He fell short of reaching the final in the first Grand Slam event of the curling season, but Brad Gushue is buoyed by his team's showing at the Grey Power World Cup of Curling, particularly given its poor start in the Mississauga, Ont. event.
"Based on the way things started," Gushue said Sunday, "you have to be happy with the way we finished. The first four games, I think, showed our lack of practice.
"Once we got the first win under our belt, got comfortable with the ice and rocks, we put together three or four really good games."
Gushue, Mark Nichols, Ryan Fry and Jamie Korab from the Bally Haly Golf and Curling Club in St. John's were bounced from the semifinals Saturday, losing 6-4 to Kevin Koe's Edmonton team. Koe got off to a quick start with two in the first end, and led 4-2 after four ends.
That came after a big quarter-final win by Gushue, 8-2 over Kevin Martin of Edmonton.
Gushue opened the World Cup with two straight losses, 4-3 to Minnesota's John Shuster and 7-1 to Germany's Andy Kapp. He rebounded with a 6-5 decision over Ralph Stoeckli of Switzerland, but dropped the next game 4-1 to eventual World Cup winner Glenn Howard of Ontario.
However, Gushue clawed back with wins over Dave Murdoch of Scotland (6-2) and Ulrik Schmidt of Denmark (9-4) to secure a playoff berth.
The World Cup was the last big tuneup for the Gushue foursome prior to the Canadian Olympic Pre-Trials Nov. 10-14 in Prince George, B.C.
Twelve men's and 12 women's teams will look to be among four men's and four women's teams qualifying for the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, the Canadian Olympic Trials Dec. 6-13 in Edmonton.
The winners of the Trials will represent Canada in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Gushue, Nichols and Korab are the reigning Olympic gold medallists.
"I'm pretty comfortable with the way we're playing," said Gushue, whose team is 30-8 on the World Curling Tour this season. "When we're playing well, we're as good as anyone.
"When we play like that (through the early going at the World Cup), anybody can beat us."
So, he says, it's all a matter of gaining some consistency. That starts with practice, and between now and Nov. 10, the team plans on throwing a lot of rocks at Bally Haly.
"We've been to five cashspiels, so there's been little time for practice," he said. "There are some technical issues. When you're at five events, you're trying to make the shots, as opposed to working on fundamentals."
Gushue, Nichols, Fry and Korab, however, will be competing this weekend at the Bally Haly cashspiel.
Howard's Coldwater, Ont. team won the World Cup with a 6-4 victory over Koe.
With the win, Howard has won the Grand Slam of Curling event for the fourth year in a row, and he's beaten Koe in each of the past three finals.
Overall, Howard has won five of the past seven Grand Slam of Curling events.
Meanwhile, Heather Strong and her St. John's women's team sponsored by Rodrigues Winery returned from the $60,000 32-team Manitoba Lotteries Curling Classic in Winnipeg winless.
Strong, Cathy Cunningham, Laura Strong and Peg Goss lost 5-3 to Heather Nedohin of Edmonton, 6-4 to Winnipeg's Lisa Bixhavn and 7-4 to Kim Link, also of Winnipeg.
The Strong foursome will also compete in the Bally Haly cashspiel this weekend.