Canada skip Brad Gushue directs sweepers against the Czech Republic during the World Men's Curling Championships, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Las Vegas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/John Locher

Canada’s Gushue opens with wins over Czechs, Norway at men’s world championship

LAS VEGAS — After taking a couple weeks off to enjoy his fourth career Canadian men’s curling title, Brad Gushue picked up where he left off Saturday at the world championship.

Gushue and his St. John’s-based team – with vice Mark Nichols back in tow – posted a 6-4 win over Lukas Klima’s plucky Czech side at the Orleans Arena.

“It feels a lot easier with four people but the ice conditions out there are very tough,” Gushue said. “It’s going to be a challenge all week.”

After Canada settled for a single in the ninth end, the Czechs conceded before their final shot in the 10th as they had no chance at a game-tying pair. Gushue followed with an 8-7 win over Norway’s Magnus Ramsfjell in the evening draw.

There were several storylines on the go for the opening day of round-robin play.

Nichols returned after missing the final weekend at the Tim Hortons Brier due to a positive COVID-19 test result. Gushue, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker managed to win three straight playoff games as a trio for the title.

The team announced less than a week later that Gallant would be leaving the rink at the end of the season.

And finally, there were the ice conditions at the 9,500-seat venue just off the Vegas Strip – frosty in some spots with speed fluctuations in others – that gave the squad something else to think about.

“When the ice conditions are tough, you just try and limit the misses,” Gushue said. “I thought we did a good job of that. I never felt like we were in any danger of losing that game.”

Both teams had a few hiccups in the early going as they settled in at the sparsely attended four-sheet venue. Gushue rolled out on an open hit for two in the first end but managed a steal in the second for a 2-0 lead.

Klima, skipping at the worlds for the first time, made a draw against four to get the Czechs on the board but Gushue answered with an angle raise for a deuce.

There was plenty of curl on the ice but some players seemed hamstrung by the speed at times. The mercury reached 31 C outside the building during the afternoon draw.

The Czechs earned their first deuce in the seventh end and followed with a steal when Gushue missed a double takeout.

The Canadians made some uncharacteristic errors in the ninth end that cost them an opportunity for a pair. Nichols threw his last rock through the house and Gushue was heavy with his final stone.

“It’s hard to sit there and be super confident when you’re throwing those shots because it is a bit of a guess,” Gushue said.

Gushue threw a team-low 78 per cent while Klima shot a game-low 64 per cent.

Sweden’s Niklas Edin posted a 7-4 win over Wouter Goesgens of the Netherlands, Norway defeated South Korea’s Soo-Hyuk Kim 7-3 and American Korey Dropkin dumped Tobias Thune of Denmark 8-2.

In the evening, Scotland’s Kyle Waddell edged Italy’s Joel Retornaz 5-4, Germany’s Sixten Totzek topped Goesgens 13-7 and Finland’s Kalle Kiiskinen defeated Switzerland’s Yannick Schwaller 6-4.

Down one with hammer in the 10th end, Gushue made a double tap to sit two under cover. Norway’s angle-raise nearly worked but the stone just rolled off to end the game.

Gushue won gold in his first appearance at the world championship, topping Edin in 2017 at Edmonton.

Edin won the rematch a year later in Las Vegas. The reigning Olympic champion enters this year’s competition as the three-time defending champion.

Round-robin play continues through Friday.

The top six teams will make the playoffs. Medal games are set for April 10.

Canada’s Kerri Einarson earned bronze at the women’s world championship last week in Prince George, B.C. Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni beat South Korea’s EunJung Kim for gold.