Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Draw 8 - Canada curl lights out

When Korea stormed through to the final of the 2008 World Championship with shooting percentages that raised the bar of excellence, they made every high performance coach re-examine their expectations of what it would take to win.This year many people felt that with a further year's practice, and the experience of playing in a final, Korea would be the team to beat in Vancouver.

They have struggled, and came into this evening's game against Canada with both teams carrying 3 losses and knowing a fourth might be fatal. Would Canada be able to rebound from a theatrical last rock loss against USA in Draw 6, and when would Korea start posting the stats that so impressed last year?

Coach Rea told me that Chris Sobkowicz, who has struggled at lead, had asked to sit out a game, and that Sonja "was more than happy to play." I like and respect Chris, and know that he has it in him to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the team. But whether or not he jumped before he was pushed, I have to say that the team looked happier with Sonja on the ice. And Sonja had her smile back for the first time this week.

You can see the match commentary below, but Canada shot an incredible 83% team percentage. Sonja shot 90%, Ina 86%, Darryl a mere 77% and Jim 80%, 23 points better than the respectable shooting of his opponent. Korea's concentration on hitting (32 hits against 24 draws) kept things very simple. What stones remained tended to be in the 12 foot, and when you shoot as well as Canada did, without any stones to get in the way, then you are unstoppable.

We had been waiting for Team Canada to play the way we see them in domestic competition, and this evening everything worked. Rea said this was a must win game. "They are all must win games now," he said at the start. "One down, three to go," was his comment at the finish.

In other games, Germany rolled Scotland 9-2, stealing 3 in the 2nd and 2 in the 3rd. It's unclear what further experimentation Coach Pendreigh can attempt. Nothing is working, and he will be sure to come under increasing pressure to abandon the 'shoot from the near T-line' experiment. Relegation is looking a distinct possibility, a fate only narrowly averted last year.

Norway Coach Thoralf Hognestad was his animated self, at one point leaning over the stands to challenge an umpire that his team's clock was running when it should not have been. (in an earlier post I suggested he had been rebuked and he had not. My apolgies, Thoralf.) Italy took 1 in the 1st, and stole their way to a 5-0 lead at the break. Thoralf was not a happy camper, and terrorised his team into taking 4 in the 5th and stealing 6 in the 6th, thus avoiding the dreaded fourth loss.

USA were not so lucky. Playing winless Switzerland, they fell into the same trap that most Swiss opponents experience; falling behind early. This time the Swiss did not fold after the break, holding on to win 7-5. It was a bitter loss for Team USA coming off two thrilling come from behind last rock wins. I'd blogged after Canada's win over Switzerland that "they took five with the hammer in the 7th by putting too many stones in the house for the Swiss' ability to hit." Said Coach Rusty Schieber, "The house? What's the address, we can't find it."

Canada have one game tomorrow, against Sweden (5-1) whose skip is as smart as anyone on the ice. They then finish against leaders Germany (6-1) and defending champions Norway. If they qualify for the playoffs they will have earned it, and if they play as they did today I would not bet against them.

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