LAS VEGAS — Challenging ice conditions left player confidence at a premium on Sunday at the world men's curling championship.
Brad Gushue's Canada team managed to overcome the hurdles and used a steal of three in the eighth end for a 9-6 win over Wouter Goesgens of the Netherlands.
"Standings-wise we're really happy," Gushue said. "Playing-wise we're not as sharp."
Canada improved to 4-0 in the evening with a 10-6 victory over Switzerland's Yannick Schwaller.
The St. John's-based squad of Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker had a first half to forget in the afternoon, complete with a pre-game last-stone draw of 199.1 centimetres, by far the worst of the tournament.
Gushue nosed a hit-and-roll attempt in the second end for a Dutch steal. He gave up another deuce in the fifth end when his stone crashed into a guard.
"I threw two really good rocks and it made me look like I was a Monday night club curler," Gushue said. "But the ice is just that way and it came back to bite them in the eighth end too."
With percentages down and the Dutch rink up 5-2, Gushue's side talked things over during the fifth-end break. The Canadians were determined to apply more pressure in the second half and it worked.
"There's going to be misses out there but let's try to limit them and try to battle," Walker said. "The big thing is believing that we're going to make the next one."
Gushue scored two in the sixth end and tied the game with a steal in the seventh. Goesgens' first-half momentum had disappeared and his light throw against three in the eighth end turned the game.
"We're throwing some really nice rocks and we're just looking like we haven't curled before," Gushue said. "But it is ice related. It's disappointing for a world championship to have it this way."
Hot temperatures outdoors haven't helped the ice quality inside the nearly empty 9,500-seat arena, which hosted this event in 2018. There has been plenty of curl but overall consistency has been an issue.
"It's going to be a long week," Gushue said. "We're going to have a lot more games like we had today where you're just going to have to have damage limitation."
All four Canadians brought their shooting percentages up to at least 80 per cent. But their trademark confidence wasn't always there.
Asked afterwards at what point he finally felt comfortable on the ice, Gushue deadpanned: "When I got off it."
Three-time defending champion Niklas Edin of Sweden (1-2) suffered two losses on the day. He dropped an 8-7 decision to Switzerland in the morning and Italy's Joel Retornaz scored four in the 10th end for a 10-8 victory over the reigning Olympic champion in the afternoon.
"It's tough out there and it's not just us," Gushue said. "You look across and see what Niklas today, one of the best teams in the world, and he was 69 per cent. You just don't see that."
Against the Swiss, Gushue started slowly but pulled even with a four-ender in the fourth end. Schwaller's side shook hands after giving up a steal of two in the ninth.
Gushue was alone in first place after five sessions of round-robin play, which continues through Friday. The four-time national men's champion earned his lone world title in 2017 at Edmonton.
Italy beat Finland's Kalle Kiiskinen 10-7 in the evening to leave Canada as the lone unbeaten rink. Italy, Finland, Germany, Norway and the United States were tied in second place at 2-1.
The top six teams in the 13-team field will make the playoffs. Medal games are scheduled for April 10.
Switzerland's Silvana Tirinzoni won the women's world title last weekend in Prince George, B.C. Canada's Kerri Einarson took the bronze.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2022.
The Canadian Press