Canada’s Brad Gushue clinches first seed

EDMONTON — Canada’s Brad Gushue is the first to admit his St. John’s side is not known as a high-scoring team.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the scoresheet at the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship.

The veteran skip locked up the first seed in the playoffs and capped an undefeated round-robin Thursday at the Northlands Coliseum. Gushue (11-0) dumped Italy’s Joel Retornaz 9-2 in the morning and topped Norway’s Steffen Walstad 8-4 in the evening.

“We basically try to control the scoreboard,” Gushue said. “We’re more than happy being tied up with the hammer coming home. So this week has been a little bit odd for us to have these lopsided games.

“But I think it just comes down to how well we’re playing and we’re getting some misses out of the other teams.”

Gushue’s last eight victories have been either routs or comfortable wins. He hasn’t really been tested since an 8-6 win over Sweden’s Niklas Edin last Sunday.

The 2006 Olympic champion has scored a whopping 94 points on the week against just 35.

“I’m a little bit surprised by it, but we’re playing at a very high level,” Gushue said. “I’m a little bit surprised that some of the teams haven’t played a little bit better against us.

“I think maybe we’ve put the pressure on them and maybe they’re trying a little bit too hard and trying some different things. I’ve seen some different calls.”

Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker will have hammer in Friday night’s Page playoff 1-2 game against Sweden.

Against Italy, Gushue scored a pair in the second end and put the game out of reach with five points in the fourth. The teams shook hands after the minimum six ends.

In the nightcap, Gushue wasn’t threatened after pulling away with four points in the third end.

Edin (9-2), meanwhile, dropped a 7-3 decision to American John Shuster in the afternoon draw and closed out his round-robin with an 8-2 rout of Dutch skip Jaap Van Dorp.

Third-seeded Swiss skip Peter de Cruz (8-3) will play Shuster (8-3) in the Page 3-4 game on Saturday.

“Those (playoff teams) are capable of curling 95 per cent games,” Gushue said. ”So even if we have control of the ice, even if we continue to play the way we’re playing, someone could still play better.

“You guys know the nature of curling. One bad miss, an untimely miss, it can all switch around.”

China dumped Japan 9-2 to move into fifth place at 6-5 with Scotland, an 8-6 winner over Russia. Japan and Norway finished at 5-6, ahead of Italy (4-7), Germany (3-8), the Netherlands (1-10) and Russia (0-11).

This is Gushue’s first appearance at this competition. He has been pushed to a full 10 ends on just two occasions.

“Hopefully we continue to play the way we (have been),” Gushue said. “I think if we do that, it’s going to take a hell of a game from someone to beat us. But that’s not to say that it’s not going to happen.

“And we still have to do our part to play that hell of a game.”

The Page 1-2 winner will advance to Sunday’s gold-medal game and the loser will play the 3-4 winner in the semifinal Saturday night.

“The 1-2 game is always a little bit more fun to play in because you do have that safety net there,” Gushue said. “But you don’t want to use it.”

The 3-4 loser and semifinal loser will play for bronze on Sunday. The semifinal winner will play the 1-2 winner for the gold.

Gushue has a chance to become the first skip since Winnipeg’s Kerry Burtnyk to run the table at this event. Burtnyk swept the 10-team field en route to the 1995 title in Brandon, Man.

The world championship now features 12 teams and a different playoff system.

Gushue said his main focus is getting to the championship game. He’s not at all concerned about going undefeated along the way.

“I’m 100 per cent genuine when I say I don’t care about it,” he said. “When I look back at all the Briers and worlds, I couldn’t tell you anybody’s records.

“All that really matters at the end is that your name is on the trophy.”

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