It was a rematch but not a repeat in the world men’s curling championship final.
The tables were turned in more ways than one from last year’s final between Canada’s Brad Gushue and Sweden’s Niklas Edin in wintry Edmonton and minus-20s C to Sunday in Las Vegas and plus-20s C.
Edin dethroned the defending champ Gushue 7-3 to capture his third career world title in six years. The heavyweight tilt between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the world went one-sided with back-to-back steals in the fourth and fifth ends for Edin and a 5-0 advantage at the break and Gushue couldn’t climb out of the hole.
Here are our closing thoughts on the 60th world men’s curling championship:
Edin’s victory in the final finished a stellar week for the Swedish side, which was the class of the field and in the driver’s seat since day one of the tournament.
Sweden tied with Scotland at the top of the round-robin table with identical 11-1 records although Edin’s head-to-head win ensured his team the top playoff seed and an extra-end decision put away South Korea’s Chang-Min Kim 9-8 in Saturday’s semifinals.
Edin had his fits with Gushue in the past with his opponent entering the week holding a lopsided lifetime 17-3 head-to-head record. That’s now 17-5 after this week as Edin managed to solve Gushue in round-robin play and again in the final.
Fatigue could have been a factor for Edin, who settled for silver at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics but hasn’t slowed down since having also competed in the Princess Auto Elite 10 last month in Winnipeg. Instead, Edin continued to put the pedal to the metal and cruised to another medal matching compatriot Peja Lindholm, who is now the Swedish national coach, at three world titles apiece.
Edin still has two more Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournaments to follow before he gets some much-needed rest as he’s been playing banged up with back and shoulder surgeries scheduled for the off-season.
Gushue’s pocket picked
We knew from day one regardless it wasn’t going to be the same story as last year for Gushue. Falling to Scotland on opening night plus additional round-robin losses to Sweden and the U.S. later meant there wouldn’t be another undefeated run.
What a coincidence Canada, which finished its up-and-down round-robin play in third at 9-3, would have to rise to the occasion in the playoffs and face those very same three teams that had bested them during preliminary play.
Just when it looked like Canada had things under control again following wins over the U.S. and Scotland, Gushue was out-of-sorts at the worst possible time in the final. Already down by two, Gushue came up short on the draw in the fourth end to give up a couple and conceded another point in the fifth when his runback double attempt missed the back counter to fall in a deep 5-0 deficit.
A single in six for Gushue broke the shutout but handed the hammer right back to Edin, who didn’t ease off of the gas pedal and tacked two more on the board in seven. Gushue grabbed a deuce in eight but shook hands immediately.
Edin, who was first among skips all week at 90 percent, was practically perfect again curling an outstanding 95 percent in the final while Gushue finished with a game-low 80 percent.
Mouat makes most of world championship debut
If you don’t know who Bruce Mouat’s team is, now you know. Although if you’ve been following along this season, it’s been a non-stop coming out party for the Scottish side. Mouat, only two years removed from winning world junior gold, claimed five titles on tour including the Boost National where he became the youngest men’s skip to earn a Grand Slam at age 23.
Scotland bounced back from the semifinal loss to Canada with an 11-4 rout earlier Sunday for the bronze medal over Kim, who was also competing in his first world championship.
Mouat topped the 32-year-old Kim for three of his titles this season (yes, the Boost National was one of them) so it was fitting they would meet again with a rivalry seemingly developing here among the new guard.
Persinger rolls the dice
Greg Persinger’s team almost pulled off another “Miracurl on Ice” for the U.S. After dropping to a 1-6 round-robin record, with four of those losses the result of last-end steals, Persinger went all in rattling off five consecutive wins, including one over Canada, to bring his record level and squeeze into the sixth and final playoff spot.
Although the 1-6 record had them on the ropes, considering American Jamie Sinclair managed to qualify for the playoffs at the women’s worlds with a .500 record, Persinger wasn’t about to fold. And with Team Shuster in the house (the building, not the one on the ice) and playing as the host nation in front of their fans, the atmosphere of the unbelievable gold-medal performance at the Pyeongchang Winter Games was alive.
That is until the rematch with Canada in Saturday’s quarterfinals. Still, it came down to Gushue’s final draw of the game and with questionable ice conditions it was definitely nervous times for both before the rock slid into place.
End of the four-rock era
The world men’s final was also the last time we’ll see the four-rock rule in an elite competition with the World Curling Federation switching to the five-rock free guard zone next season.
Under the four-rock rule, teams couldn’t eliminate guards sitting in the free-guard zone (outside the house from the tee line up to the hog line) until four rocks had been thrown. The fifth rock was the first that could start knocking guards out of play.
The five-rock free-guard zone is just a variation extending the rule by one more rock and is meant to generate more offence. It might not seem like much but it does make a huge difference having another pesky guard in play and since the sixth rock of play falls to the team with the hammer, they can dictate control of the end and decide to start peeling guards or keep up the clutter.
The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling first experimented with the five-rock rule in 2011 before making it the standard for all of its events in 2014.
Now, cutting games down from 10 to eight ends, another norm in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling, should be next in line for rule changes.
World medallists Mouat, Gushue and Edin hit the ice again this week for the Players’ Championship at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
The sixth tournament of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season begins Tuesday night although all three get a bit of a break as they do not begin round-robin play until day two Wednesday. Edin enters the Players’ Championship as the defending men’s champ.