GANGNEUNG — First it was the Canadian women struggling out of the gate and now it’s the men who are scuffling at the Olympics.
This just isn’t supposed to be happening to a country that has won three straight men’s gold medals and 11 medals in 11 all-time Olympic curling events.
Kevin Koe’s Calgary foursome dropped its third straight game Monday afternoon, this time falling 9-7 in an extra end to John Shuster of the United States.
The Canadians are 4-3 and still very much in the playoff picture but things are not going smoothly right now.
Between Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs, Canada lost just two games while claiming two gold medals at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Here, between Koe and Rachel Homan on the women’s side, Canada has six losses already.
“We’re playing pretty well,” Canadian second Brent Laing said. “I’m not one to look at stats, but I would bet we’re at or near the top everywhere. Those don’t mean anything … you throw those out the window because we’re not getting the Ws. We need to turn it around pretty quick. We’ve got two games left and we need to win them both, so that’s the plan.”
Canada’s last two round robin games are Tuesday morning (7:05 p.m. ET Monday in Canada) against Japan and Wednesday (midnight ET in Canada) against Denmark.
After starting out at 4-0, the Canadians have lost to Sweden (6-1) Switzerland (5-2) and the United States (3-4).
As the Canadian women have shown in rebounding from an 0-3 record to get to 3-3, there’s still plenty of time for the Canadian men to turn things around and get into the semifinals.
“I still feel positive,” Laing said. “If you’re losing games and you’re not making shots, that’s one thing but we’ve played a lot worse than we did the last three games and won a lot of games. If you’re playing poorly there’s need for concern but we can certainly play better and we’ll need to play better.
“I’m certainly not panicked. We’re only four games away from the gold medal still, so that still the plan.”
It was the first time the Americans have ever beaten Canada in Olympic men’s curling. Canada was 5-0 against the U.S. coming into the game.
But Shuster’s team had a very strong game, scoring deuces with the hammer, forcing Koe to single points without and playing a solid extra end.
Canada scored two in the 10th end to tie the game at 7-7 but in the extra, Koe was unable to execute on his last shot, an attempted draw to the four-foot, behind a centre guard. His rock curled too far behind the guard and was open on the other side. All Shuster had to do was make it go away and the Americans had the win.
Koe’s team lost despite curling 86 per cent as a group. Shuster’s team came in at 79 per cent.
“Games come down to some big shots,” Koe said. “If I come up with one in the ninth, it could have been a different game. We’re playing well but I could make a few bigger ones for the guys. It’s something I’ve been able to do in the past in big events and I’ve missed a few here this week.
“We definitely won’t get too discouraged but we’ll have to find a way to regroup and play strong tomorrow.”
Canada is still tied for third place with Great Britain at 4-3, behind Sweden and Switzerland. The top four teams at the end of the round robin will make the semifinals.
“It’s not like we’re out there throwing 60-70 per cent out there,” Koe said. “We’re playing solid, just maybe missing a shot an end. It would be nice to put together some full ends. Teams are playing well against us.”