China spring surprise as in-form Scots keep rolling
Team Shuster stunned but Sweden, Norway and Scotland off to flying starts
China stunned Olympic champions Team John Shuster on the opening day of the Curling World Cup men’s event in Omaha, while Scotland, Sweden and Norway were also victorious.
Skipped by Zou Qiang, the Chinese rink left the home fans dejected by grinding out a 4-3 win in which neither team scored more than one point in any end.
United States coach Phill Drobnick said a hectic recent schedule may have affected Team Shuster’s performance on the opening night.
“We weren’t very sharp today," he lamented. "First end we had a chance for three and didn’t get the rocks to do what we wanted, then we had a couple of ends when things didn’t go our way. In the seventh end we let another opportunity get away. We had a tough time with the ice tonight.
“We’ve got to sleep on it and get some rest and come out tomorrow and make some shots. We probably need to have a little bit more energy. The guys have been travelling a lot the last two weeks, so it’s trying to find that energy and focus on the two games tomorrow and bring our A Game.”
The mood was entirely different in the Scottish camp as Team Bruce Mouat opened up with an 8-6 win over Canada’s Team Jason Gunnlaugson that hinged on a four in the sixth end.
Mouat’s rink took a short break from the ice following their recent maiden win at the European Curling Championships in Estonia, but it didn’t disrupt their form here in Nebraska.
“That four really changed the tide of the game,” reflected Mouat afterwards. “We were struggling to make some simple shots before that. Grant [Hardie] did a really good runback to set me up for that four and we had a nice team shot to finish off with that pack break.
“We struggled in the first four ends but got a grip of the ice in the last four and started making some good shots.
“We have a lot of confidence. We played great at the Europeans and have had a bit of break since then. We’ve not been on the ice a lot and it was just about recovering. It was nice to get back on the ice and perform the way we did towards the end.”
Team Niklas Edin’s victory over Japan was founded on a superb score of five in the fourth end.
The world champions, whose four-year reign as European champions was ended by Team Mouat earlier this month, were eventual 7-4 winners to secure a positive start to their Group B campaign.
The early leaders in Group B, though, are Team Thomas Ulsrud, who beat Switzerland’s Team Yannick Schwaller 10-4.
“It was a typical first game of an event,” said Norwegian lead Haavard Van Petersson. “We’re not quite used to the ice yet and you get a lot of misses and some big ends.
“We just tried to make as many shots as possible. It’s a little different here with no extra ends so you’ve got to think differently on strategy at the end of the game. The rest of the game is normal curling.
“The five-rock rule is new this season and that also means more big ends, which I think is good for the game. I like the timings rule also; you can’t bank time so you have to keep firing those shots down.”