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Canada rolls into world curling semifinal with nail-biting win over Scotland

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The clock was ticking down, the air was thick with intensity and the crowd was hanging on every second of the pressure-packed moment.

But, as usual, Kevin Koe was as calm as can be and he delivered a perfect shot that sealed a 6-5 win over Scotland in a quarterfinal game Saturday morning at the world men’s curling championship.

Koe had just five seconds remaining on his team’s time clock when he made the nose hit and freeze to lie one in the 10th end. It left Scottish skip with an almost impossible shot to try to score two and tie the game and he was unable to execute.

Koe has a history of making big shots with little time on the clock, including a Brier-winning double last month against Brendan Bottcher. This one was a little different though.

“That was a little tight, even for me I think,” Koe said of the time situation. “I even felt that one a bit, but we made the shot.

“I just remind myself to just throw it good and results will take care of themselves. It has worked this year, that’s for sure.”

The win propelled Canada into Saturday night’s semifinal against Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz, who had a bye into the game.

It will be a rematch of a game played Friday morning at Enmax Centre, which Canada won 10-3.

Canada lost to Scotland in the round robin and got another major test on Saturday. Mouat’s team fought a good battle, but caught the Koe foursome at its absolute best.

“Those guys are (expletive) good man,” Canada lead Ben Hebert said.

“Holy smokes. Those kids are young and they’re gonna get to go to this thing 20 times. They’re going to be world champs one day for sure.

“I’m glad we could get the better of them today because we don’t get to come back 20 times.”

Mouat has one of the best young teams in the world, no doubt, but on this day it ran into the master — 44-year-old Koe is the oldest player in the tournament — and couldn’t get him to miss.

“Just a classic Koe game, really, down to the last second,” Canadian third B.J. Neufeld said. “And he just made that last shot absolutely perfect. It’s not an easy shot but it was a really good team shot, thrown well, swept well. It’s a really good feeling to get that win.”

So, how many players in the world could handle that shot and the situation with such a cool demeanour?

“Probably not many,” Neufeld said. “If you’re not in that situation very often, maybe, but in these big games, we seem to use every little bit of time that we have. We seem to be having success with it.”

If Koe can get past Switzerland Saturday night, he’ll have a chance to go for his third world championship on Sunday evening. The other semifinal, Saturday afternoon, features first-place Sweden (Niklas Edin) and fourth-place Japan (Yuta Matsumura).

Edin is the defending champion, a three-time winner and a six-time medallist at the worlds, while Matsumura is a world championship rookie whose team has surprised everybody with its play here this week.

Though there are still two incredibly tough games ahead, Hebert likes the way things are looking for his team.

“We’ve played a hell of a week and our skip’s starting to fire,” Hebert said. “When he starts going like that, he’s ridiculous.”

The Canadian team, which also includes second Colton Flasch, seemed revved up for the game, with a nearly full house in Lethbridge providing some inspiration.

“You dream of being in these types of moments with these types of crowds cheering hard for you,” Neufeld said. “If you’re ever feeling a little down, it definitely picks you up. It’s a dream come true.”

Canada got off to a solid start, scoring two with the hammer in the first end. They forced the Scots to one in the second and scored two more in the third.

Scotland got its only deuce of the game in the fourth to make it 4-3, but Canada played a precision game from then on, holding onto the hammer and never allowing Mouat to tie it up.

“Getting off to a good start, getting that three-point lead and we just made the shots that we had to get those forces,” Koe said. “We gave up one bad deuce early in the game but after that it was just a well-played game by both teams.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking at the end but we got the job done and we’re moving on.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019


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