Ottawa - Brad Gushue says his curling team, after four days of the Canadian Olympic trials, still isn’t at the top of its game. Mark Nichols goes so far as to rate their performance a B-minus.
But Gushue, Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker played well enough Tuesday night to register a 9-5 win over Reid Carruthers and improve to 3-2 at the Roar of the Rings here in Ottawa.
“I have a lot of confidence in our team knowing that if we get to the level that we’re capable of playing, we’re going to be there at the end,” Gushue said after scoring four in the ninth end to sink the Carruthers foursome from Winnipeg.
“That’s kind of what I rest on, waiting for us to build and I feel like we’ve been building each game.
“We’re not there yet, but it is getting better.”
Gushue was certainly good Tuesday night at before a paltry crowd of 3,448 at the Canadian Tire Centre, an NHL arena that’s home to the Ottawa Senators.
He curled 90 per cent, compared to the 76 per cent by Carruthers, making two dandy shots that had some believing the skip from St. John’s was back to the form that won him the Tim Hortons Brier and world championship last season.
In the fifth end, Gushue ran back a Carruthers rock on his last shot, picking another Carruthers stone and leaving his own to score one and a 4-2 lead.
Then in the ninth, Gushue made a beauty pick of a Carruthers shot stone between two of his own rocks to score four and elicit handshakes.
“Brad really stepped up his game and carried us tonight,” Nichols said.
The win came 24 hours after a heartbreaking 7-4 loss to Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., a game in which Gushue gave up a steal of three in the third end when his last shot picked up something on the ice and pretty much grinded to a halt.
That made it 4-0 for Jacobs, and the game was effectively over.
Ironically enough, the Curling Gods were on Gushue’s side Tuesday when Carruthers’ last shot in the second end picked on something, leaving Gushue to score – you guessed it – three.
“There’s still lots of room for improvement, which is good,” cautioned Nichols, “but we can’t be coming in with a B-minus game hoping to win.
“We have to pick it up a little bit and bring our A game the rest of the week, and into the playoffs.”
Both Gushue and Nichols said ice conditions at Canadian Tire Centre, superb all week, were challenging Tuesday, probably because of the rain and mild temperatures in the Ottawa area during the day.
Temps are supposed to cool for the rest of the week.
“It was hard to be real precise,” Gushue said. “Hopefully now with temperatures expected to drop, we can get rid of this frost.
“Having said that,” he added, “I think we’re the best team in the world with conditions like that. We stay patient, we don’t get frustrated with each other, we communicate more than most teams. We can figure out paths and make the most of the situation.
“Some of the Grand Slams that we played the last couple of years have been on pretty challenging ice conditions, and we won those. That’s something we’re not afraid of.”
Tonight at 8:30 p.m. (NL time) Gushue has a huge game against Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen, who as of Tuesday night had only one loss.
Kevin Koe of Calgary leads the field at 5-0 and appears on his way to marching into Sunday’s final. After that, it’s anyone’s guess with McEwen (3-1), Gushue and Jacobs (2-2) in the mix.
At the Trials, the top team after the round-robin goes straight to the final, with the next two meeting in a semifinal. If tie-breakers are needed, they’ll be played Saturday, ahead of semifinal games.
Men’s and women’s standings after Draw 11 Tuesday night:
Kevin Koe, 5-0
Mike McEwen, 3-1
Brad Gushue, 3-2
Brad Jacobs, 2-2
Reid Carruthers, 2-3
Steve Laycock, 2-3
John Morris, 1-3
John Epping, 1-3
Brendan Bottcher, 1-3
Jennifer Jones, 5-0
Chelsea Carey, 4-0
Rachel Homan, 4-1
Casey Scheidegger, 2-2
Krista McCarville, 2-2
Val Sweeting, 2-3
Julie Tippin, 1-3
Michelle Englot, 0-4
Allison Flaxey, 0-5