Walker and Muyres first into Sunday's final
Canadians qualify with two games to spare and United States favourites to join them
Laura Walker and Kirk Muyres became the first team across all three disciplines to seal a place in the final of the Curling World Cup first leg in Suzhou.
The Canadian pair lost their early-morning round-robin encounter 8-5 to Norway but rebounded to conquer Russia 6-3 in session three.
At that stage, they needed Norway to fail against Sweden in Friday's final session in order to mathematically seal their passage through the group stage.
When Sander Roelvaag and Kristin Skaslien went 5-0 up after three ends in that game, it seemed as though the Canadian pair would have to wait at least another day, but back came Sweden to take a see-saw game 7-6 and do Walker and Muyres a huge favour.
The pair were downcast after losing their 100% record in the morning session. "We just weren't quite sharp enough and got behind the eight ball early. On this ice it's really hard to make precise shots but we stuck in there. We just have to keep the pedal ono the gas and keep going.”
They did just that later on against Russia’s Maira Komarova and Daniil Goriachev, with a three in the fourth end undoubtedly the critical moment.
"We knew we needed to be a little bit better this morning and come out of the gates faster,” said Muyres, the Canadian national mixed doubles champion. “Laura made a pistol for three [in the fourth], a runback triple, and from there we kind of coasted."
Canada’s opponents in Sunday’s final will be either United States’ Sarah Anderson and Korey Dropkin or Swiss duo Martin Rios and Jenny Perret – with the former the favourites to progress.
The United States pair scored a monster 18 points against Korea in the morning session after recording a perfect six stones in the very first end. Their breezy 9-2 win over China in the day’s fourth session then put them on 15 points in Group B – three ahead of Rios and Perret, who they play on Saturday at noon.
“It’s just another game,” said Dropkin coolly. “We’re going to go into it feeling confident and play our best and take it one rock at a time,” Anderson added: “We’ve known each other since we were kids and we’ve played together for a couple of years now. It definitely takes work, we can still improve our communication but we like where it is right now.”
Switzerland are hanging in there after a 10-5 success against China this morning followed by a recovery from 4-0 down after three ends to overcome Korea 8-5.
“For the first three ends, there was only one team playing curling!” joked Rios. “We had a couple of great shots from Jenny, and well, it’s only over when the last rock is played. We just tried to fight until the end.
“We have been in a lot of those situations in the last couple of years so we have the experience on how to fight back. I think we still need to play better, hopefully we saved it for tomorrow. Until now, I think US has been the best team in our group by a lot. Until now, they deserve to play in the final, but the competition isn’t over and Sunday we will try our best to give them a hard time.”
Elsewhere, Komarova and Goriachev were comprehensive 9-2 winners over Sweden this morning which couldn’t ultimately rescue their bid for a final place. The Swedes are also now out, but their comeback from 5-0 down against Norway in the evening session was definitely worthy of note.
Norway had caused an upset earlier in the day by becoming the first duo to beat Canada, 8-5 the final score. “We had the flow in this game and you certainly need the flow to beat Canada!” said Kristin Skaslien. Playing with Sander is a lot of fun; he actually listens to me and what I say!” That victory though, wasn’t ultimately enough to deny the Canadians progress into Sunday's showpiece.