Heavy lifting ahead for Canada's Gushue in world curling championship playoffs - InfoNews

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Heavy lifting ahead for Canada's Gushue in world curling championship playoffs

Canada skip Brad Gushue yells to sweepers after delivering a stone against Sweden during the World Men's Curling Championship, Friday, April 6, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
April 06, 2018 - 9:33 PM

LAS VEGAS - The playoff road to a second straight world curling championship is long for Canada's Brad Gushue.

Gushue needs to win a quarterfinal Saturday morning to avoid elimination from medal contention and advance to the semifinals later in the day.

"I think when the bell rings tomorrow, and it's do or die, we're going to be going to come out and be tough to play against," Gushue said.

"We're still the best team in the world even though we're not at this point firing on all cylinders, but it can turn at any point.

"If it does turn tomorrow, we can win this thing. We're not going to go as long as we have without being our best version of ourselves."

Canada (9-3) concluded the preliminary round Friday with a quick 8-1 win over Germany's Alexander Baumann, who conceded after six ends.

But a 6-5 loss to Sweden's Niklas Edin earlier in the day meant Gushue would not finish among the top two teams and get a bye to the semifinals.

Sweden and Scotland's Bruce Mouat (11-1) earned the byes. The medal games are Sunday.

The top six teams in pool play earn playoff berths instead of four under a new format this year.

Teams ranked third to sixth square off in quarterfinals, so No. 3 Canada will face No. 6 Greg Persinger of the U.S. (6-6) on Saturday morning. The winner faces Scotland.

Gushue will have last-rock advantage in the first end against the U.S. as the higher-seeded team.

"If we play our best tomorrow, these teams are going to have to be at their best to keep up," Gushue said. "When they go to bed tonight, they're going to have to think about that.

"It can be daunting knowing that if we go out and play our best, they're probably not going to have a chance."

Norway's Steffen Walstad and South Korea's ChangMin Kim (7-5) meet in the other quarterfinal. The winner takes on the Swedes in the other semifinal.

Gushue, Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker from St. John's, N.L., went undefeated to win last year's world title in Edmonton.

Canada's loss to the Swedes marked Gushue's first back-to-back losses of the tournament after falling 6-5 to the U.S. the previous evening.

Heavily favoured against the Germans, Gushue played a lot of guards to draw around, to keep his team sharp for playoffs.

Germany shook hands after Canada scored three points in the sixth. The Canadian stole five points over the first five ends.

Canada's alternate Tom Sallows started the game at lead for Walker, who came into the game at the fifth-end break to spell Nichols. Sallows moved to second and Gallant to third.

"They got to play some different shots and play some different positions, but the key thing was just to get a little bit of rest to get a little bit of rest, give Geoff a few ends and Mark a few ends," Gushue explained.

"It was nice to finish this game off early and get an extra hour of rest. Tomorrow's going to be a big game. We're going to be ready, well-rested and looking forward to it."

Ernie Richardson, who skipped his Saskatchewan team to four world titles (1959, 1960-62), was rinkside at the Orleans Arena. Nichols paused by the boards to shake the 86-year-old's hand in the third end.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended Canada's games a second straight day.

Gushue beat Edin 4-2 in the final in Edmonton last year. The Swedes are master hitters capable of defending leads and forcing the opposition to score just one with hammer.

So when Edin scored three in the first with last-rock advantage in the morning draw, Canada was in trouble early. But Gushue stole two in the seventh to tie the game 4-4.

Still tied coming home, Edin drew against two Canadian stones for the win.

"We put some pressure on him in a number of ends," Gushue said. "I thought we played well. I liked everything about it other than the start."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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