Canada, Japan advance to semifinals of Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – Playing one of their best overall games of the event, Kevin Koe and Team Canada beat Bruce Mouat of Scotland 6-5 in Saturday morning’s playoff qualification game to move on to tonight’s semifinal of the Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Service Experts, Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing.

Canada will play Peter de Cruz of Switzerland at 7 p.m.

In the other qualification game, Yuta Matsumura of Japan drew the button with last rock in an extra end for a 7-6 win over Olympic champion John Shuster of the United States. Japan will play defending champion Niklas Edin of Sweden in the 2 p.m. semifinal.

“We played great, made the shots we had to,” Koe said of his team’s performance. “They’re a great team that never seems to go away. We had control the whole game and did a great job of keeping the one-point lead with (hammer), maintained that the whole way. It was a little nerve-racking at the end, but we got the job done.”

The nerves were because time was running out for Team Canada. By the time Koe let his final stone go, he had just five seconds left on the clock.

“I can see the clocks, which is pretty reassuring, so I know where I’m at,” Koe said of the situation. “That was a little tight, even for me. But we made the shot and I don’t think he had a shot for the win.”

Koe, third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch, lead Ben Hebert, alternate Ted Appelman, team coach John Dunn and national coach Jeff Stoughton, had a 4-3 lead at the five-end break, having posted deuces in the first and third ends.

Koe made a tap-back for two in the first and had an open draw in three when Mouat rolled out on a hit.

“That’s huge,” Koe said of the first-end deuce. “It’s looking like a force. I made a really good freeze out wide and that gave me confidence, having a draw my first shot of the game, out wide, and we made it great. Two-up lead and we rode that to the end.”

The Scots were forced into a single in the second when Koe executed a perfect, tight double with his final stone. Mouat, third Grant Hardie, second Bobby Lammie, lead Hammy McMillan Jr., alternate Ross Whyte and coach Alan Hannah, got two in the fourth when both Neufeld and Koe missed shots and Koe had to make a double to hold Mouat to the deuce.

In a game that saw plenty of runbacks and doubles, the teams forced each other to take singles in the seventh thought 10th ends, when Canada, without hammer, set up the house that gave Mouat practically no chance for a game-tying two.

Japanese skip Yuta Matsumura celebrates his team’s playoff win. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“They didn’t miss a lot,” Mouat said of the Canadians. “We weren’t really setting up, getting the angles right and I missed a few line calls for the guys.”

“We played a hell of a game, Kevin was lights out,” agreed Hebert. “And we’re going to have to do that again against the Swiss team because they’re playing really good.”

Matsumura, third Tetsuro Shimizu, second Yasumasa Tanida, lead Shinya Abe, alternate Kosuke Aita and coach Bob Ursel got the upper hand of their game early, posting deuces in the first and fourth ends.

But Shuster, third Chris Plys, second Matt Hamilton, lead John Landsteiner, alternate Korey Dropkin and coach Don Bartlett, countered with singles in the second, third, fifth and sixth to get back on even terms.

Japan got one in seven and stole one in nine when the U.S. conceded the point to maintain hammer, which they used to score two in the 10th to force the extra end.

The semifinal winners will play for gold Sunday at 5 p.m., while the losers will play for bronze at noon.

Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2019 Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship are available at wmcc2019.worldcurling.org/

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This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2019worldmen/?lang=fr