By Rob Gordon
OMAHA, NEBRASKA – So what is this “Curling World Cup” thing anyway?
I’m here at the second leg of this new four-event series, and I’ll have an analysis in the January issue of The Curling News. But for now, results from day one!
Opening day saw a few hiccups from some of the event favourites, as Canada lost on the men’s and mixed doubles side, USA dropped their first men’s match, and Sweden fell in their women’s opener.
Jason Gunnlaugson’s Winnipeg-based squad enters the event as the third-highest ranked team on the World Curling Tour Order Of Merit list (OOM). This is the first time any member of the team has represented Canada internationally, and they will soon find out that the Maple Leaf is more like a big target on their back. Other teams are always looking to dethrone the perennial powerhouse.
This was the case in the opening draw of the event, as Team Canada took on the talented young Scots who had just captured the European championship (in the digital version of the December issue). Canada controlled the game early, taking a one point lead with hammer into the fourth end break. In the fifth end Jason tried a little “scoreboard management” by playing two tick shots with his lead rocks, in hopes of an open end and potential blank. However, they were forced to one point, and hammer changed hands heading into the sixth end.
After Scottish third Grant Hardie made a long runback double, skip Bruce Mouat made a delicate hack-weight runback to score four points and take control of the game. Scotland never looked back from there, and cruised to an 8-6 victory.
The 2018 Olympic champions, USA’s John Shuster, also dropped their opener. The crowd favourites came out flat against a Chinese skip who made every double he looked at. Although the Americans didn’t have their best stuff, they still generated scoring chances—that is, until the opposing skip waltzed down the ice, settled into the hack, and made the U.S stones disappear. China stole singles on three different occasions, and never allowed Shuster to score multiple points with hammer, taking the win by a narrow 4-3 margin.
Another 2018 Olympic champion, John Morris, was in action on Wednesday, playing alongside his mixed doubles partner Kalynn Park. Morris, who won gold in Pyeongchang with Kaitlyn Lawes, has a new partner for this event as Kaitlyn is playing in the Canada Cup with Team Jennifer Jones. The Canadian duo gave up a steal in the final end, which sent the game into a sudden death draw to the button. Canada was unable to out-count the Swiss stone, and lost the game 6-5.
On the women’s side of things, Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg lost her opener in dramatic fashion. The Swedes held a two-point lead heading into the final end, but as we have seen numerous times this season with the implementation of the five-rock rule, a two-point lead is anything but safe. The Japanese skip made an open takeout on her final rock, ensuring two points to tie. The fate of the game rested on a measurement which went in favour of Japan, earning them three points and the 6-5 victory.
Wednesday at the Curling World Cup had no shortage of excitement, with all three reigning Olympic gold medallists starting the event at 0-1. Bring on Thursday!