Thomas Ulrud and his Norwegian teammates are defending champions and they served notice Tuesday evening that they are not going to easily give up their Ford World Men’s Curling Championship.
Ulsrud, third Torger Nergård, second Christoffer Svae and lead Håvard Vad Petersson handed Pat Simmons and Team Canada its first loss and it was an emphatic, message-sending 9-3, eight-end result that left everyone in the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax stunned.
“We showed up to play tonight,” said Ulsrud, wearing the multi-coloured plus-fours and tam o’shanter cap in which he is undefeated. “The boys made some really good shots. Torger started off in the first end with a beautiful shot to set up the two points and kept going from there.”
Norway was easily the better team, in contrast to its performance through its first six games – two of which the Norwegians were fortunate to win – where they often struggled with the ice. Not so Tuesday — all it took was to wave the Canadian flag in front of Ulsrud.
“That’s why I play curling, to play good teams from Canada in the worlds,” Ulsrud had said before the game, and then he went out and demonstrated why he likes playing Canada.
“That’s the beauty of curling,” he added. “Tonight we had real comfort in the ice and everything. I was really trusting it and just throwing it pure and we played some pretty good shots. We were a bit lucky to score four in the third end and after that it was really a game they had to go all out and we managed to defend.”
But he didn’t think Canada would take any message from the defeat and wouldn’t be bothered but it.
“No, I think they’re going to be even more ready for us next time. It is my guess this is not the last time Norway and Canada play with week. We’ll meet them again.”
Norway scored two in the first end, gave up one in the second and then took total control with four in the third. Simmons, who had half-misses with his first shot in each of the first two ends, had to make key shots with his second stones to keep Canada close.
“We got in trouble early and often and they’re too good to do that against,” said Simmons. “I wasn’t able to make the bail-out shots that were necessary tonight and that’s just the way it goes, you’re not going to make those every night.
“We weren’t expecting to go through this undefeated. We’ll rebound for sure.”
Canada’s woes deepened in the third when neither third John Morris nor Simmons made a full shot, leaving Ulsrud a shot for five — he would settle for four and a huge 6-1 lead that proved insurmountable.
The result left Norway tied atop the standings at 6-1 with Simmons and his Canadian teammates — Morris, second Carter Rycroft, lead Nolan Thiessen, alternate Tom Sallows and coaches Earle Morris and Rick Lang.
Marc Pfister of Switzerland, meanwhile, failed to keep pace, dropping to 5-2 when he was soundly beaten 8-2 in six ends by Sweden’s Niklas Edin, who stole two in the fourth and three more in the fifth.
“We needed to win that game badly,” said Edin. “We decided to go out there with our heads held high and start strong from the beginning. We only got one point in the first end when we were wanting three or four, but he made a superb freeze there. We were happy with that one then we forced them to only take one in the next end then it was pretty much our game from then on.”
In the other evening games, John Shuster of the U.S. beat Jialing Zang of China 9-5 and Evgeny Arkhipov of Russia got one in the 10th to nip Joel Retornaz of Italy 5-4.
Following the top three in the standings, Japan and Sweden at 4-3, Czech Republic, Finland and the U.S. are 3-4 with China, Italy, Scotland and Russia all at 2-5.
Yusuke Morozumi of Japan (4-3), Jiří Snítil of Czech Republic (3-4), Aku Kauiste of Finland (3-4) and Ewan MacDonald of Scotland (2-5) had the evening byes.
The 2015 Ford Worlds continue on Wednesday with draws at 9:30 a.m., 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. (all times Atlantic).
All Canadian games and the playoff rounds for the 2015 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship will be televised on TSN/RDS2, the official broadcasting partner of the Season of Champions. The full broadcast schedule is available at http://www.tsn.ca/2014-15-tsn-curling-broadcast-schedule-1.95515.
Live scoring is available at: http://www.curling.ca/scoreboard/#/competitions/1670-2015-ford-world-men-s-curling-championship/scoreboard
To purchase tickets to the 2015 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship, go to: http://www.curling.ca/2015worldmen-en/tickets/