While Canada’s Brendan Bottcher wanted nothing more than to flush away a loss against the Russian Curling Federation on Wednesday afternoon, his counterpart, Sergey Glukhov, wanted to savour a glorious win.
Glukhov just barely made a draw to the full eight foot with his last rock in an extra end as the Russians beat Canada 8-7 in a game with massive playoff implications at the world men’s curling championship in Calgary.
It was the first time a Russian team has ever beaten Canada at the world championship or Olympics and it put the winners ahead in the standings and in the driver’s seat for a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.
“Oh, it’s amazing,” RCF lead Anton Kalalb said after the thrilling victory.
“My legs is in a tremor right now. It’s beating Canada in Canada. Of course, it’s cool. It’s a great feeling.”
“It’s really exciting … it’s the first win of Russian team in official tournament, so it’s amazing for us,” Glukhov added. “It’s one of the most important wins for us because we believe in our team much more better.
The Russians improved to 8-2 and, at the time, were tied for first place with two-time defending champion Niklas Edin of Sweden.
Canada fell into a logjam, with a 7-3 record and then things got worse.
Team Bottcher, the Canadian champions from Edmonton, played Edin of Sweden on Wednesday night at Markin MacPhail Arena and it was an absolute heartbreaker.
Canada led 5-1 through five ends and 6-2 after the seventh but fell apart after that, giving up three to Sweden in the eighth and four in the 10th to lose 9-7.
It was an epic collapse and one that left Canada in sixth place, with a 7-4 record. Sweden emerged from the day with a 9-2 record, alone in first place and already guaranteed a playoff spot.
“We’re gonna have to play a little bit better,” Bottcher said after the loss to Sweden. “Our fate is still in our hands here and we’ll have to play well and then carry a little bit of momentum going forward.”
Canada third Darren Moulding was putting the blame for the two losses on Wednesday squarely on his own shoulders.
Moulding, whose positive attitude normally helps drive the Bottcher team, was frustrated on a day in which he shot 67% against Russia and 78% against Sweden.
“I was terrible today,” he said. “You can’t win when your vice is calling line and playing like that. The boys played hard all day and this one is on me today. I just have to be better (Thursday). We have two more games and we can still salvage this. You’ve got to take responsibility when you mess up. It just sucks to throw away a good effort by the guys with a couple bad line calls at the end.”
The game against Russia was an absolute roller coaster ride, with the lead going back and fourth and Bottcher making a game-saving raise double to score three points and tie it at 7-7 in the 10th end.
Glukhov, who had been making tremendous shots all game, was a bit light on his last rock in the extra end, but his sweepers managed to get it millimetres closer than the Canadian counter for the win.
“I just needed to play an open draw,” Glukhov said. “It was a little bit nervous, but we did it.”
Russia has been banned from competing in curling in the Olympics in 2022 because of doping violations, so the Glukhov foursome is here at this Olympic qualifier representing the Russian Curling Federation.
No matter, the team has performed very well, with its 28-year-old skip leading the way.
As for Canada, they have games remaining Thursday night against 7-3 Norway and Friday morning against 3-7 Germany.
Canada is still in good position to make the playoffs — the top six teams will move on, with the top two getting byes to the semifinals — but their margin for error is slim.
“Right now, everyone’s emotions are pretty raw but we really need to compartmentalize (Wednesday),” Bottcher said. “We actiually played quite a few really good ends of curling, as a team. I thought we made a lot of really good shots, got some good deuces with hammer, and that’s the momentum we need to carry into (Thursday). When we get back on the ice, it’s got to be a brand new game, out there with the same intensity as usual.”
While they’ve fallen to sixth place, Canada is still two wins ahead of seventh-place Switzerland. That means Canada is in good shape to both make the playoffs and qualify the country for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing,
Getting onto the podium will be a greater challenge, but one the Canadians believe they are up to.
“We all believe in each other,” Moulding said. “We’re a good team, a really good team. All of our losses here, could have been wins so far. If we can just cut down on a couple mistakes, we can still win. I don’t think any of the confidence is gone, or anything like that. I’m usually better than I was today. It’s just disappointing.”
GREAT DAY FOR USA
Defending Olympic champion Shuster had a terrific day Wednesday, winning 6-5 in an extra end over Norway in the morning and then taking down Scotland by a 10-9 score, again in an extra end, in the afternoon.
Shuster and his teammates from Duluth, Minn., are right back in the thick of things at 7-3 and the skip, who has played at many world championship and Olympics, is loving every minute of it.
“As you can see, this is an incredibly deep field and everybody out here is making tons of shots,” Shuster said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all to see teams winning and losing to other people and having this crazy logjam in the standings.”
After winning in an extra end in the morning, Shuster made a decision to bring alternate Colin Hufman in to play lead for the afternoon game. Hufman, who replaced John Landsteiner for the game, shot 82%, perhaps a little low for a lead, but revelled in the experience.
He made two tick shots in the extra end that eventually allowed Shuster to draw for the winning point.
“I’ve played in the world championship in Vegas a couple years ago and I’ve played against every team out here 100 times but I was more nervous going into that first end than I’ve ever been for any curling game,” Hufman said. “I feel the same way about playing in a funspiel with people I don’t normally play with because of the newness of it all.”
“We all want to win for our teammates, so going out there and being able to contribute was exciting and terrifying at the same time. Anyone who plays sports lives for these moments and I’m just happy I was able to be a part of it today.”
A SHOE SACRIFICE
Shuster said he’s not sure how his lineup will look from here on in. It could depend on the situation.
But he was very happy to get Hufman into the lineup.
“From the time we decided Colin was gonna be our alternate at the worlds, he said ‘What can I do to make sure I’m as much a part of the team as I can possibly be.’
“This year, the pandemic meant he actually came and lived in my basement for a month and we were roommates.”
“His dog ate one of my curling shoes,” Hufman interjected.
“But anyways,” Shuster said, “We knew this was gonna be the longest tournament that any of us have ever played, so if it made sense at any point to get Colin out on the ice, we had supreme confidence that he was gonna step in and play great and that our team wouldn’t waver.”
WORLD MEN’S CURLING CHAMPIONSHIP
At Markin MacPhail Arena, Calgary, April 2-11
x-Sweden (Niklas Edin) 9-2
Russian Federation (Sergey Glukhov) 8-2
Scotland (Bruce Mouat) 8-3
Norway (Steffen Walstad) 7-3
United States (John Shuster) 7-3
Canada (Brendan Bottcher) 7-4
Switzerland (Peter de Cruz) 5-5
Italy (Joel Retornaz) 5-6
Japan (Yuta Mastsumura) 4-6
Denmark (Mads Noergaard) 3-7
Germany (Sixten Totzek) 3-7
South Korea (Yeong Seok Jeong) 2-8
Netherlands (Jaap van Dorp) 2-8
China (Qiang Zou) 2-8
x-Qualified for playoffs
United States 6, Norway 5 (ee)
Sweden 5, China 3
Japan 10, Denmark 6
Netherlands 7, Germany 5
RCF 8, Canada 7 (ee)
Japan 7, Netherlands 5
United States 10, Scotland 9 (ee)
Italy 10, Norway 3
Sweden 9, Canada 7
Denmark 9, Switzerland 8
Germany 12, South Korea 5
Scotland 7, Italy 2