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Simmons and Canadian teammates hope to return to podium at world championship

03/27/2015 07:04 EDT | Updated 05/27/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - A year ago the Canadian men's curling team was in disarray on the eve of the world championship in Beijing.

A few days after the squad's win at the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier, skip Kevin Koe told his teammates he'd be moving on at season's end. The Canadians tried to focus on going out on top with a world title but missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen are back for another try this year with former Olympic champion John Morris. They successfully defended their national title and are ready to ride that momentum into the world championship starting Saturday at Scotiabank Centre.

"We're just four guys who really want to win, we don't care who gets the credit," Thiessen said Friday after a practice session. "Pat doesn't have a big ego even though he's the skip and he just threw the button to win the Brier in an extra end.

"It's just one of those things where we're all in it together and we're just out here trying to win games. That's all that really matters."

The Calgary-based team will open against American John Shuster on Saturday night.

Koe and his new team represented Alberta at the Brier but didn't reach the playoffs. The defending champions, meanwhile, made it to the final weekend and pulled off three big playoff wins.

Simmons and Morris switched positions after a 2-3 start and the move got results.

"We got a good feeling for things there," Simmons said. "We're hoping to just pick up where we left off."

Next up is some unfinished business at the world championship. The Canadians are on home ice now and expected to be contenders.

They can also focus on their performance and don't have to worry about the distractions that saddled them last year.

"I mean we're all big boys, there's no hard feelings," Thiessen said of Koe's decision. "We know teams have a shelf life and we knew that ours was probably getting close to the end even though we did win the Brier. It's hard to play in an event like (the worlds) when you know that it's the last event that you're playing together as a team. I would never blame that as the reason why we didn't do well.

"I think we just didn't handle the surroundings as well as we could have and didn't play well enough. We want to rectify that this year. We want to play better and we want to win."

Canada has won gold on 34 occasions in this event's 56-year history. Glenn Howard was the last to do so in 2012 in Basel, Switzerland.

Defending champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway will be a podium favourite this year along with 2013 champion Niklas Edin of Sweden and three-time champ Ewan MacDonald of Scotland. The field is rounded out by Japan, China, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Russia and Switzerland.

"You're not safe out here with anyone obviously," Simmons said. "We're going to have to be sharp all week."

The top four teams at the end of round-robin play will reach the Page playoffs. The medal games are set for April 5.

Simmons is the lone Canadian in his foursome without a world title. Thiessen and Rycroft won in 2010 with Koe while Morris was victorious in 2008 with Kevin Martin.

"We went to China last year and that was one of our goals, to get Pat a world title and we didn't do it and it sucked," Thiessen said. "We got on to a plane and flew home and I didn't know if I'd ever get another chance to do it. I can't believe that I did.

"It's amazing we did get another chance and we don't want to make that same mistake again."

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