CALGARY — Canada’s Brad Gushue won a fourth straight game at the Pan Continental Curling Championship Thursday with an 11-5 victory over Australia.
His St. John’s, N.L., team moved into a three-way tie for first place with South Korea and the United States, all at 4-1.
After a loss to the U.S. to open the tournament at Calgary’s WinSport Event Centre, Gushue said he and his teammates have found the all-important draw weight.
“There’s still room for improvement,” Gushue said. “I feel like we’re drawing really well, though.
“We’re putting (rocks) in some good spots and making good freezes. We have a few little things to work on, but when you draw well on this ice, you do typically score well and give yourself good chances.
“I think we’re doing a very good job at that, and as long as we can maintain and keep up on the ice, I think we’ll be OK.”
The inaugural Pan Continental is a qualifier for all countries outside Europe for the 2023 men’s and women’s world curling championships.
Finishing in the top five secures berths, but Canada as the host country of the men’s championship in Ottawa is assured an automatic entry.
Kerri Einarson (5-1) has clinched a spot for Canada in the women’s championship in Switzerland. After winning five straight to open the tournament, she dropped her first game of the tournament to the U.S. (6-0) 8-6 on Thursday.
Gushue was scheduled to play a second game against New Zealand in the evening draw.
Nathan Young, his 19-year-old alternate, subbed to play lead after the fifth end Thursday. Geoff Walker shifted to second as E.J. Harnden took a breather.
Gushue extended a streak of scoring three points in the first end to four straight games. The Canadians also counted four in the fifth end to lead 9-3.
“We’re catching onto the ice a little bit better each game,” vice Mark Nichols said. “We’re also winning the draw to the button, which gives us an advantage in that first end. We’ve been lucky enough to convert a few bigger ends.
“We’re not typically a team that goes super-aggressive, so when we get those bigger ends, it is nice.”
Dean Hewitt, who throws fourth stones for Australia, competed in Olympic mixed doubles in Beijing in February.
He and Tahli Gill were the first Australians to curl in any Olympic discipline.
Australia scored two in the second end Thursday, but couldn’t generate a multi-point end after that. They shook hands after eight ends.
“We do limit the big ends too,” Nichols said. “Any time you can score two or three and then force to one, you flip the game over pretty quick, and they’ve got to play a few more finesse shots and a few more risky calls to get back into the game, and we’ve been able to capitalize on mistakes.”
Australia has appeared in 11 men’s world championships all led by skip Hugh Millikin from 1992 to 1998 and most recently from 2005 to 2008.
The Aussies (2-3) are still in contention to qualify for Australia’s first world championship in 15 years.
The men’s and women’s semifinals are Saturday followed by Sunday’s finals.
In other A Division men’s games, the U.S. defeated New Zealand 6-2, Japan downed Brazil 9-3 and South Korea recovered from the previous day’s loss to Canada with an 11-5 victory over Chinese Tapei.
New Zealand was 3-2 behind the three front-runners, Chinese Tapei fell to 2-3, Japan was 1-4 and Brazil was winless in five games.
Einarson opened strong against the Americans, notching a deuce in the first end. Skip Tabitha Peterson’s U.S. rink then evened the game in the second.
After recording a single in the third, Canada fell behind as the Americans scored two points in the fourth end. The sides exchanged deuces leading to the U.S. going up 6-5 after the sixth end.
After a scoreless seventh end followed by a single from Canada to tie it, the U.S. pulled away with back-to-back singles in the ninth and tenth ends to seal the win.
Despite the loss, the Canadians are still a lock for Saturday’s semifinals with a chance to rebound on Friday against Japan and South Korea.
“I mean, we’re still in a great spot,” said Canada second Shannon Birchard.
“We have two big games tomorrow, so we just have to build and get some momentum going heading into the playoffs. We need to dial in and get a handle on this ice, and string eight shots together each end, if we can.”
Canada now sits tied for third with South Korea (5-1) and behind second-place Japan (6-1), with the Americans in first. All four teams have qualified for the playoffs with the matchups to be determined after Friday’s draws.
In other women’s games, Japan defeated Kazakhstan 9-2, South Korea cruised past Hong Kong 12-3 and New Zealand beat Australia 10-7.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2022.