Gushue secures playoff berth with victory at Pan Continental Curling Championships

CALGARY — Canada's Brad Gushue booked a ticket into the semifinals with a fifth straight win at the Pan Continental Curling Championship Thursday with a 10-5 victory over New Zealand in the evening draw.

His St. John's, N.L., team sits in a three-way tie for first place with South Korea and the United States, all at 5-1. Canada defeated Australia 11-5 in the morning draw earlier Thursday.

After New Zealand pulled within one following the sixth end, Canada put together a strong closing effort to secure the victory, outscoring its opponent 5-1 in the final three ends.

“They played pretty well, and they kept it close," Gushue said. "We made a bit of a mistake in the third end with a bad line call and gave them a double for three, which they made. But they made some good shots and didn’t let us run away with the game.”

The Canadians opened the game with consecutive single-point ends before New Zealand notched a triple to take the lead after the third.

However, Canada answered with a double, then a single in the following two ends to restore its lead. A single in the sixth from New Zealand cut the hosts' lead to just 5-4.

After another double put the Canadians up 7-4, New Zealand scored another point to make it a two-point contest. However, that was as close as Canada allowed it to get as the hosts scored three points in the ninth prompting New Zealand skip Anton Hood to concede.

“I think we always felt like we were in control, even when we were down 3-2," Gushue said. "It was just a matter of getting a deuce, and then we executed that. It looked like it could have been a four or five, but (Hood) made some good shots. We got the lead back, and then it was just a matter of not making the same mistake that we did in the third end.”

After a loss to the U.S. to open the tournament at Calgary's WinSport Event Centre, Gushue said he and his teammates have found the all-important draw weight.

“There’s still room for improvement," Gushue said after the win over Australia. "I feel like we’re drawing really well, though."

"We’re putting (rocks) in some good spots and making good freezes. We have a few little things to work on, but when you draw well on this ice, you do typically score well and give yourself good chances."

"I think we’re doing a very good job at that, and as long as we can maintain and keep up on the ice, I think we’ll be OK.”

Canada is set to face Chinese Taipei on Friday to close the round robin portion of the event.

The inaugural Pan Continental is a qualifier for all countries outside Europe for the 2023 men's and women's world curling championships.

Finishing in the top five secures berths, but Canada as the host country of the men's championship in Ottawa is assured an automatic entry.

Kerri Einarson (5-1) has clinched a spot for Canada in the women's championship in Switzerland. After winning five straight to open the tournament, she dropped her first game of the tournament to the U.S. (6-0) 8-6 on Thursday.

In other evening draw men's games, the U.S. defeated Australia 8-3, Japan downed Chinese Taipei 10-1 and South Korea thumped Brazil 10-1.

The men's and women's semifinals are Saturday followed by Sunday's finals. The matchups on both sides will be determined after Friday's draws.

Einarson opened strong against the Americans, notching a deuce in the first end. Skip Tabitha Peterson's U.S. rink then evened the game in the second.

After recording a single in the third, Canada fell behind as the Americans scored two points in the fourth end. The sides exchanged deuces leading to the U.S. going up 6-5 after the sixth end.

After a scoreless seventh end followed by a single from Canada to tie it, the U.S. pulled away with back-to-back singles in the ninth and tenth ends to seal the win.

Despite the loss, the Canadians are still a lock for Saturday's semifinals with a chance to rebound on Friday against Japan and South Korea.

“I mean, we’re still in a great spot,” said Canada second Shannon Birchard.

“We have two big games tomorrow, so we just have to build and get some momentum going heading into the playoffs. We need to dial in and get a handle on this ice, and string eight shots together each end, if we can.”

Canada now sits tied for third with South Korea (5-1) and behind second-place Japan (6-1), with the Americans in first. All four teams have qualified for the playoffs with the matchups to be determined after Friday's draws.

In other women's action, Japan defeated Kazakhstan 9-2, South Korea cruised past Hong Kong 12-3 and New Zealand beat Australia 10-7.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2022.

The Canadian Press