GRAND FORKS, N.D. – It may have been smooth sailing into the playoffs for Kevin Martin, but the Edmonton skip wants his team to keep its edge at the men’s world curling championship.
Martin’s Canadian rink had a slight scare but recovered to defeat Switzerland 8-6 Thursday morning.
“You don’t want to lose your edge,” Martin said after his team strengthen its stranglehold on first place with a 9-1 record. “There was a lot of edge out there today for sure. Everybody is pretty into it. It’s good to see.
“Everybody is not accepting the misses very well. It’s good. Everybody is on edge a bit. That’s good. We’re definitely not complacent, that’s for sure.”
Third John Morris said the team’s game has plenty of room for improvement.
“We’re bringing a good B game right now,” said the Calgary-area firefighter. “We have to get back to our A game right now.
“We don’t give up threes very often and was gave up a sloppy three (against the Swiss). We have to pick it up a bit. We should be fine for the playoffs but we have to get back on track a bit.”
Martin and his rink of Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert seemed to have the game against Switzerland in hand after building a 5-2 lead after four ends. But the Swiss fought back with three in the sixth, putting the pressure on Canada.
Canada regained the lead by scoring one in the seventh, then stealing a point in the eighth.
Switzerland dropped to 2-8.
Martin said the sheet of ice the game was played on was straight and didn’t have the curl he would have liked.
“It makes it tough if it’s straight,” said the three-time Brier champion. “It’s a frustrating game because you can’t get buried. That’s what was happening today for both teams.
“They’d get one buried and we’d pick it out. It kind of makes it a little bit boring.”
The Canadian contingent among the 2,016 fans in the 11,600-seat Ralph Engelstad Arena shouted, clapped and waved Maple Leafs.
In other games, Germany scored three in an extra end to defeat Denmark 10-7, France’s chances of finishing third or better took a hit with a 7-5 loss to Sweden, and China beat Australia 5-3.
With one draw remaining, Norway and Scotland have the inside track on second place with 6-3 records. China is 6-4 while the U.S. is 5-4. Australia, France and Germany are 5-5.
The teams without a playoff chance are Denmark at 4-6, Sweden 3-7, the Czech Republic 2-7 and Switzerland 2-8.
Martin said “if nothing weird happens” he expects Scotland to finish second.
“Going in we thought it would be Scotland or Norway,” he said. “It is still one or the other, but probably Scotland.”
Canada beat Scotland 6-5 during the round robin.
Canada wraps up the round robin Thursday night against the U.S.
Morris admits the team might have been guilty of looking forward to the playoffs in the game against Switzerland.
“In the back of your mind you already are in that one-two spot,” said the two-time world junior champion. “Maybe you let off the gas a hair.
“We realize we are in a good position for the playoffs and we’re just going to try to get stronger from here on it. We’d rather have a bit of a lull here than in the one-two game or the finals.”
A world title would give Martin’s team a berth in the 2009 Canadian trials for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. But the Edmonton skip has a history of struggling at international competitions.
He finished fourth in his last trip to the world championship back in 1997. He lost the 1991 final to Scotland’s David Smith.
Martin looked to have a gold medal in his pocket at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics but had to settle for silver after being heavy on his last-shot draw in the final. He finished fourth at the 1992 Albertville Olympics when curling was a demonstration sport.
Martin also was second at the 1986 world junior championships. His combined record in international round-robin play is 36-3 but he’s a dismal 3-7 in the playoffs.
The world championships use the Page playoff system.
By finishing first, Martin knows he will play the second-place finisher in one playoff game Friday. The winner of that game goes directly to Sunday’s final.
The loser drops to Saturday’s semifinal to meet the winner of Friday’s other playoff game between the third and fourth-place teams. The semifinal winner advances to the final.
The loser of Saturday’s semifinal meets the loser of the third versus fourth-place teams for the bronze medal.