It was a thoroughly successful Friday to close out round-robin play for Canada’s Kerri Einarson and Brad Gushue at the 2021 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Aberdeen, Scotland.
The Canadian duo not only locked up a playoff berth, but also secured a berth for Canada in mixed doubles curling at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
With wins over the Czech Republic and RCF (Russian Curling Federation) on Friday, Canada finishes second in its round-robin pool and will take on Switzerland Saturday at 5 a.m. (all times Eastern; TSN) in the playoff qualification round.
Here’s a Friday’s wins:
Draw 9A: Canada 11 RCF (Russian Curling Federation) 6
Einarson (Camp Morton, Man.), Gushue (St. John’s, N.L.) and coaches Scott Pfeifer and Heather Nedohin broke out to an early lead and rolled to an 11-6 victory over RCF’s Anastasia Moskaleva and Aleksandr Eremin (4-5).
The Canadian win secured a 7-2 record and a second-place finish in Group A at the championship, setting the stage for a quarterfinal playoff match against 2017 world champs Switzerland’s Jenny Perret and Martin Rios (5-4), who ranked third in Group B. Canada will have last-rock advantage in the first end against the Swiss, who defeated another Canadian team, Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers, in the 2017 gold-medal game at Lethbridge, Alta.
“It’s good to go out with a good performance going into the playoffs,” said Einarson. “We had a really solid game.”
“I think trying to get hammer in the playoffs and also build some momentum, it’s really important,” added Gushue. “We’ve been kind of wishy-washy all week, so it was nice to come out with a solid game this morning and another one this evening. Hopefully we can build on that over the weekend.”
Indeed, the Canadians were solid from the beginning.
The first end saw Canada jump out to an early 4-0 lead thanks to some shaky RCF stone placement and a strong pre-game draw to the button score that earned Canada the hammer. Einarson, with her final stone, saw an angle tap to score four and executed it perfectly for the early lead.
RCF would rebound with a score of two in second, but Canada would respond in kind in the third end with a score of two of its own, making the score 6-2 after three ends.
Canada would continue executing in the fourth end without hammer, crowding the four-foot with precision draws ensuring advantageous angles. RCF played runback after runback in an attempt to clear the scoring area but struggled to remove the Canadian stones consistently. Facing two, RCF would make a nice tap with their last to score a single, making the score 6-3.
Momentum would begin to slip in the fifth end for Canada. With hammer, Canada would surrender a steal after being in control of the end thanks to a missed Gushue shot that resulted in an RCF single.
“That’s mixed doubles,” said Einarson when asked about the slip in momentum. “It’s looking really good and all of a sudden, it changes. We were just off on a couple of shots.”
“One miss can turn an end around,” added Gushue. “That (fifth) end, I missed one where if I make it, we’re probably looking good for a multiple score. That’s all it takes.”
The sixth looked woeful for the majority of the end for Canada until Gushue redeemed himself and executed a spectacular runback double, getting out of trouble and resulting in a single.
Retaining hammer in the seventh, RCF would elect to use its power play, moving the preplaced stones to the wings. Einarson would execute a perfect tick shot with Canada’s first stone, rolling the shooter on to the twelve-foot, but the RCF stones in scoring position began to accumulate as the end progressed. RCF would score two to make the score 7-6.
In the eighth end and up one with the hammer, Canada would elect to use its power play. With a missed tick shot and properly executed guards from RCF, plenty of traffic began to build in front of the house much to Canada’s chagrin. Canada would manage to keep control of the house despite a single long RCF guard on the centre line, which RCF would draw around on their final stone, though it would slip slightly behind the tee line, leaving Einarson a simple backline weight takeout for the victory.
The semifinals are slated for Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively. The bronze-medal match is Sunday at 5 a.m. and the gold-medal match is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday.
Draw 8A: Canada 7 Czech Republic 6
Canada cemented its spot in the playoffs with a tightly contested victory over the Czech Republic.
Einarson and Gushue had captured early momentum but ended up being tested to their limits with a 7-6 win over the Czechs, a match that had massive playoff implications, not to mention implications for Canada’s Olympic hopes.
“Securing the Olympic berth definitely takes the pressure off a bit,” said Einarson. “We’re still just focusing on ourselves.”
“You try to not think about it but obviously it’s still there,” added Gushue. “Now it’s something we don’t have to worry about from here on out and now it’s just a matter of seeing if we can use tonight’s game to build momentum going into the playoffs tomorrow.”
Canada opened the match against the Czech Republic with plenty of momentum thanks to keen execution resulting in consecutive steals of one in the first and second ends for an early 2-0 lead.
Canada was poised to steal again in the third, but a draw on Canada’s last to lay two would come up short and give way to a well executed Czech Republic angle tap back for a single point.
With hammer in the fourth, Canada would already be laying two with its final stone still to come and with an opportunity to make a thin slash to promote a Canadian stone for a third point. Einarson would be close to executing the shot perfectly, but ended up hitting the Canadian stone a bit too thin. After a measure, Canada would still only be counting two, making the score 4-1 after four ends.
The Czechs, undeterred, would use their power play in the fifth end with hammer to turn the tide. With a few lingering Czech Republic stones in the 12-foot, a missed hit on Canada’s final stone would allow the Czech Republic an open hit for four, making the score 5-4.
“I was a little bummed with that shot,” said Einarson about the miss on her final stone. “I slid a little full of the broom and it ran there. Unfortunately, we gave up a four.”
“On the positive side, we still hadn’t used our power play and we knew we had a number of ends left,” said Gushue. “The key was to come back in the sixth.”
Canada would rebound in the sixth end with hammer. Sitting two Canadian stones in the top four, the Czechs would draw down for shot stone on the side of the button, applying extra pressure to the Canadians. Einarson would then execute an up-weight thin hit to secure the deuce and make the score 6-5 Canada.
After the Czech Republic settled for a single in the seventh on a missed in-off for four, Canada would use its power play in the eighth end tied 6-6. Canada employed a defensive strategy in the final end, keeping the house as open as possible. The Czech Republic missed its final attempt at a double takeout, leaving a single Canadian stone in play for a 7-6 victory.
The semi finals of the 2021 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship are scheduled to take place Saturday, May 22nd at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively. The bronze medal match is scheduled for Sunday, May 23rd at 5 a.m. and the gold medal match is scheduled for 10 a.m that same day.
TSN/RDS2, the official broadcast partners of Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide live coverage of select Canada round-robin games, in addition to all playoff games. CLICK HERE for their complete broadcast schedule.