. at the world men’s championship improved to 57-14 with the win — Canada’s 10th straight against U.S. teams.

Canada pulls out extra-end win Beats Denmark at 2016 World Men’s

April 3, 2016

BASEL, Switzerland — A frustrating afternoon finally came to a satisfying end for Team Canada on Sunday at the 2016 World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Ford of Canada.

Team Canada's Ben Hebert, right, puts his back into it, with Marc Kennedy offering encouragement. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Richard Gray)

Team Canada’s Ben Hebert, right, puts his back into it, with Marc Kennedy offering encouragement. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Richard Gray)

After struggling early with ice and weight control against Denmark’s Rasmus Stjerne, Kevin Koe’s Calgary team rallied in the back half, finally prevailing 11-8 in an extra end at St. Jakobshalle to improve to 2-0 in the 12-team round-robin competition.

Koe made a hack-weight come-around tapback to remove a buried Danish stone in the 11th end to score the winning three, prompting huge sighs of relief from his team and family in the stands.

“Obviously, it feels good just to get the win, especially with the way the game went,” said Koe, whose team is rounded out by third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing, lead Ben Hebert, alternate Scott Pfeifer, team coach John Dunn and national coach Rick Lang. “We really struggled with draw weight that game, and the ice was a little tricky. But just to hang in there and give ourselves a chance felt good. We made the shots we needed at the right time.”

Canada is back on the ice later Sunday, at 11 a.m. ET against John Shuster of the United States (1-1).

Denmark had taken control early when Stjerne, a former world junior champ, made a marvellous double-takeout to score three. After holding Canada to a single in the fourth, the Danes took advantage of a Koe miss in the fifth — his last-rock takeout overcurled and rolled too far — to steal one and take a 5-2 lead at the intermission.

Canada would shake off the doldrums of the first five ends by scoring a solid deuce in the sixth end — set up by a perfect early freeze from Hebert — to cut the margin to one point.

Then in the seventh, Koe’s wonderful hit-and-roll to the button, behind cover, left Stjerne with a difficult last shot. Stjerne was wide and heavy with his delivery, giving a tide-turning steal of two to the Canadians.

“You know when you get down, you’re going to have to make some big shots, and we have the right guy to do it in tough circumstances,” said Kennedy. “I thought Kevin played great, especially in the second half of the game.”

Team Canada skip Kevin Koe signs autographs for fans after Tuesday's win. (Photo, Curling Canada)

Team Canada skip Kevin Koe signs autographs for fans after Tuesday’s win. (Photo, Curling Canada)

Denmark and Canada would trade deuces the next two ends, putting Canada up 8-7 going to the 10th, with both teams battling time-clock issues.

In the 10th, Canada played a near-textbook end to force Stjerne to hit for the single and force extra ends, setting the stage for Koe’s game-winning shot in the 11th.

“I don’t think any of it’s going to come easy,” said Kennedy. “We’re prepared for a bit of a grind this week, knowing how good these teams are and how much they want to beat us. We’re prepared for some adversity. So that was a big character win for us. We hung in there really well in some frustrating moments. That’s what we’ve been working on this year — to be able to win games like that.”

April 4 — vs. Japan (Yusuke Morozumi), 1 p.m. (TSN full network)

April 5 — vs. Germany (Alexander Baumann), 3 a.m. (non-televised)

April 5 — vs. Russia (Alexey Tselousov), 1 p.m. (TSN 1/3)

April 6 — vs. South Korea (Kim Soo Hyuk), 3 a.m. (non-televised)

April 6 — vs. Sweden (Niklas Edin), 8 a.m. (TSN 1/3/5)

April 7 — vs. Norway (Thomas Ulsrud), 3 a.m. (TSN full network)

April 7 — vs. Switzerland (Sven Michel), 1 p.m. (TSN 1)