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Brad Gushue hoping home-ice advantage in Ottawa pays off at curling worlds

Sin City wasn’t kind to Canadian skip Brad Gushue. He’s hoping a return to the nation’s capital will work more in his favor.

After settling for silver in his last two trips to the world men’s curling championship in Las Vegas, Gushue will try to get back to the top of the podium at the 2023 playdowns opening Saturday at TD Place.

“If we can really just enjoy it and ride that wave, I think good things can happen,” Gushue said. “But it’s a challenge. It’s a lot easier said than it is done. So we’ll see if we can make it work.”

Gushue and teammates Mark Nichols, E.J. Harnden and Geoff Walker secured their berth earlier this month with a triumph over Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone in the Brier final at London, Ont.

It will be Gushue’s fourth career appearance at the world men’s championship. He took gold in Edmonton in 2017 but fell to Sweden’s Niklas Edin in 2018 and again last spring at the Orleans Arena, just off the Vegas strip.

The always quotable Gushue didn’t mince words after the 2022 loss. He said there were noticeable ridges on the sheet, calling it the “worst ice” he’s ever curled on at a major championship.

Conditions should be better at the 9,500-seat TD Place with veteran icemaker Dave Merklinger serving as chief ice technician.

“Fortunately I think for us this time around, being in Canada, we’re not going to see scraper marks going down the ice and the things that we’ve had to experience abroad in the last couple years,” Gushue said.

His team will also get a boost as the home team. Gushue is popular wherever he plays in this country and Ottawa should be no exception.

“I think when we let the crowd get into the game and play to the crowd a little bit — whether (it’s) good shots, everything that happens — this team plays better,” Nichols said.

“We can use that momentum as an extra player on our team.”

The top-ranked Edin will be looking for a seventh career world title. Other competition headliners include Joel Retornaz of Italy, Scotland’s Bruce Mouat, Switzerland’s Yannick Schwaller and American John Shuster.

Canada will play round-robin games Saturday versus Switzerland and Italy. The top six teams in the 13-team field will make the playoffs.

Other entries include Norway’s Magnus Ramsjfell, Lukas Klima of the Czech Republic, Anton Hood of New Zealand, Ugurcan Karagoz of Turkey, Germany’s Sixten Totzek, South Korea’s Byeongjin Jeong and Japan’s Riku Yanagisawa.

Steve Carr

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