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Japan knocks off Canada at Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Championship

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – There are no longer any unbeaten teams at the Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning and Plumbing, and Canada has been replaced atop the standings by Japan.

Yuta Matsumura and Team Japan (7-1) jumped all over a shaky start by Kevin Koe and his Canadian teammates Wednesday morning, scoring two in the first end and erupting for five in the third for a 9-3, six-end win over Canada (6-1), the last unbeaten team going into the day.

“We were in trouble all end and never really had a chance to bail, so we had to stay on the offensive,” Koe said of the third end. “I wish I would have played a different shot on my first one, that didn’t work out too good. Then he made a good shot and that’s the game right there.”

Japan opened with a deuce when Koe’s attempted double takeout got only one, spilled his two stones out to the edges and left Matsumura an easy draw for two. Japan had Canada in difficulty in the second until vice-skip B.J. Neufeld perfectly executed back-to-back doubles. But Koe’s last-rock double try again got just one and he was forced to settle for a single.

Canada got itself into deep trouble in the third with a couple of early misses that allowed Japan to position four counters and Koe had no real escape route. Koe’s desperation hit-and-roll didn’t get the exact roll he wanted, and Matsumura made an easy double for the five.

“They just executed so well today, they weren’t missing,” Japanese coach Bob Ursel said of his team. “The skip made some phenomenal shots for the big end. We got some good rock positions and Colton (Flasch) struggled that end, he kind of bounced off, made a couple of mistakes and we were able to take advantage of that early and it got them into trouble at the end.”

Matsumura, third Tetsuro Shimizu, second Yasumasa Tanida, lead Shinya Abe, alternate Kosuke Aita and Ursel, rarely missed a shot that mattered in their impressive victory that all but guaranteed their advancement into the playoffs.

In its first test against the elite half of the competition, Koe, third B.J. Neufeld, second Flasch, lead Ben Hebert, alternate Ted Appelman, team coach John Dunn and national coach Jeff Stoughton, couldn’t match Japan’s shot-making and now face another equally tough opponent later Wednesday in Niklas Edin of Sweden (6-1).

“We’ll be ready to go (tonight),” promised Koe. “Obviously we’ll be in tough against Sweden, they’re playing well, but we’ll bounce back fine. One loss, it’s not time to panic.”

Ben Hebert, left, and Kevin Koe discuss options. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

The loss did end the Koe team’s 24-game winning streak, something that didn’t really matter to the veteran skip who is seeking a third world title.

“We’ve lost lots of games, definitely not a new feeling,” he said. “It ended with a bit of an abrupt thud, but a loss is a loss. I wish we had played better than that, but we didn’t. Whether you lose like that or lose on last rock, it’s a loss.”

Bruce Mouat and his Scottish (4-3) teammates fought their way back into the playoff picture with an 8-4 win over Magnus Ramsfjell of Norway (1-6), and Olympic champion John Shuster of the United States (5-2) scored three in the sixth end to get by Joel Retornaz of Italy (4-3) 8-3 in a key positioning game for both teams. In the other morning game, Jaap van Dorp of the Netherlands (3-4) beat Qiang Zou of China (1-6) 10-5.

The 2019 Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship continues with draws today at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times MT).

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