Sweden beats Japan to advance to final at Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Championship

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – Defending world men’s curling champion Niklas Edin of Sweden moved one step closer to a record-tying fourth title Saturday at the ENMAX Centre with an impressive 8-2 semifinal win over Yuta Matsumura of Japan.

Sweden, which finished atop the round-robin standings at 11-1, will play in Sunday’s gold-medal game of the Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Service Experts, Heating, Air Conditioning and Plumbing against the winner of this evening’s other semifinal at 7 p.m. MT between Kevin Koe of Canada, who beat Bruce Mouat of Scotland in the morning qualification, and Peter de Cruz of Switzerland.

“That was a pretty clinical performance,” Edin said of his victory. “We talked about the details going into this game. We played really solid all week … so we just wanted to improve on the small details and I think we got almost all of those together.

“This might be one of our best tournaments as a team,” Edin said of his team’s week. “We can do the same in the final so the team we play is going to have to play really well.”

Edin, third Oskar Eriksson, second Rasmus Wranå, lead Christoffer Sundgren, alternate Daniel Magnusson and coach Fredrik Lindberg, scored two in the first end on Edin’s last-rock tap back. They took control of the game with three in the fourth after a costly half-shot on a hit-and-stick by Japan that left Edin a raise rap back that he executed to perfection.

Matsumura, third Tetsuro Shimizu, second Yasumasa Tanida, lead Shinya Abe, alternate Kosuke Aita and coach Bob Ursel, were forced to take singles in the second and sixth ends.

Michael Burns Jr., left, accepts the Elmer Freytag Award, emblematic of being inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame, on behalf of his late father Michael Burns Jr. from World Curling Federation president Kate Caithness on Saturday. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Jeffrey Au)

Edin immediately responded with two in the seventh with a gentle last-rock tapback of Japan’s counter at the back of the four-foot.

Edin, looking to tie Canadian Ernie Richardson as the only skips to win four world titles, was as sharp as he’s been all week, shooting an impressive 95 per cent in the game. In the eighth, with Japan trying for two to get back into the game, Edin made a tight double to shot rock and ended up with a steal of one that prompted Japan to shake hands.

“Arguably the best team in the world right now,” Ursel said of the Swedish foursome. “Sweden didn’t miss all game and we were a little bit off. Gave them an early deuce and that’s a hard team to come back against.”

Japan will play the loser of the Canada-Switzerland semifinal in the bronze-medal game Sunday at noon.

“I don’t think I’m going to have to do too much to get these guys pumped up for the game,” said Ursel. “Japan has never finished in the medal round before, so I think it’s a big goal for them this year to do, so I expect them to come out firing.”

The 2019 Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship continues Sunday with the bronze-medal game at noon and the gold-medal game at 5 p.m.

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

TSN and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the 2019 Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule.

For ticket information for the 2019 Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship, go to www.curling.ca/2019worldmen/tickets/

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