Towards the end of a roller coaster week at the World Men’s Curling Championship in Calgary, Team Canada got the win it needed against Norway on Thursday night to secure a spot for the country in next year’s Olympic curling tournament.
Team Canada — composed of skip Brendan Bottcher, third Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen, and lead Karrick Martin — also earned their way into the playoffs at the worlds, which start Friday night.
The 6-4 victory over Norway boosted Canada’s record to 8-4 with one round robin game still to play against Germany at 11 a.m. ET on Friday.
The Canadians had a solid bounce back performance following a tough couple of games on Wednesday. First, there was an 8-7 extra ends loss against the Russian Curling Federation (RCF) and then they allowed Sweden to score four in the 10th end, resulting in a 9-7 loss.
That had dropped Canada to sixth place in the standings, which was critical as only six countries could earn their spots at Beijing 2022 through the world championships. So far, the RCF, Sweden, the United States, and Great Britain (via Scotland) have also secured Olympic spots, with Norway and Switzerland eyeing the final spot with their matching 7-5 records and each team still having one game to play.
A final Olympic qualifying tournament will take place later this year to fill out the field.
As for who will wear the maple leaf in Beijing, that will be determined via Curling Canada’s national trials in November where nine men’s teams will vie for the honour of being Team Canada at the Olympic Winter Games.
“It was huge,” Bottcher said of the win over Norway. “I think we played the majority of a good game last night (in the loss to Sweden) and just got a little hung up at the end. But tonight, I think from start to finish, we played our game as good as we could and I’m really proud of the guys for bouncing back because it was certainly a hard one last night.”
Team Bottcher, this year’s Brier champions, had started the worlds with three straight wins against Scotland, Japan and Denmark. But then they dropped their matchup against Switzerland, giving up a steal of two in the extra end for their first loss. They earned a tight win against the Netherlands before a dominating victory against the United States, which included a remarkable steal of five in the fifth that led to a hand shakes after the sixth end.
But then came a shock against South Korea on Monday. Down 8-3, the Canadians worked to make a late comeback, exploding for four in the eighth and then a steal of two in the ninth to take a 9-8 lead. However, Korean skip Yeong-Seok Jeong got a game-winning tap to score a deuce in the 10th.
Canada came back once again on Tuesday, earning wins against Italy and China, the latter thanks to Bottcher making a couple of high pressure draws to the side of the four foot in the 10th.
“All we can control in the moment is to play our hearts out while we’re out on the ice, and then try to do the absolute best the next game that comes up,” Bottcher said after the must-win game against Norway. “Some games we came a little bit short this week. But I’m really proud of the guys. Every time we lost this week, it felt like we brought a really strong game as a follow-up. I think that’s what it’s going to take this week. Over a 13-game round robin, you’ll have peaks and valleys and it’s just how you weather the storm that really differentiates the top teams.”
For the playoff round at the worlds, Sweden and the RCF will have byes to Saturday’s semifinals as the top two teams after the round robin. Friday night’s qualifying round at 9 p.m. ET will see the third-place team play sixth place and the fourth-place team play fifth place, with the winners advancing to the semis. The medal matches will take centre stage on Sunday.
You can watch all of Team Canada’s games on TSN.
Canada will also aim to lock up berths in the women’s and mixed doubles Olympic curling tournaments at those respective world championships. Kerri Einarson will skip Team Canada at the women’s worlds, also taking place in Calgary from April 30 to May 9, where the top six countries will get tickets to Beijing. She’ll then team up with 2006 Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue at the mixed doubles worlds, taking place May 17-23 in Aberdeen, Scotland, where the top seven countries will be guaranteed spots in Beijing.