LAS VEGAS — There couldn’t have been many people at the tables in the Orleans Casino here Monday who got any luckier than Team Canada skip Brad Gushue did at the Orleans Arena.
The back-to-back Brier winner and defending world champion, who simply has only been a shadow of himself here so far, had essentially allowed lightning to hit him twice in the form of Joel Retournaz of Italy.
It was Retournaz, essentially skipping a team of the only four curlers who existed in Italy, who scored the Olympic upset of all time in defeating Gushue in the round-robin at the Olympics in Torinto 2006.
On Monday, Gushue and gang made mistake after mistake and left Italy with last rock advantage in the 10th end in a 7-7 game. After messing up the ninth end, Gushue left last-rock thrower Amos Mosaner with a draw to the eight foot and the entire left side of the centre line open.
But Mosaner, who must be from the Saskatchewan area of Italy, thrives on the takeout game and convinced himself to go for a double peel of the only two rocks in play. He removed the top rock but was wide by a hair on the back one and left Gushue with the exceedingly fortunate 8-7 win and a 3-1 record.
“I preferred the double because I felt it,” said Mosaner.
“He preferred the hit,” said Retlournaz, who skips but throws third rocks. “I’m not throwing the rock. He preferred the hit. When it comes down to last rock, I can’t say the draw is better when he’s the one throwing the rock. It was something he felt. He’s made big hits this season so I wasn’t against the shot.”
Retournaz admitted, considering what happened in 2006, it would have been something.
“It was close to having a win against him again. In the end, it just didn’t happen,” he said.
“We were pretty lucky there in the last end with the miss but I give credit to my team after I missed that hit in the ninth end to make six perfect shots,” said Gushue.
“It came down to either the draw or a double peel. But I wasn’t surprised he played the double considering how good of a hitter he is. In that spot the ice is so straight that I thought ‘This is looking good for us. Right out of the box I knew if he was making the double he was just making it,” added Gushue who curled 81 per cent in the game.
Canada, after taking a 4-1 lead after three, gave up a deuce on four and three on the sixth.
“Mark (Nichols) had a miss and then I had a miss when we gave up three. I was just brain dead on mine.
“I’m just not feeling as comfortable as I’d like to out there.”
SHOWTIME IN VEGAS
After two consecutive days with only one game to play there are four consecutive days of two-a-day play days ahead for Team Canada.
With three wins against teams with losing records and one loss against contender Scotland, it’s on-with-the-show-this-is-it time for Gushue.
The skip admits being in Las Vegas has been more of a distraction than he figured it might be.
“It’s hard to get away from the event,” he said of going from the rink through the casino to get to their hotel room.
“All the fans are there. You can’t get away. We have to get into a better rhythm. I think playing two games the rest of the way through the round robin is going to help.
“But even with that we have to figure out a way to get away from curling because that’s what we do really well. But that’s hard to do here.”
WHAT A CROCKER
Team Canada lead Geoff Walker’s fiancé, photographed hugging another man Sunday in Leduc, is running off to Sweden with him.
And Walker couldn’t be happier for her.
With Walker engaged in 13 games of round robin competition in an attempt to win a second straight World Men’s Curling Championship with Brad Gushue here, Laura Crocker of Edmonton needed to find a substitute curler for Walker at last week’s Canadian mixed doubles final in Leduc.
She recruited Kirk Muyres from Steve Laycock’s Saskatchewan team and they went and won it and will now go to Oestersund, Sweden to compete in the World Mixed Doubles Championship April 21-28.
“Laura plated with Kirk once before when the same thing happened and I had a conflict with a mixed doubles event and that went well. So she asked him again,” he said.
“It’s great she’s a Canadian champion. I’m so proud of her. She’s had a lot of tough breaks,” he said of results and situations like skip Kelsey Rocque having to chose between playing with her U of A team at Universiade instead of the provincial Scotties team two years ago and choosing Universiade where she won gold while her other team has to sit out provincials.
Crocker will be joining her fiancé here Thursday.
“Our wedding isn’t until May 13, so we don’t have to move the date,” said Walker.
The wedding is scheduled for Cancun, Mexico.
“There will be quite a few curlers there.”
The two built a house in Edmonton two years ago and Walker, a Beaverlodge native in Alberta’s Peace River country, will go from being a winter resident of St. John’s, Newfoundland to becoming the team’s designated import from Edmonton going forward. Crocker will begin skipping her own team next season.