Swiss finish No. 1

Swiss skip Yannick Schwaller, left, encourages teammate Pablo Lachat during Friday’s win over Sweden. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team Switzerland comes back for big win over champs

Teams from Sweden and Switzerland have collided many times in major world curling competitions, and the desire to knock off an old foe has led to some marvellous games.

They failed to disappoint Friday afternoon at the 2023 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship in Ottawa, where the stakes were high and the emotions even higher.

Skip Yannick Schwaller’s Team Switzerland (11-1) earned bragging rights, for now, earning a key 8-5 win over the Swedes to wrap up first place in the 13-team round robin and assuring last rock in the playoffs.

Team Sweden (9-2), skipped by Niklas Edin, fell back to into a three-way tie for second place with Magnus Ramsfjell’s Team Norway and Team Scotland, skipped by Bruce Mouat, as the fight for second place comes down to the wire in the final day of the round-robin competition.

The top six teams make the weekend playoffs, with the top two getting a first-round bye.

It will take the final draw Friday evening to sort out the team that finishes second in the standings, and the placement of the other four playoff teams.

Italian skip Joel Retornaz, right, discusses strategy with teammate Sebastiano Arman. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

The six playoff-bound teams were confirmed in the morning, and also includes teams Canada (8-3) and Italy (8-4).

Edin, a six-time world gold-medal winner and defending champion, was looking to move into top spot with a win, but ran into a determined and resilient Team Switzerland, which fought back from a 5-3 deficit after eight ends. The Swiss men haven’t won a world title since 1992 when Markus Eggler turned the trick.

“I don’t think it was our strongest performance, but it’s good to stay in the game,” said Schwaller. “Sometimes you have to hang in there. Luckily that’s what happened.

“But to finish on the top of a field like this is quite amazing. I’m happy for the team and quite proud too.”

The Swedes and skip Brad Gushue’s Team Canada close out their round-robin schedules tonight.

There was very little room to breathe in the Swiss-Sweden game. Both skips played it tight to the vest and were knotted up 2-2 over the first four ends. It took until Edin made a soft tapback for two in the sixth to see anything but singles on the board.

The Swedes upped the pressure in the eighth end with three stones clustered in the four-foot, but Swiss fourth-thrower Benoit Schwarz did well with a runback to remove two of them and give up only a single steal.

Edin made one of his few errors in the ninth end when he clipped a front stone going after a double takeout, and the redirection caused him grief in the house. Edin froze to the top of shot stone, facing four, but Schwarz made a nice angle raise takeout to kill it and score three and go up 6-5.

Down one in the 10th, Edin elected to go for a Hail Mary shot with his last, hoping to slash his stone into the rings for a possible winning deuce, but couldn’t pull it off.

Schwaller understood Edin’s thinking in the 10th.

“It’s never easy to go into the extra end and steal,” he said. “The percentages are not in your favour. I can understand his choice of rock there.”

The Scots defeated the Czech Republic 9-3 to remain one game off the lead. It was the second win of the day for Mouat and Co.

The Czechs, skipped by Lukas Klima, fell to 3-9.

Skip Joel Retornaz’s Team Italy finished its schedule with a 9-2 win over Team South Korea (1-11), skipped by Byeongjin Jeong. Earlier in the day the Italians won a crucial game against Team Japan (5-6) to qualify in sixth place.

In the only other game in the afternoon draw, Team U.S.A. (5-7), skipped by John Shuster, posted an 8-3 win over skip Anton Hood’s Team New Zealand (1-10).

The 2023 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship continues Friday with the final round-robin draw at 7 p.m. (all times ET).

Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2023 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship are available by CLICKING HERE.

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