Canada joins leaders after pair of victories

The Canadian Press
Donna Spencer

LAS VEGAS–Brad Gushue decided the best play was not making one at the men’s world curling championship yesterday.
The Canadian skip told third Mark Nichols to throw through the rings in the fifth end against Norway instead of drawing or hitting.
“I looked at him and said, ‘I don’t think I’d ever had to do that at third,'” Nichols noted.
Up 3-1 and laying two well-guarded counters, Gushue didn’t want to leave Norwegian skip Steffen Walstad a counter move.
Gushue felt throwing a rock away was the best option.
“It’s hard to make that call because you can look stupid,” Gushue acknowledged.
“I tend, in those situations, to look at it as, if I’m Norway looking at that situation, what do I not want them to do?” he noted.
“I would want them to put a rock in play where I can potentially freeze to it or potentially come around it.”
Gushue ended up with a soft tap to score two in the end.
After a three-pointer in the seventh, the Norwegians shook hands to concede an 8-2 victory to Canada.
With an 8-5 win over Jaap Van Dorp of the Netherlands last night, Canada was in a three-way tie for first at 7-1 with Scotland’s Bruce Mouat and Sweden’s Niklas Edin.
The top six teams at the conclusion of the preliminary round tomorrow make the playoffs.
The top two get byes to Saturday’s semi-finals, with teams three-six squaring off in quarter-finals earlier that day.
Canada takes on China’s Dejia Zou (3-5) this afternoon, followed by a game against host U.S. skipped by Greg Persinger (2-6) tonight.
Gushue concludes pool play against Edin tomorrow morning and Germany’s Alexander Baumann (1-8) that night.
Gushue said he wasn’t looking ahead to the marquee matchup with the Swedes.
“I won’t think about that until Thursday night,” he stressed.
“That game won’t matter unless we win our two tomorrow [Thursday] and get ourselves in positions where we can fight for that one-two spot.”
Norway (6-3) lost twice yesterday, also falling to Switzerland’s Marc Pfister last night.
The Swiss pulled into a tie at 5-3 alongside Russia’s Alexey Timofeev.
South Korea’s ChangMin Kim was 4-5 ahead of Italy’s Joel Retornaz at 3-5.
The Dutch dropped to 2-6, followed by Japan’s Go Aoki at 2-7.
Gushue, Nichols, second Brett Gallant, and lead Geoff Walker, out of the Bally Haly Golf and Country Club in St. John’s N.L., are the defending champions having gone unbeaten to win last year’s world title in Edmonton.
Skips throw away their last rocks for a blank end or when they believe there isn’t a better offensive or defensive move.
It backfired on Canada’s Kevin Martin, who was inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame on Tuesday, in the 2009 world championship final in Moncton versus Scotland’s David Murdoch.
Martin threw away his first stone in the 10th. Murdoch then made a double bump for shot stone and Martin missed the raise double to give up the point and the title to the Scots.
“We still tease Kevin about it,” Gushue said.
“There’s times when it’s probably a good call, but the fear of it is what happened to Kevin a couple of years ago and it backfires and you give up a steal.”
Thirds rarely throw a rock away. Nichols said it runs counter to his instincts but agreed with Gushue’s strategy at that moment.
“You always think you want to put another rock in play but play the scoreboard, a little safer,” Nichols remarked.
“You just don’t want to give them a shot to get back in the game.”