HALIFAX — Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud upped the fashion ante Tuesday night.
He also showed Canada’s Pat Simmons why he’s the reigning world champion.
Looking loose and comfortable in colourful checkered knickers, soccer socks and patterned flat caps, the Norwegians defeated Canada 9-3 to hand the host side its first loss at the Ford world men’s curling championship.
“We got in trouble early and often,” Simmons said. “They’re too good to do that against.”
The victory also moved Norway into a first-place tie with Canada at 6-1.
Ulsrud opened with a deuce and piled on with four points in the third end after a Simmons takeout attempt was a little wide. That silenced the partisan crowd at Scotiabank Centre.
“They made us pay, that’s for sure,” Simmons said.
Simmons got one back in the fourth with a draw for one but Ulsrud hit a delicate raise for a single in the sixth. Canada scored a single in the seventh and Norway scored two in the eighth to end it.
“We showed up to play tonight,” Ulsrud said.
The two rinks are medal favourites and this very well may have been a gold-medal game preview. If so, Simmons, third John Morris, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen have some work to do.
Ulsrud and his crew were aggressive and used pinpoint accuracy to prevent the Canadians from mounting any offence. Norway set the early tone and Canada couldn’t find its rhythm.
“We weren’t expecting to go through this undefeated, that’s for sure,” Simmons said. “There are too many good teams. We’ll just rebound and tomorrow’s a new day. I look forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Niklas Edin appears to be finding his form again after a mediocre start. The 2013 world champion whipped Switzerland’s Marc Pfister 8-2 in the minimum six ends.
Switzerland remained in third place at 5-2 while Sweden pulled into a fourth-place tie with Japan’s Yusuke Morozumi at 4-3. The top four teams at the end of round-robin play will make the Page playoffs.
“My guess is it’s not the (only) time Norway and Canada will play this week,” Ulsrud said. “We’re going to play them again.”
Simmons beat Morozumi 7-4 in the afternoon draw. The Canadian skip made a draw for three in the fourth end and stole a single in the eighth for a three-point lead that held up the rest of the way.
“We had to play well,” Simmons said. “They are a very good team. They gave Canada a whupping last year. It was a well-curled game and it had to be.”
Canada shot 85 per cent as a team while Japan came in at 71 per cent. Japanese second Tetsuro Shimizu struggled at just 57 per cent, easily the lowest individual percentage of the 32 curlers on the ice in the afternoon.
Ulsrud held off Finland’s Aku Kauste 8-7 earlier in the day. Pfister beat Kauste by the same score in the morning draw for his fifth victory.
Attendance was 1,889 for the afternoon draw and 1,117 in the morning. Things picked up a bit in the evening with 3,019 fans on hand in the 10,500-seat venue.
The playoffs begin Friday and the medal games are scheduled for Sunday. Canada finished fourth last year in Beijing and hasn’t won gold since Glenn Howard took the 2012 title in Basel, Switzerland.
The Czech Republic, Finland and the United States were tied at 3-4. China, Italy, Russia and Scotland were next at 2-5.