Canada's Brad Gushue (Photo by Richard Gray, World Curling Federation) defeated Scotland 9-5 while Niklas Edin of Sweden won 9-8 over Korea in their semifinal matches yesterday.
LAS VEGAS - It'll be a gold-medal rematch Sunday at the 2018 World Men's Curling Championship at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Defending world champ Brad Gushue and his team from Newfoundland and Labrador - third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Tom Sallows, team coach Jules Owchar and national coach Rick Lang — will go after a second straight gold medal Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. Standing in their way will be the team that Canada beat in last year's final in Edmonton: Niklas Edin of Sweden with third Oskar Eriksson, second Rasmus Wrana, lead Christoffer Sundgreen, alternate Henrik Leek and coach Fredrik Lindberg.
The Canadians reached the gold-medal game with a pair of playoff victories on Saturday at frosty Orleans Arena, capping their perfect day with a thrilling 9-5 win over Bruce Mouat of Scotland.
"I feel great," said Gushue. "I thought it was a great game, and I thought we handled the ice as well as we could. We made some big shots, and it was a good win."
Gushue delivered two of his most important shots of the 2018 World Men's back to back in the seventh end on Saturday night — two precision runback takeouts that put a three on the scoreboard and gave Canada a 7-5 lead, prompting a frenzy of raucous cheers from the pro-Canada crowd.
But while those runbacks were highlight-reel material, it was Gushue's clutch draw to the four-foot — routine under most circumstances — for a single point in the fifth end that should stand out as among his most crucial shots of this event.
It came on the heels of a huge break for the Scots when Mouat was narrow on a takeout attempt to get out of a situation that likely would have resulted in four, maybe five Canadian points. But Mouat's shooter barely rubbed on a guard, removed a Canadian stone, and then rolled corner-frozen to Canada's shot-stone, and buried to boot.
A seething Gushue had to settle his nerves to make the draw for a single point to tie the game 3-3 at the break.
"It was way bigger (than the runbacks in the seventh)," said Gushue, who earlier on Saturday was a 6-4 winner over Rich Ruohonen of the United States in the first round of the playoffs. "I was pretty hot, and I had to cool myself down to make that. It would be real easy to throw that to the back of the eight-foot, and probably earlier in my career, I would have. Those runbacks, it was just a matter of hitting the broom. Out of my hand, it was just hoping the guys didn't fall on it, really. The one in five — I was a little bit concerned."
"If we don't make that, we're down two," added Nichols. "After a shot goes that way (for Scotland), you just have to collect yourself and make sure you make that shot. If you don't you're really struggling to get back into the game."
Gushue finished the game scored at 94 per cent.
"You could see it in his eyes tonight," said Nichols. "We were all pretty into it. It was just about, don't get in each other's way. And don't get in Brad's way when he's seeing those shots."
The Swedes reached the final earlier on Saturday with a 9-8 extra-end win over South Korea's Chang-Min Kim.
In the fourth end of the game, Korea held a 2-1 lead when Edin drew his final stone of the end into position to score three points after an umpire's measure and take a 4-2 lead. In the fifth end, Korea responded when their skip Kim played a raise double take-out to score two points and level the score at 4-4.
In the sixth end with Edin facing two Korean counter and needing a draw to the eight-foot to score, came up short giving Kim the 6-4 advantage.
"Felt good halfway, I had a broom down with good pressure, and then it just stopped and we came up short," said Sungren on the shot that was affected by the frosty conditions.
With Sweden now trailing, Edin then made amends, playing a hit to score two points and level the score again, at 6-6. In the eighth end, the Swedes forced Kim to a single point making a hit against three.
In the ninth end, Edin drew his last stone into the house to score two points and give Sweden the lead again, at 8-7, the fifth time the lead had changed hands in this game. After this, Kim's Korean team-mates swept his final draw of the tenth end into the house to score one point, tie the game at 8-8, and force an extra end.
In that extra end, another draw by Edin gave Sweden the one point they needed for their 9-8 win.
"That was a tough one. We've been playing close to perfect curling for a week and a half and then having to come out there and literally having no idea what to throw," said Edin following the game. "It was tough, we had to fight both ourselves and the ice to try to stay in that game and not get too frustrated. It was tough for both teams and they made us play some tough shots. In the end we were really happy to come home with the hammer. I've seen this team before this year. Their skip is a good thrower and a good tactician."
For Edin, this put them one step closer to their goal of reclaiming the World Curling Championship, last won in 2015 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Sweden beat Canada 6-5 in their round-robin game on Friday morning, on the strength of a first-end three. Edin will have hammer in the final by way of their better round-robin record.
"It will be a tough game," predicted Gushue. "Niklas and his team are a great team, one of the best in the world, They have hammer starting out, so I think for the first five ends, it's going to be about wrestling the hammer back. I certainly expect a tight game and for it to come down to last rock."
Team Gushue will try to become just the fifth team, all of them Canadian, to successfully defend a world men's championship.
Saskatchewan's Ernie Richardson, who had a front-row seat Saturday at Orleans Arena, did it twice, in 1959/'60 and 1962/'63. The other back-to-back winners were Calgary's Ron Northcott in 1968 and '69, Winnipeg's Don Duguid in 1970 and '71 and Edmonton's Randy Ferbey in 2002 and '03.
Scotland and South Korea will play for the bronze medal Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
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