Canada to men’s curling worlds semifinal after page playoff loss

Canada must play a semifinal for a shot at World Men’s Championship final in curling after a 7-6 extra end page playoff defeat to Norway in Halifax on Friday night.

A draw to the pin on the final shot from Norway in the 11th end gave the Scandinavian nation the trip to Sunday’s final. Canada was sitting two and Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud had to be perfect on the final shot to win it for the top-rated Europeans.

Curling worlds is set up to have the top two teams from round robin play in a page playoff with the winner advancing to the final and the loser getting a second chance in the semifinal. Canada will wait and play the winner of Sweden-Finland on Saturday night for another chance at Norway on Sunday.

Team Norway with their trademark flag pants on the gold medal podium at the 2014 curling World Championship in Beijing.

Team Norway with their trademark flag pants on the gold medal podium at the 2014 curling World Championship in Beijing.

Norway is the reigning World Champion. Pat Simmons is skipping Team Canada, with Olympic champion John Morris stepping aside earlier this season to take up third duties. Both teams finished the round robin with a 10-1 record. Canada’s only two losses in the tournament have come to Norway.

That earlier result gave Norway the hammer in the first end, where Ulsrud took out two Canadian rocks with precision when the home team was sitting three. On his final shot, Simmons threw one in the corner to freeze and force another good shot from Ulsrud, but one that restricted the Norwegians to a single for a 1-0 start.

Heading into the second, a couple of poor throws from Norway’s Torger Nergard, combined with well placed, under-rotated shots from his counterpart Morris, had Canada sitting two. Ulsrud managed to take out one but exposed his own rock to Simmons, who took advantage with his first shot before delivering a 2-1 lead on his next throw.

Pat Simmons (left) and John Morris at the 2015 curling men's World Championship in Halifax.

Pat Simmons (left) and John Morris at the 2015 curling men’s World Championship in Halifax.

The Norwegians might’ve been thinking of feasting on a couple of Canadian errors in the third end, but Morris quickly righted the ship with a double takeout and rolling his stone to the button. Simmons wasn’t able to place the guard for a steal though and Ulsrud grabbed another single for 2-2.

After a blank fourth, Simmons’ first throw in the fifth end with the hammer didn’t push the Norwegian stones where Canada needed them to go, allowing Ulsrud to sit three on his last shot. The Canadian skip had to put it right on the button on his next attempt, and that’s exactly what Simmons did to wild applause from the Halifax crowd and a 3-2 lead.

Canada stole one in the sixth with first Morris, then Simmons placing stones on the pin. Nergard managed to neutralize Morris, but Ulsrud, with the last shot, couldn’t dislodge Simmons’ stone and Canada doubled its advantage 4-2.

Team Canada in round robin action at the 2015 World Men's Championship in Halifax.

Team Canada in round robin action at the 2015 World Men’s Championship in Halifax.

The Canadians let Norway off the hook in the seventh. Lying two and Simmons just having missed taking one of the Norwegian stones out of play, Ulsrud on his final seventh end throw executed a perfect runback double, knocking out both of Canada’s stones and bringing Norway right back into the contest at 4-4.

In the eighth Ulsrud put the pressure back on the Canadians forcing Simmons to look for the button again to escape the eighth with one. Just as he did in the fifth, Simmons put the stone exactly where he needed and Canada was back on top 5-4.

Norway was threatening to take three in the ninth with the hammer. Team Canada was happy to concede two and take their chances with the last shot in the 10th end after Simmons eliminated two stones from the circle and Ulsrud put Norway up 6-5.

In the 10th, Canada tried to win it by running back and rolling off the raised stone for two. It was a solid effort from Simmons, yet too much weight kept the roller out of the circle, making it 6-6 and giving Ulsrud a chance with the hammer in the extra end.