Canada's gold-medal hopes in men's curling dashed by U.S.

Kevin Koe to play for Olympic bronze after 4-3 semifinal loss to Americans, who face Sweden for gold

By Doug Harrison, CBC Sports

Canada's run of men's curling gold at the Olympic Winter Games ended at three on Thursday with a 5-3 semifinal loss to American John Shuster in Gangneung, South Korea.

Shuster snapped a 2-2 tie in the eighth end when Canadian skip Kevin Koe was well short on his draw, leading to a big steal of two for the Americans.

"We were in control the whole game until then," Koe said. "We weren't really in trouble that end at all. That's kind of what's frustrating. I think we got fooled a little. The ice started coming down a little. [The shot] was probably a little light as well. You know, what can you say?"

Koe cut the deficit to 4-3 in the ninth, settling for one on a tough tap for two, before Shuster took out Koe's final rock in the 10th end to seal the victory. He also defeated Koe 9-7 in an extra end in the round robin.

"It was, by far, probably our poorest game at the wrong time," a dejected Koe told CBC Sports.

The U.S. men will play for Olympic gold for the first time on Saturday at 1:35 a.m. ET against Niklas Edin of Sweden, who trounced Switzerland's Peter de Cruz 9-3 in eight ends in Thursday's other semifinal.

Koe's Calgary-based rink of second Brent Laing, third Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert will try to earn a sixth straight Olympic medal for Canada when it faces the Swiss on Friday at 1:35 a.m. Switzerland beat Canada 8-6 in the round-robin, scoring four in the first end and never trailed.

"One of the big upsets we've seen, really, in the history of men's curling at the Olympics," said Bruce Rainnie of CBC Sports. "Team USA, five draws ago, really nowhere. What a finish, the team making every shot."

Added analyst Mike Harris: "Just a clutch performance by Team USA today. They outcurled their opponents at every position.

'Obviously, we're going to come out and play our hardest. We don't want to go home empty-handed.' — Canada skip Kevin Koe on Friday's bronze-medal game against Switzerland

"Just a heartbreaker for Canada. We sent our best [curlers to the Olympics] and that [U.S.] team played better today."

Koe, who went 6-3 in the round robin, was attempting to extend Canada's run of men's curling gold, following Brad Gushue (2006), Kevin Martin (2010) and Brad Jacobs (2014).

"Obviously, we're going to come out and play our hardest [against Switzerland]," said Koe, 43. "We don't want to go home empty-handed and hopefully [Thursday's loss] was just a blip."

The preliminary-round win over Canada by Shuster, who curled 91 per cent on Thursday, was the turning point for his rink of third Tyler George, second Matt Hamilton and lead John Landsteiner.

Up-and-down round robin

On the verge of elimination with a 2-4 record, Shuster downed Canada, Switzerland (8-4) and Great Britain (10-4) to gain a playoff berth with a third-place standing.

Koe, meanwhile, reeled off four straight victories to open the tournament before dropping his next three. The three-time Brier champion and two-time world gold medallist rebounded with wins to close out the round robin and clinch second place at 6-3.

"I'm not disappointed in our effort. I'm not disappointed in the guys," said Kennedy. "I thought we played our asses off all week to get in [the semifinal]. We ran into a hot skip. It's just the way it goes.

"This isn't the end of the world. It's a sport that we love, and sometimes you're on the losing end."

Early leads

Koe and company entered Thursday 29-3 this season when starting with the hammer, which they earned for Thursday's game by virtue of their higher seeding. Canada struck first with a score of one in the second end before Shuster answered in the third.

Canada went up 2-1 when Koe hit and stuck for one in the fourth end at Gangneung Curling Centre.

Shuster, who sported a 2-7 mark at his most recent two Winter Games, evened matters in a fifth end during which the 35-year-old from Chisholm, Minn., could have produced more.

"I think they're relaxed and looking good," Harris said of Shuster's rink, "and Canada has been chasing these first five ends."

A great shot by Kennedy got Canada out of trouble early in the end and Koe had a great line on his last rock to lie one.

"Team Canada is breathing a huge sigh of relief," added analyst Joan McCusker.

With files from The Canadian Press