Playoffs looming!

Canadian skip Susan Froud was all smiles after Tuesday’s victory locked up a playoff spot. (Photo, World Curling/Céline Stucki)

Canadian teams gearing up for medal chase at 2024 World Seniors

OESTERSUND, Sweden — One team is in the playoffs, and the other is on the verge of being there, at the 2024 World Senior Curling Championships.

Team Susan Froud of Alliston, Ont., and Team Paul Flemming of Halifax won their games Tuesday at the Oestersund Arena to improve to 4-0; Team Froud’s 9-3 win over Czechia’s Team Jana Berankova (1-3) was good enough to lock up first place in their pool and a berth in the quarterfinals with one round-robin game remaining. Team Flemming, meanwhile, dispatched Team Jonathan Ochoco of the Philippines (0-4) 8-3 to maintain possession of top spot in their pool, and they can clinch a playoff spot with a win Wednesday.

Froud, curling with vice-skip Kerry Lackie, second Kristin Turcotte, lead Julie McMullin, alternate Jo-Ann Rizzo and coach Al Corbeil, took control early against the Czechs. 

Froud made a lovely takeout through a port to score four in the first end to set the tone for a game that lasted just six ends.

Froud would make another hit for four in the fourth end to put the game out of reach.

With one round-robin game remaining — Wednesday at 10 a.m. (all times Eastern) against Norway’s Team Ellen Storvik (1-3), Canada can start its planning for the single-knockout playoff round, which begins with the quarterfinals  Thursday at 1 p.m.

“It feels so good,” said McMullin. “It’s amazing to have the Maple Leaf on our back and to be in the playoffs representing Canada. We take it one shot at a time, but every time we get a little bit closer (to making the gold-medal game), it’s awesome.”

Canada’s Kris Granchelli takes aim during World Seniors action in Sweden. (Photo, World Curling/Céline Stucki)

It’s not unlike the gradual ramping up to the playoffs that the Ontario champs experienced en route to winning gold at the Everest Canadian Seniors in December in Vernon, B.C., noted McMullin.

“It’s actually really similar,” she said. “We were taking it one shot at a time in Vernon and we knew that once we got into the playoffs, we just have to start from scratch again. This is only one box checked off, though. We’ve got a number of boxes to go. But we’re looking forward to checking them.”

McMullin is no stranger to World championships, having attended numerous world events as a spectator, accompanying her husband Scott Arnold, the Head of Development for World Curling. But the experience of being on the ice makes this one, clearly, a little more special. 

“Of course it’s very fun being there as a spectator,” she said. “But there’s nothing like being here and stepping on the ice and having the Maple Leaf on your back. Getting those jitters before you get on the ice — you don’t do that when you’re a spectator. And if you don’t have the jitters, then there’s something wrong.”

In men’s play, a three-man Philippines team surprisingly gave Canada — the team is rounded out by vice-skip Peter Burgess, second Martin Gavin, lead Kris Granchelli and alternate Kevin Ouellette — all it could handle in the first-ever meeting of the two countries at an international curling event.

Ochoco, in particular, was brilliant in making numerous shots to take almost sure Canadian multi-point steals off the board, as Team Flemming was holding on to just a narrow 3-2 lead through four ends.

But in the fifth, Canada was able to break it open as Flemming made a wonderful angle-raise takeout to score three.

Ochoco made almost a carbon copy of the Flemming shot in the sixth to score a single, looking at four Canadian counters, but in the seventh, Canada ended the game with a deuce.

“That was incredible,” said Granchelli of Ochoco’s performance. “We put pressure on him every single end and he pulled out beautiful shot after beautiful shot just to keep them in it. He was fantastic.”

Canada will close out its round-robin schedule with games Wednesday at 2 a.m. against Croatia’s Team Alberto Skendrovic (2-2) and Thursday against Denmark’s Team Mikael Qvist (2-2).

“I feel like we’re getting there,” said Granchelli. “Every game we’re getting a little bit closer. And yeah, we have some work to do, but it’s getting closer all the time.” 

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