Perhaps there are curling gods after all. Perhaps they even things up in the end.
In a game with just about everything, incredibly, Brad Jacobs and Canada escaped with a 7 - 5 win over Great Britain, just when it looked like a slight miss and a slew of picked rocks would doom them to a loss and a scrap at the bottom of the gold medal round heap.
As it is, the Canadian medal-round fortunes have been bolstered and are just about cemented.
When Great Britain skip David Murdoch fired just wide on a double take out attempt to win, there was one Canadian rock left biting the four foot and out-counting another Murdoch stone by a hair. That steal point gave Canada the victory and a 5 and 2 record, tying them with the British team for third in the standings and virtually locking up a position in the medal round.
A nervous and unlikely tenth it was.
[Curling: Men's standings and schedule]
With freeze after freeze after freeze stacking up from the back of the rings towards the button, Jacobs needed a tough little tap and roll to keep Murdoch at bay and perhaps force an extra end. He got the tap but not the roll and that left Murdoch with the double opportunity to win.
Now Canada has won four straight games. If the previous three in the streak were more of the testosterone-fuelled, fist pumping variety, this was one of quiet desperation and frustration. Time and again, Jacobs had to show that he could come up with soft, exacting draws, which he mostly did. But it was those picked rocks - three of them in the final two ends - that must have had he and his team feeling snake bitten.
Set up for a deuce and a two point lead heading for the tenth, Jacobs' had a routine hit and stick to collect the points. With furious sweeping, however, his rock got just enough of the shot stone, then rolled out, meaning Canada scored just the one in the ninth end.
"I think that grabbed. It shouldn't have done that," said Jacobs, just after his final stone had cleared the house.
It was a harbinger.
In the tenth, a routine peel attempt by second E.J. Harnden was sacrificed to a pick, as was a Canadian stone on the button. "That's two," one of the Canadians was heard to say. A third came two rocks later, when vice Ryan Fry's freeze attempt moved sideways at almost the exact moment the sweepers pulled their brooms off it for weight.
At that point, it seemed inevitable. Canada would lose and have to keep scrambling to hang on to a playoff spot.
Another nervous moment, for Canada, came in the seventh end. With Great Britain lying two in the four-foot and Canada lying third shot, Jacobs attempted a very difficult thin double and almost blew the shooter right by everything. Indeed, sweepers Ryan and E.J. Harnden didn't even follow the shot down the ice, leading to a couple of seconds of nervousness. As it was, Jacobs' rock curled just enough to make the double, although he lost his shooter (which had a vapour trail behind it) and was forced to take one.
Outside of the unfortunate picking of some critical shots, this was a game befitting two curling powerhouses. Murdoch, the two-time world champion who skips a team that has won two world silver medals under alternate Tom Brewster, and the reigning Canadian men's champions and silver medallists from the 2013 world championship. Points often were generated under great duress and through the trading of well-executed shots. With lots of rocks in play, the possibilities often seemed endless for both teams.
The Canadian team, which had beaten Murdoch and Great Britain twice at last year's world championship, has just about salted away a medal round spot, pulling two wins clear of the fifth place Tomas Ulsrud and Norway. They next have what would be considered a routine game against John Shuster and the United States, on Sunday. After that, they finish up the round robin with a game against China.
[Women's curling: Team Jones cruising at 7-0]
Ulsrud, who has already lost to Canada, will need a big game against Great Britain on Sunday morning, in order to keep his flickering medal round hopes alive. At 3 and 3, he can ill afford another loss, especially if Jacobs does the expected and defeats the U.S.
Both China and Sweden won as well in this draw, running their records each to 6 and 1. They remain tied for first. Sweden plays Russia and the U.S. to finish, while the Chinese have a game against Great Britain before their match up with Canada.
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