Canada's Brendan Bottcher into playoffs at world men's curling championship

·3 min read

CALGARY — Brendan Bottcher ensured Canada will compete in men's curling at the next Winter Olympics and also clinched a playoff berth at the world curling championship Thursday.

Bottcher downed Norway's Steffen Walstad 6-4 in a pivotal game for the host country in Calgary.

Canada avoided both a third straight loss and putting its playoff hopes in the hands of other teams with the win over the Norwegians.

"Over a 13-game round robin, you're going to have peaks and valleys and it's just how you weather the storm that I think really differentiates the top teams," Bottcher said.

The top six teams in the conclusion of the preliminary round Friday afternoon both remain in contention for a world title, and qualify their countries in men's curling for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The rest of the Olympic field will be determined in a December qualifying tournament.

"In the back of all of our minds, that's kicking around," Bottcher said. "Focusing on that is not how we're going to go out there and play well. It's not how we're going to win curling games."

The top two seeds in the world championship's preliminary round earn byes to Saturday's semifinals.

Sergey Glukhov's Russian Curling Federation team and Sweden's Niklas Edin locked down those semifinal berths with 10-2 records Thursday.

Glukhov's team name is RCF because of World Anti-Doping Agency sanctions against that country.

Reigning Olympic champion John Shuster of the United States earned a playoff spot with a 9-3 record, as did Canada's Bottcher and Scotland's Bruce Mouat tied at 8-4.

Norway and Switzerland's Peter de Cruz both at 7-5 remained in contention for the sixth and final playoff berth. Canada caps the round robin against Germany (4-8) on Friday.

Teams third through sixth in the standings will compete in qualification games starting Friday evening with winners reaching the final four. Third plays sixth and fourth faces fifth. The medal games are Sunday.

Bottcher, third Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin from Edmonton faced Norway at night in their lone Thursday game.

The foursome thus had time to recover from tough losses to both RCF and Sweden the previous day that put Canada in somewhat of a precarious playoff position.

Moulding was critical of his own performance in those losses. Canada's vice joked that curling clean-shaven was the answer to his woes.

"Honestly, I went back to the hotel and I looked in the mirror and I blamed my beard," a smiling Moulding explained.

"I didn't like it. I decided I was looking a little too haggard and I knew if I shaved my beard I would play better. I did what I had to do for Canada and it worked."

Moulding outcurled Norway's veteran third Torger Nergaard with 80 per cent shooting accuracy to 60 per cent.

Up 6-4 coming home with last-rock advantage, Bottcher ran Walstad out of rocks for the victory.

There are no spectators for the world championship in WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre, which was also the case for the recent Canadian men's, women's and mixed doubles championship in the same arena.

Participants are confined to the arena and their hotel to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Two Grand Slams are next on Calgary's curling calendar followed by the women's world championship April 30 to May 6 there.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press