By Donna Spencer
Las Vegas has been a lesson in adaptation for Brad Gushue's St. John’s curling rink.
They’ve had some struggles, but Gushue and teammates Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker seemed to hit their stride Tuesday at the men's world curling championships with a pair of wins — a 7-6 extra-end victory over South Korea followed by a quicker 9-2 decision over Japan.
That improved their record to 5-1, leaving them in a three-way tie for second place behind undefeated Sweden before Tuesday’s late-night draw.
Gushue felt he had a better handle on the Orleans Arena ice on Tuesday, but had also accepted the off-ice environment is different than any other major curling championship.
To begin with, this is the most southerly world curling championship ever, with desert temperatures ranging from a high of 25 to 30 C daily.
And then there is the distraction that is Las Vegas.
Gushue prefers more separation between the event and the team's down time between draws, so he and his crew get a mental break from curling.
“Outside of moving out, there's not a whole lot we can do from that perspective,” Gushue said. “Really accepting is a big part of it. Taking our moments and if we can get with our family and stay to ourselves, let's try and do that as much as possible.
“We've got to accept the environment that we're in for this week. Embrace it as opposed to push up against it.”
“That's a challenge because it's extremely different from what we normally do at an event like this.”
Gallant feels the team is doing a better job of adapting to its unique environment.
“The ice is starting to get a little more similar each game now. We had a short break between games (Tuesday), but left the rink area, went back to the hotel, just to get away.
“We've been to enough of these events that no two are the same. This one is probably more different than most.
“I think now that we're in the middle of the event, we're starting to get used to everything and get into a bit of a flow.”
“We've got to accept the environment that we're in for this week. Embrace it as opposed to push up against it. That's a challenge because it's extremely different from what we normally do at an event like this.”
Heading into Tuesday night, Olympic silver medallist Niklas Edin of Sweden remained out front at 6-0 followed by Canada, Scotland's Bruce Mouat and Norway's Steffen Walstad all tied at 5-1.
Sweden and Norway squared off in Tuesday’s late draw, while the Canadians and Scots had the night off.
Canada plays Norway this morning and the Netherlands (1-5) tonight.
The format for the worlds is different this year, with the top six teams at the conclusion of the preliminary round Friday making the playoffs. Previously, only four teams advanced from the main draw,
The top two gets byes to Saturday's semifinals, while teams three to six square off in quarterfinals earlier that day.
That quest by Canada to earn an automatic semifinal berth should make today’s matchup with the Norwegians and Friday’s with the Swedes particularly important, even more so since the Scots already have an advantage over the Canadians.
Mouat beat Gushue on Sunday, meaning Scotland would prevail in a tiebreaker if the two teams ended up with the same preliminary-round record.
But without looking at particular games, Gushue said the plan for the remaining three days of round-robin play is pretty simple.
“Just keep getting better, which is kind of the good thing of our week so far,” said the Canadian skip. “We’ve been getting better and better as the week has gone on, and hopefully we can continue that progression.”
Former Canadian, world and Olympic men’s champion skip Kevin Martin was inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame Tuesday in Vegas, prompting some reminisces from Gushue about losses to the “The Old Bear,” as Martin was known around the rinks. “Kevin and Randy Ferbey and those guys, they put some good whuppings on us when we were 18, 19, 20 years old and just starting on tour,” said Gushue, noting he and Martin once actually had discussions “on a couple different occasions” about forming a team… Martin’s nickname came courtesy of former teammate Kevin Park in the 1990s. “Just the way I was built. Big legs, big butt like Jack Nicklaus and the same type of attitude towards sports he thought,” Martin explained. “He actually started calling me 'the bear' and it got switched to 'the old bear.”'
With files from The Telegram and Curling Canada