16 September 2018

Team Koe seal Canadian clean sweep in Suzhou

Three Canadian rinks all strike gold as Koe conquer Walstad in men's final

Team Koe made it a hat-trick of Canadian triumphs in Suzhou as they defeated Norway 6-5 to become the first Curling World Cup men's champions.

A crucial error by Norwegian skip Steffen Walstad in the second end gave the Canadians an early advantage which they never looked like relinquishing.

Walstad's attempted guard was far too light, allowing Koe more than a glimpse at a takeout for three which he duly executed soft-weight.

"The second was a big end and after that we managed to keep control," he said. "We weren't really in trouble in any end. He had an unfortunate one there on his last, I think it picked. We got a break there, we capitalised and we played solid."

In the third end, Koe was slightly too heavy with his last stone and missed the chance of a steal, offering a relieved Walstad the chance of a simple tap back for one which reduced arrears to 3-2.

A mistake by Norway third Markus Hoeiberg - crashing his own guard - set up the opportunity for Canada to claim a deuce in the fourth and a 5-2 lead at the fourth-end break.

Although Norway reduced arrears by one in the fifth, Canada never looked vulnerable and Team Walstad couldn't capitalise on the hammer in the seventh to go into the last end trailing 6-4.

Down to the final shot, Norway had two in the house, one of which was removed with a straight-forward takeout by Koe for a final score of 6-5 that doesn't really reflect the level of control Canada had on the game.

Team Koe's achievement came despite having only practised as a new foursome on a couple of occasions before flying out to China. BJ Neufeld and Colton Flasch only joined the rink over the summer break.

Koe reflected: "We're really happy. This is the first event of the year and we hadn't played together before properly. There's some really good teams here, we didn't know what to expect.

"It's an outstanding facility here. Whoever gets to play in these are pretty lucky and we're really glad we get to play in another one at the end of the year in the Grand Final. That will be fun too."

As well as a berth in the series showpiece in Beijing in May, Team Koe's victory earned them USD$ 20,000 plus USD$ 7,500 in round-robin earnings.

Steffen Walstad was understandably disappointed with vital errors at crucial points in the match.

"They're a better team," he said. "We were struggling even in the beginning. My last one in the second was not even close. They are playing a lot better and deserved to win this one, we'll have to come back a lot stronger next time.

"In this field, it's pretty good to have gotten to the final. I think, in time, we'll look back and be pretty happy about the result, if not too happy about the performance in the final. We're playing one of the best teams in the world so even if we were playing well it would be tough to beat them.

"Some days your game isn't quite there and this was one of those days. The whole team has been firing quite well all week but no-one on the team performed the way we're used to."

Team Walstad hope to be selected to compete in the Curling World Cup third leg in Jonkoping, Sweden in January, if they win the Norwegian nationals later this year.

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