KELOWNA—Team Canada sits at a combined 1-2 after day one at the 2023 Pan Continental Curling Championships.
Winnipeg’s Kerri Einarson split her matches—a 9-2 victory over Chinese Taipei’s Cynthia Lu and a 10-7 loss to Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa—while Brad Gushue’s foursome from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador fell 8-5 to Korea’s JongDuk Park.
Gushue won the inaugural Pan Continental Championships a year ago in Calgary while Einarson’s team took the bronze. Team Gushue must finish in the top five in Kelowna to qualify Canada for the world men’s championship in Switzerland next March.
As host nation, Canada is already qualified to compete at the 2024 World Women’s Championship in Sydney, N.S. Against Korea, skip Brad Gushue gave up back-to-back deuces in the fourth and fifth ends, missing a wide-open draw in the fifth, unable to reach the eight-foot to secure a point.
“Obviously my draw in the fifth end was the turning point,” said Gushue in the post-game scrum. “I think I threw it how I wanted, the ice is a little heavier in one direction than the other, and we didn’t catch on to it as early as we should have and it cost us.”
It was an unusual miss for the 43-year-old curler who talked earlier in the week about the importance of learning the speed and curl of the ice. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t in the cards for Canada on Sunday afternoon, at least in the first half of the game, where they only managed to score two points through the first five ends.
Canada third Mark Nichols believes his skip and longtime teammate regularly makes that shot 99 times out of 100, calling it uncharacteristic of the team as they failed to sweep the rock into scoring position.
“(We) give up a steal of two, so then you really gotta battle,” said Nichols. “I thought we put some pressure on them in the second half, but they still played well and made the shots when they needed to. That’s curling. We need to be a little bit sharper moving forward.”
Having played Korea in the 2022 Pan Continental final last year, Canada knew the country offered curling talent. But with JongDuk Park being the new face of Team Korea, they weren’t quite ready for what he brought to the ice.
“We had some chances and kind of made six out of eight instead of seven or eight out of eight and we let them off the hook when we had some pressure,” said Nichols. (We) missed that one shot in a few ends where we had a chance to get two … to their credit, they played well. Their skip, I don’t know if he missed a shot, but he played very well.”
Canada turned up the pressure in the second half of the game, but were unable to capitalize when it mattered most. Down 5-2 through five, Canada and Korea swapped single points through the next two ends, with both skips making exceptional draws to the pin.
In the eighth end Gushue and co. finally got their deuce, coming within striking distance. With pressure continuing to mount in the ninth, Canada was sitting pretty with two rocks in the four-foot. That’s when the Korean skip dialled himself in and planted his final stone right on the button, halting all of Canada’s momentum dead in its tracks.
“We miss-called some hit and rolls, which is a little bit uncharacteristic for us, so learning the weight to make the proper rolls and stuff like that,” said Nichols.
The game came down to the final stone, but Gushue missed a difficult runback that could have possibly scored his team the three points they needed to secure the win. The two teams shook hands to an 8-5 result, and will be back in action again Monday at 9:00 a.m. local time.
Gushue spoke about the playing conditions at the Kelowna Curling Club. Most World Curling Federation events are hosted in arenas.
“It’s a challenging environment to curl in,” said Gushue. “Not going to lie, but I think there’s enough here to work with where we can play a little bit better than what we did today, and hopefully not miss any more draws against two.”
Gushue will face off against New Zealand and USA on Monday, while Einarson has a single match scheduled against Australia.
Source: The Curling News