HALIFAX — Canada lead Nolan Thiessen remembers how it felt to make the long journey home from last year’s world men’s curling championship after missing the podium.
He didn’t want a repeat performance this year. Skip Pat Simmons and the rest of the Canadian team made sure they got some hardware this time around.
Canada bounced back from an ugly semifinal loss to beat Finland’s Aku Kauste 8-4 in the bronze-medal game Sunday morning at Scotiabank Centre.
“We wanted to be playing (for gold) this afternoon,” Thiessen said. “So it still stings from last night. But you don’t want to go home empty-handed. Last year, we stood out there at the closing ceremonies while everybody else walked up on the podium. That’s the biggest kick in the head there is.
“We found a way and we medalled and we can be proud of that.”
The Canadians posted a 10-1 round-robin record before falling to 2014 champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway in the Page playoff 1-2 game on Friday. They followed that defeat with their worst showing of the tournament in a loss to Sweden’s Niklas Edin on Saturday night.
Edin went on to defeat Ulsrud 9-5 in the gold-medal game Sunday afternoon for his second world title in three years. The Swedish rink had a mediocre start to the tournament but finished strong.
“We focused on our game strategy, opening up the ice, and we picked it up so that we could make the playoffs,” Edin said.
“And we felt really strong going into the playoffs and obviously we didn’t make many mistakes there.”
Simmons, meanwhile, showed his form had returned in the first end against Finland by nailing a draw to the four-foot for a single. He also delivered a nice hit and roll in the second end to set up a steal and Canada was on its way.
“Nice to play like we had all week again,” Simmons said.
“We lost this game a year ago and that really didn’t feel good. So we wanted to pull together and fight hard today.”
Simmons, Thiessen and second Carter Rycroft teamed with Kevin Koe at last year’s event in Beijing. They made the playoffs but fell to Switzerland in the third-place game.
Koe had told the team before the competition that he would be moving on with a new team at the end of the season. The fourth-place result was a big disappointment but not entirely unexpected.
“It was the worst flight (home) ever,” Thiessen recalled. “I mean it was like an 18-hour flight of hell. But this year we came out and we found a way.”
John Morris replaced Koe this season and spent most of the campaign as skip before moving to third after a poor start at the Tim Hortons Brier.
A crowd of 2,801 watched a Canadian side that looked more like the team that went on a late tear to win the national title and then finished tied atop the round-robin standings against the world’s best.
Kauste got on the board with a point in the third end but Simmons pulled away in the fourth with a draw for three. A deuce in the sixth end essentially sealed the win.
The miscues that plagued the Canadian side in the semifinal clunker were replaced by a steady rhythm and confidence. The slumped shoulders and exasperated looks that were so common a night earlier were also gone.
“They were nice and together,” said coach Earle Morris. “The good dynamic was back in vogue. I really was proud of them.”
Like hockey, it’s gold or bust for Canada at international curling events. Simmons is still looking for that elusive first world title.
Canada hasn’t won world gold since Glenn Howard took the 2012 championship in Basel, Switzerland.
“Normally it might take you a week or two to be happy about bronze because that’s the way Canada is,” said Earle Morris. “We like to come and win gold. But this is a bronze that’s going to feel good because it’s a new team, and remember three of those guys last year ended up in fourth place.
“So you can look at it as an improvement in that regard. I think they’ll enjoy this bronze and they’ll look forward to next year.”
Attendance was 4,812 for the final and 56,837 for the week. The venue holds 10,500 for curling.
Rycroft and Thiessen won a world title in 2010 while Morris earned gold in 2008. The tournament will return to Basel next year.
The Canadian women are also experiencing a gold-medal drought at the world championship. Winnipeg skip Jennifer Jones, who won Canada’s last women’s world title in 2008, settled for silver last month in Sapporo, Japan.