‘Koe Special’ gives Canada key win at Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Championship

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – Kevin Koe brought the fans to their feet and Team United States to its knees Thursday morning with one of his patented, spectacular in-offs to secure Canada’s 6-3 win over John Shuster of the U.S. at the Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning and Plumbing. The moment came in the ninth end with Canada (7-2) up 4-3 but the U.S. having shot rock buried. Except, said skip John Shuster of the U.S. (6-3), they left the “Kevin Koe Special.” “As I told Chris (Plys), ‘Well, we left him the Kevin Koe Special, let’s see if the old Ku-dog is still here,’ and there he was.” The teams traded singles in the first two ends and then Koe and Shuster played a patient game – the U.S. trying to force Canada to take one; the Canadians waiting for the Americans to make a mistake so they could get two. The break for Koe, third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch, lead Ben Hebert, alternate Ted Appelman, team coach John Dunn and national coach Jeff Stoughton, came in six when Shuster rolled out on two hit-and-stick shots, leaving Koe an open-house draw for the deuce. In the seventh, runback double takeouts by Neufeld and then Koe left Shuster facing three Canada stones in the house. His runback double-takeout attempt got only one, leaving Koe the steal. Shuster, third Chris Plys, second Matt Hamilton, lead John Landsteiner, alternate Korey Dropkin and coach Don Bartlett, got two of their own in the eighth and looked about to steal one in nine when Koe settled into the hack. Seconds later, his wide in-off takeout having kicked out the U.S. counter and left Canada counting two, the stands erupted. As did Koe’s teammates. “I had goosebumps for sure, that was a pretty loud roar, especially how big the game was, to get a shot like that is huge,” said Hebert, who has seen more than a few similar shots from Koe. “Me and B.J. were pretty stoked and I’m sure you saw Kevin’s reaction, he was probably out of control wasn’t he?” he said kiddingly of his always calm, cool skip.

Team Canada led Ben Hebert celebrates Kevin Koe’s big shot for two against the United States. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Even Koe admitted the reaction was, “awesome.” “The building is starting to fill up and it’s nice to give them something to cheer about. Our best game so far.” Team Canada will need more of those performances going forward with its next two games against playoff-bound Scotland and Switzerland. The win was huge, coming after losses on Wednesday to Japan and Sweden. “More importantly for us was just to play a good game,” said Hebert. “We struggled yesterday, even with our six wins were just cruising along, maybe playing down to the competition a bit and yesterday we got bit by two good teams.” Joel Retornaz of Italy (6-3) scored one in an extra end for a 6-5 win over Peter de Cruz of Switzerland (7-2); Sergey Glukhov of Russia (3-6) opened with a three-ender and added two in the fifth en route to a 7-4 win over Jaap van Dorp of the Netherlands (3-6); and Qiang Zou of China (2-7) beat Magnus Ramsfjell of Norway (2-7) 8-3. Japan and Sweden lead the chase for the six playoff spots with 8-1 records followed by Canada and Switzerland at 7-2 and the U.S. and Italy at 6-3. 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