HALIFAX — With three days of round-robin competition complete, the Canadian side skipped by Pat Simmons is showing it’s the team to beat at the Ford world men’s curling championship.
Simmons picked up two more wins Monday to remain undefeated at the 12-team event. He whipped the Czech Republic 11-2 in the morning draw and improved to 5-0 with a 9-3 rout of Russia in the evening.
“You’re always going to have those ends here and there when you need that freeze or you need that big shot — and he’s making all of them,” second Carter Rycroft said of Simmons. “The difference is if he misses three or four of them, we’re sitting here talking to you at 3-2 or 2-3. It’s that simple.”
Expectations were rather mixed for the Canadians this week given that they played a limited schedule this season and switched skips midway through the Tim Hortons Brier. But Simmons has shown that he still has the skipper’s touch while Morris has settled in nicely at third.
The solid front end of Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen has also helped the host side in the early going.
“One thing I think this team has really done well — considering games-wise we’re still a pretty young team — is just how natural our communication is,” Simmons said. “The discussions seem to come easy and that’s a pleasure.”
In the nightcap, the teams blanked two ends before Russia’s Evgeny Arkhipov drew to the four-foot for a single in the third. Simmons answered with three in the fourth end and tacked on another point in the fifth.
Simmons hit a draw for a pair in the seventh end and added three in the ninth for the victory.
Defending champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway improved to 4-1 with a 6-5 win over Sweden’s Niklas Edin. Switzerland’s Marc Pfister joined Ulsrud in second place after a 7-4 win over China.
The Czech Republic, Finland and Japan were tied in fourth place at 3-2 after eight draws.
Canada was tested over its first three games before Monday morning’s six-end rout.
“It’s a mental grind all week so if you can have a little bit of a breather that way, it’s nice for sure,” Simmons said.
The Canadians opened the competition Saturday with an extra-end victory over the U.S. and were pushed by China and Sweden the next day. On Monday morning, Czech skip Jiri Snitil opened the scoring before Simmons put up four points in the second end and then tacked on a pair of three-enders.
“It was one of those games where we made a couple key shots and it really completely changed the outlook of the game,” Simmons said.
Canadian team alternate Thomas Sallows picked up some ice time by entering the game in the fifth end, giving Rycroft a break.
Attendance was weak at all three draws at Scotiabank Centre. Hundreds of schoolkids watched the morning action from the upper deck to pad the total to 1,374.
Only 1,129 took in the afternoon session in the 10,500-seat venue and 1,687 were on hand in the evening.
Canada will play Japan’s Yusuke Morozumi on Tuesday afternoon before a feature evening game against Norway.
Round-robin play continues through Thursday. The Page playoffs begin Friday and the medal games are scheduled for Sunday.
Canada is hoping to return to the podium after settling for a fourth-place finish last year in Beijing.