Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Team Canada undefeated, clinches playoff spot at men’s curling worlds

Team Canada has clinched a spot in the 1-2 page playoff at the World Men’s Curling Championship in Edmonton, posting an undefeated record through their first nine games.

Skip Brad Gushue, along with third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, and lead Geoff Walker, maintained their position atop the round robin standings with a decisive 10-2 victory over Japan on Wednesday afternoon. After scoring two in the opening end, Team Gushue really broke the game open with a five spot in the fourth end. The game ended in handshakes after Canada stole two in the seventh.

Brad Gushue and the rest of team Canada celebrate their win over Scotland following the 7th draw at the Men’s World Curling Championships in Edmonton, Monday, April 3, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

That was just the latest dominant performance for the team from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, which has been riding the momentum since winning their first Brier on hometown ice last month.

Through nine games, they’ve outscored their opponents 77 to 29. Only two of those games have gone the full 10 ends – the opener against Switzerland which ended in a 7-5 win and their third game against Sweden which was an 8-6 victory. Those two teams are holding onto the next two spots in the standings, with just one loss apiece.

“This is as good as the team has ever played for this long a stretch for a while,” Gushue told Curling Canada. “We’ve had better games in shorter stretches in like two or three games in a row, but to have nine games in this fashion – well, I guess eight because the first one (versus Switzerland) was tough – but certainly eight in a row like this is impressive.”

The biggest blowout came against winless Russia, as they got an 11-3 victory in six ends. But Team Gushue has scored at least eight points in all but their first game.

Team Canada skip Brad Gushue makes a shot as lead Geoff Walker, left, and second Brett Gallant look on during the 7th draw against Scotland at the Men’s World Curling Championships in Edmonton, Monday, April 3, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

They’ll conclude the round robin on Thursday with a morning match against Italy (4-4) before wrapping it up against Norway (3-5) in the evening draw. If they finish first overall, the Canadians will have the hammer to start the 1-2 page playoff game, which will take place Friday night against an opponent yet to be determined. The winner will advance directly to Sunday’s final while the loser will get another shot by playing in Saturday’s semifinal against the winner of the 3-4 page playoff game.

Gushue is attempting to become the first skip to win the world championship, the world junior championship and an Olympic gold medal. He and Nichols captured the junior title in 2001, just five years before they were part of Canada’s first ever Olympic gold in men’s curling in Turin. A podium finish at the worlds would secure Team Gushue a spot in December’s national trials where the Olympic team for PyeongChang 2018 will be decided.