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Gushue hands Japan 1st loss, improves to 3-2 at men’s curling worlds

After an uneven opening weekend at the world men’s curling championship in Ottawa, Brad Gushue’s Canadian crew delivered a vintage performance at an ideal time.

Gushue and vice Mark Nichols displayed their shotmaking mettle Monday and the front end of Geoff Walker and E.J. Harnden also delivered in a 6-3 victory over a plucky Japanese side at TD Place.

“I think it was a must-win and I think we’re in that position for a little while now,” Gushue said. “The next probably two or three games I think are all in that boat.

“You don’t want to get too far behind the 8-ball knowing some of the teams that we have left.”

Canada (3-2) avoided falling below the .500 mark and is tied for sixth with Italy’s Joel Retornaz in the 13-team field after seven sessions. The playoff cutline is set at six teams after round robin play.

Gushue’s St. John’s, N.L.-based side struggled mightily in an opening loss to Switzerland on Saturday before rebounding with a victory over Italy. Another split followed Sunday with a triumph over New Zealand and loss to Norway.

The so-so start to the nine-day competition has put some added pressure on the host side.

Gushue wasn’t fazed as he prevented a big score in the second end by freezing against three to force Japan to a single.

“To make it as perfect as we did was definitely a confidence boost,” he said.

A tap for two in the third end gave Canada a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Another pair was tacked on in the seventh and a couple of highlight-reel shots came in the eighth to essentially ice it.

Nichols wowed the partisan crowd with a triple-takeout to sit four and Gushue followed with a double that set up a force.

“Two good end-saving shots because we got ourselves into a bit of trouble that end with some of our rock positioning early on,” Gushue said.

Canada ran Japan out of rocks in the 10th. Five of the eight players — including both skips — shot over 90 per cent.

The 16th-ranked Japanese side — which includes 16-year-old Takeru Yamamoto at second — has risen exponentially up the rankings after winning four titles this season.

Vice Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi is the only player on the team with world men’s championship and Olympic experience.

“What I’m happy about is they’re playing well,” said coach Bob Ursel. “We weren’t too concerned about the wins and losses, we really wanted to get some experience and play well and that’s what’s happened.”

Steve Carr

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