Canada’s Team Brad Gushue will defend its gold medal after a barn-burner of a semifinal against Team Andrew Stopera of the United States at the 2023 Pan Continental Curling Championships.
Team Gushue, from St. John’s, N.L., defeated the Americans 8-3 on Friday morning at the Kelowna Curling Club. The win puts Canada into the gold-medal game on Saturday at 3 p.m. (all times Pacific), against South Korea.
Canada’s Gushue, vice-skip Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Jim Cotter from Vernon, coach Caleb Flaxey and national coach Jeff Stoughton play against the only team it is yet to defeat at the 2023 Pan Continentals. South Korea’s Team Jongduk Park won its semifinal game and will face Canada in the gold-medal game. The two teams played in the first round-robin game of the week, with South Korea coming away with a win.
“We want to be in that game. We play Korea, so we get an opportunity to play them again. We had a rough game against them the first game, so hopefully, we can give them our best and see how it turns out,” said Gushue.
Canada’s Team Gushue is in its second straight Pan Continental gold-medal game. Last year, Team Gushue defeated South Korea, led by skip Byeongjin Jeong, at the inaugural event in Calgary.
“Any event we play in, we want to be in that final. We’ve been taking every step towards that this week and now we’re there. We need to just tighten those screws just a little bit more and come out firing in the final,” said Nichols post-game.
In the other semifinal, South Korea’s Team Park defeated Japan’s Team Riku Yanagisawa 8-7. The United States and Japan face each other in today’s men’s bronze-medal game at 7 p.m.
Cotter got his second taste of game action as the preliminary round closed out Thursday, and an 11-1 win over Team Rayad Husain from Guyana helped Gushue clinch first place. Team Canada tied with Japan’s Team Riku Yanagisawa (6-1) for first place, but Gushue earned top seed based on a round-robin win over the Japanese.
Canada started the game against Guyana with hammer and capitalized with a three-ender. Guyana, led by skip Husain from Brampton, Ont., blanked the second end and hoped for greener pastures in the third, but Team Gushue stole three for an early 6-0 lead.
Guyana and Canada exchanged singles in the fourth and fifth ends. At the start of the fifth, Gushue handed alternate Cotter the keys to the running car. Gushue subbed out of the game, Nichols moved up to skip and Cotter slotted into the vice-skip role.
“We wanted to give him another chance to get in. He’s taken a week away from his life and work to support us this week,” Gushue said. “Once we got up, we knew we were probably pretty comfortable putting him in. E.J. wanted to stay in the lineup and we had already taken Geoff out, so it was up to me or Mark. Mark’s come out a bunch of times over the years and I’ve come out the least, so it was my turn.”
With Cotter in the lineup, the Canadians scored four in the sixth, which triggered the Guyana-initiated handshakes and forfeit.
“It felt great. The guys have been great and I know they’ve been trying to get me in there,” said Cotter to Curling Canada. “You come here (Kelowna Curling Club) and know so many people by name. I curled with guys from Kelowna and we practised here a lot. It was kind of one of my home clubs, both Vernon and Kelowna, so this feels like home.”
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