Birthday boy Kevin Koe gets big win at WFG Continental Cup

LONDON, Ont. — The crowd sang Happy Birthday to Team North America’s Kevin Koe after the Olympic-bound skip and his Calgary-based team shook off some rust and beat Thomas Ulsrud of Team World 6-4 in one of three team matches Thursday evening at the 2018 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Service Experts. Two of Canada’s best men’s teams, skipped by Koe and reigning Tim Hortons Brier and world champion Brad Gushue, scored victories to prevent Team World from taking control of the four-day event at The Sports Centre at Western Fair District. “It felt good to get back out there … we haven’t had a game since the (Olympic) Trials, so it was nice to get out there and we played pretty well,” Koe, who turned 43 on Thursday, said after his 6-4 win over Ulsrud. “For us it was important to play well. We’re not going to have a lot of games before we go (to the Olympics), we only have a couple of events, so that’s what we’re focusing on. “It’s early but (Team North America) were down a little bit so it’s nice to come out and win this session tonight and hopefully we’ll come out tomorrow and continue playing well.” In the opening two draws, Team World won two of three games in each of the traditional team matches in the morning and the afternoon mixed doubles to take a 4-2 point lead. Team North America turned the tables in the evening to end the day trailing by a point, 5-4. Nina Roth (U.S.) had a chance to pull Team America into a tie but her last-rock rubbed a guard and left Team World’s Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan) to score one for a 7-5 win to take the point. A total of 60 points are available over the four days of competition, which features traditional team games, mixed doubles games and skins games, with the first team to reach 30.5 points declared the winner. Gushue stole a deuce in the third end for a 3-0 lead and rolled to a 7-2 win over Team World’s Peter De Cruz (Switzerland). “It was a good day today. To get two wins is nice,” said  Gushue who won his mixed doubles match earlier. “I had a good partner (in mixed doubles) in Lisa (Weagle) and my team played really good tonight. It was a bit of an easier one which is nice not to have it come down to last rock.” Meanwhile the opening game of the best-of-five Americas Zone men’s challenge series between Canada’s Glenn Howard and Brazil’s Marcelo Mello was over almost before it began. Howard, a four-time Brier and world champion, was one guard away from an eight-ender to begin the game, scoring seven in the first and rolling to an 15-1 win.

Team World’s Chinami Yoshida calls sweeping instructions to her teammates (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

The guard was put up by Howard lead Scott Howard. Six rocks later, after Brazil failed to execute draw shots and Mello’s last-rock takeout to try to cut down Howard’s count jammed, Glenn was left a routine draw for his seven. “They had a couple of chances to get out that end … but never made the shots,” Howard said. “Their skip’s last rock he got really unlucky, jammed at the back. He didn’t deserve to give up seven.” Not knowing what to expect from the Brazilians, and knowing Canada’s spot in the world championship is on the line, Howard’s team came out aggressively. “We tried to go out and play Kevin Koe,” said Howard. “We took that attitude, we had to come out aggressive and we made a ton of shots.” The 2018 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Service Experts, continues on Friday with team play at 9:30 a.m., mixed doubles at 2:30 p.m and another round of team play at 7:30 p.m. (all times Eastern). Meanwhile the Canada-Brazil challenge continues with games at 2:30 and 7 p.m. Tickets for the 2018 World Financial Group Continental Cup can be purchased at or by calling 1-855-985-5000. For the complete schedule, go to: TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for the Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the World Financial Group Continental Cup. The event also is being streamed live in the United States on ESPN3. CLICK HERE to see TSN’s broadcast schedule. This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at