Canada secures top seed in playoffs at 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships
The most crucial moment for Canada’s playoff seeding at the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships occurred before the first rock of the game was even thrown.
Canada’s Team Brad Gushue, South Korea’s Team Byeongjin Jeong and Team Korey Dropkin of the United States all won their final round-robin games and finished six-wins-and-one-loss records on Friday afternoon at Calgary’s WinSport Event Centre.
Skip Gushue, vice-skip Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Nathan Young, coach Jules Owchar and national coach Jeff Stoughton defeated Team Randie Shen of Chinese Taipei (2-5) 11-3 to lock up the top spot in the playoffs.
The most significant moment occurred during the fifth end of the game. Leading 4-2 and with hammer, Gushue had an open hit to put a five on the board and secure a seven-point lead at the break. It assured that Canada would be in good standing for a top seed in the playoffs.
With each first-placed team having one win and one loss against each other, the draw shot challenge distance — the average accumulative draw to the button distance thrown before games — was used to seed the top three teams in the four-team playoffs.
That meant the most important Canadian rocks thrown were before the game against Chinese Taipei, as Canada had to beat the Americans to keep first place in the draw shot challenge.
Canada secured the first seed with an average distance of 16.29 centimetres from the pin throughout the week.
“We had a really good week for our draws. When we look back at what we did at the worlds and the Olympics last time, we didn’t do very good. So we made a lot of good draws this week and put some on the pin, and it’s paid off on getting first place,” Gushue said.
Team Dropkin of the United States defeated Brazil’s Team Marcelo Cabral de Mello (0-7) 9-3 in the final round-robin game. The team’s 18.33-cm draw shot challenge was good for the second seed in the playoffs.
South Korea’s Team Jeong bested Australia’s Team Jay Merchant (2-5) 9-4 and finished as the third seed in the playoffs with a draw shot challenge distance of 27.03 cm.
Japan’s Team Riku Yanagisawa (3-4) started the event with four straight losses but rebounded to win its final three games and qualify for the playoffs as the fourth seed. Team Japan defeated New Zealand’s Team Anton Hood (3-4) 9-5 to pick up the final playoff spot due to its head-to-head win over the Kiwis.
However, there is still a happy ending for the team from New Zealand. While it will not compete for a medal at the inaugural Pan Continentals, it did secure the final berth available at the 2023 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship in Ottawa this April. It will join the four playoff teams as representatives of the Pan Continental region. The last time New Zealand qualified for the world men’s championship was in 2012.
The four-team playoffs begin for the men on Saturday at 9 a.m. (all times Mountain) when Canada will take on Japan, and the United States is against South Korea.
The winners advance to the gold-medal game on Sunday at 9 a.m., and losers compete in the bronze-medal game at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
“Japan has looked like a different [team] over the last couple of games than it was early in the week, and they seem to be coming on strong. It’s going to be a really tough game for us,” Gushue said. “We’re in pretty good shape, I think, and we’re playing pretty well. I think in some of the last couple of games where we got the big leads that keeping the motivation at a high level was a challenge, but I tried to play as many tough shots as possible to keep us engaged, and we made a lot of them.”
The 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships continue on Friday, with Canadian women’s Team Kerri Einarson (6-1) attempting to lock up either a first- or second-seed appearance in the playoffs. Canada takes on South Korea’s Team Seungyoung Ha (6-1) at 7 p.m.
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This story will be available in French as soon as possible here.