Canadian men's curlers fall to Swiss in bronze-medal match

1st time Canada's men's team kept off Olympic podium

By Nick Murray, CBC Sports

For the first time ever, Canada's men's curling team is leaving an Olympic Games without a medal.

Canada fell to Switzerland 7-5 in the bronze-medal match Friday in South Korea, which will also mark the first time both the men's and women's teams were kept off the podium.

Canadian skip Kevin Koe made some key shots to keep the match close, but missed even bigger ones which allowed Switzerland to capitalize off Canada's mistakes.

Canada, needing to score a pair to force extras, were given hope as third Marc Kennedy made a masterful shot rolling a Canadian stone into the house off another, and sticking his shooter in the house to give Canada a chance.

And after Swiss fourth Benoit Schwarz missed a double takeout attempt, Koe had a chance at a double himself. But the Calgary native missed, allowing Schwarz to take out both Canadian stones for the win.

Koe curled 65 per cent in the match, to 88 per cent for Schwarz, who won his country's fourth Olympic men's curling medal.

"We didn't get off to a great start again and [were] kind of chasing a lot of ends," Koe told CBC Sports' Colleen Jones.

"But, you know, we fought. We had some good chances. I wish I had my one bad shot back in [the sixth]. But it is what it is. Some good shots, but just too many misses."

Swiss capitalize on Canadian misses

Canada struggled to make shots early on, and misses from both Koe and third Marc Kennedy opened the door for Switzerland to steal singles in the second and third ends. Kennedy would go on to curl 75 per cent in the match.

But Canada woke up in the fourth.

After Kennedy nailed a beautiful runback double, Koe came through on last rock with an incredibly gutsy call, playing a lengthy angle raise, clearing out Switzerland's shot stone and scoring a pair to tie the game 2-2.

Koe again came through with a big shot in the fifth. With the Swiss sitting four, Koe cleared out three of them. But he couldn't follow it up with a running double on his last rock, allowing Schwarz to draw to the house for a pair to make it 4-2.

Canada's struggles returned in the sixth. Kennedy managed to make a key runback double — after first missing one moments before — setting Canada up for what could have been a big end. After Koe made a perfect freeze, he too tried an incredibly tough runback on his last rock to clear one Swiss stone, which was keeping Canada from scoring four. But Koe missed, and Canada only scored a single, giving the hammer back to the Swiss.

In the seventh, Koe tried to clear Switzerland's shot stone to give Canada a chance at a steal, but clipped his shooter off a Canadian stone, leaving the Swiss stones untouched. On his last stone, Koe tried to make up for it and clear both Swiss stones, but was thin on his raise, leaving the Swiss to score two and go up 6-3.

"I think you make your own breaks, and we didn't put enough ends together," said Canadian second and three-time Brier winner Brent Laing.

"We had some chances here and there, and early [Koe] bailed us out, then in the second half of the game we didn't hit the shots we needed to make to win the game."

Canada tried to mount a comeback in the eighth. With one Swiss stone hugging the button, and another on the left side of the four-foot, Koe nailed a double takeout on last rock, to cut the lead to one.

But the Swiss used the hammer in the ninth to score a single as Canada couldn't force extras.

'Bit of a rough patch'

"We wanted this game. We tried hard. It definitely wasn't a lack of effort out there, it was a little bit of lack of execution here and there. It's really disappointing right now," Koe said.

"But we tried our hardest and we hit a bit of a rough patch the last couple days."

A bright spot in the match came from Canadian lead Ben Hebert, who threw 100 per cent in the match. Still, the gold medallist from 2010 said they just came up against a hot Swiss team.

"Starting with the hammer and getting down 2-0 is unacceptable. So can't come out of the gate flat like we did and not be ready to play," Hebert said.

"I don't know. I don't know what to say. I don't feel like an Olympian this time around."

Kennedy, who also won gold at the Vancouver Games, said the team left it all on the ice.

"They put the pressure on the first five ends and we couldn't respond. [We] got a little down and then played our [butts] off to get back in it and have a chance. But if you keep putting yourselves behind the 8-ball like that you're going to lose to these good teams," Kennedy said.

"We're still going to look back on this experience as a wonderful one. Anytime you get to wear the Maple Leaf it's a true honour. Sports sometimes hurts, but you're either winning or you're learning. So we'll learn from this and we'll be back again."

The mixed doubles team of John Morris and Katelyn Laws earned Canada's only curling medal of the Games, winning gold.