Eight Ends: Unable to upend Sweden, Canada must bounce back for bronze

Canada's Brett Gallant watches the rock after playing a delivery during a men's curling semifinal match between Canada and Sweden at the Beijing Winter Olympics Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Beijing. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

Eight Ends is your daily one-stop shop for all things curling with news, notes, insight and analysis through the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

First End: Canada’s Brad Gushue will play for bronze after coming just short in the men's curling semifinals Thursday losing 5-3 to Sweden’s Niklas Edin in Beijing. The three-time reigning world champion Edin will meet Great Britain’s Bruce Mouat, who beat defending Olympic gold medallist John Shuster of the United States 8-4.

Sweden outplayed Canada at all four positions in the percentages. Canadian second Brett Gallant shot a game-low 69 per cent and that can have a trickle-down effect through the lineup leading to higher risk calls. Third Mark Nichols shot 79 per cent, compared to Sweden’s Oskar Eriksson at 89 per cent, while Gushue himself fired at a 76 per cent clip with Edin at 90 per cent.

Second End: Sweden started with the hammer and never trailed as Canada was unable to upend Edin. Although Canada held Sweden to one point in the second and wrestled control of last-rock advantage, Gushue couldn't convert on the opportunity and had to settle for a single of his own in the third to tie it 1-1. The teams alternated deuces as a great draw from Gushue in the fifth set up his two count heading into the break.

Sweden was forced to take one point again in the eighth end giving Canada a golden opportunity to try and score two for the win after blanking the ninth. It wasn't an easy blank either as Gushue's shooter had to curl around a guard with quiet weight to chip out Sweden's shot rock. Edin pulled off a high-pressure hit and roll on his last in the final frame and Gushue had to attempt a tricky runback double but it was not to be. Gushue's shooter over-curled just a tad too much and Sweden’s shot stone held up for a steal.

Third End: After missing the medal round in mixed doubles and women's play, Gushue is Canada's final hope at earning a medal in curling at these Winter Olympic Games. The 2006 Olympic champion Gushue is a -182 favourite over Shuster in the bronze match (Friday 1:05 a.m. ET). Canada scored a 10-5 victory in the round-robin over the U.S. plus Gushue holds a 9-3 all-time head-to-head record over Shuster, according to CurlingZone. Canada has lost three straight games now though and will have to pick up their spirits taking on a loose American squad. It looked like the U.S. was out of it early down to a 2-3 record, but flipped the script and went 3-1 in the back half of round-robin play to qualify. Canada lost to Switzerland in the bronze medal game four years ago but the only holdover from that squad is Marc Kennedy, who threw third for Kevin Koe and is Gushue’s alternate this time.

Great Britain is listed as the early favourite against Sweden at a -154 chalk. Mouat beat Edin 7-6 during the round-robin portion. Edin (+120 underdog) earned bronze in 2014 and silver in 2018 and appears to be determined to take that final step to the top of the podium.

Fourth End: Pretty neat that Eriksson will become the first double medal winner in curling at a single Winter Olympic Games. Eriksson captured bronze in mixed doubles with Almida de Val and is now guaranteed either gold or silver in the men's tournament. Eriksson and de Val defeated Mouat and Jennifer Dodds in the bronze medal game. So much for fatigue playing back-to-back tournaments, eh?

Fifth End: Canada’s Jennifer Jones defeated Denmark’s Madeleine Dupont 10-4 in the final women’s round-robin session but the victory wasn’t enough to qualify for the medal round. Jones finished in a three-way tie with Great Britain’s Eve Muirhead and Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa for the final two spots in the semifinals with identical 5-4 records. Head-to-head solved nothing as they were all 1-1 against each other, so it came down to the draw shot challenge, based on the pre-game shootout scores to determine who starts with the hammer. Great Britain (35.27 cm average, eight overall) and Japan (36.00 cm average, ninth overall) advanced while Canada (45.44 cm average, 10th overall) was eliminated.

Canada’s draw shot challenge was poor all week and not just in women’s play with the mixed doubles team of Rachel Homan and John Morris also finishing last and Gushue ranking sixth out of 10 men’s teams. Whether it’s something Canadian teams aren’t practising enough or something else should be looked into.

Sixth End: Although the draw shot challenge is the official reason Canada was eliminated, the team also lost in a shocking upset to host China in a game where they were the favourite. Canada trailed early, came back and held the hammer in the extra end but gave up a steal. Credit to China as well as they had been playing the role of the spoiler during the week with wins over Sweden, South Korea and Great Britain.

Canada’s other three losses were against teams that qualified: Sweden, Switzerland and Japan. Sweden is the defending Olympic gold medallist with Japan earning bronze in 2018 while Switzerland is the two-time reigning world champion. All of those events mentioned saw Canada miss the podium and were completely different Canadian teams, too. The parity on the international stage in women's curling is at its greatest point when you also consider South Korea (2018 Olympic silver medallists), the United States (2021 world bronze medallists) and ROC (2021 world silver medallists) were also in the field and missed out on the medal round, too.

Seventh End: You cannot fault Curling Canada for sending the “wrong” women's team or not sending the “best” women's team. Jones won the Olympic trials tournament fair and square back in November. Besides, there’s no guarantee another team would have done any better or worse. Like with the mixed doubles, where Canada lost to Italy by mere millimetres on a measure, we’re now talking about an average of 10 centimetres or less with Jones eliminated on bad luck of the draw.

Eighth End: Switzerland will face Japan and Sweden will play Great Britain in the women’s semifinals. Silvana Tirinzoni (8-1) finished first with just one loss to Anna Hasselborg and enters the semifinal as a -286 favourite. Tirinzoni just doubled up on Satsuki Fujisawa 8-4 in the last round-robin session with an 11-2 all-time head-to-head record according to CurlingZone.

Hasselborg (7-2) is the favourite over Muirhead at a -143 chalk. It's an even 19-19 on the all-time head-to-head record for Hasselborg and Muirhead, according to CurlingZone, although Muirhead has won their last three meetings including an 8-2 rout in the round-robin. Sweden, which started this week at 2-2, has now won five straight games.

All odds courtesy of Coolbet.

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