SPORTS

Canada's Simmons beats American Shuster 11-10 in opener at men's curling worlds

03/28/2015 09:51 EDT | Updated 05/28/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - Pat Simmons is making a habit of hitting clutch draws to the button for dramatic victories.

The Canada skip delivered again Saturday night in a wild 11-10 extra-end win over American John Shuster in the opening game for both teams at the world men's curling championship. Just like he did to win the Tim Hortons Brier a few weeks ago, Simmons nailed his final throw to come out on top.

"I'm going to have more grey hair if that keeps up this week, that's for sure," Simmons said.

The crowd of 4,018 at Scotiabank Centre was treated to a rollicking, back-and-forth affair that featured plenty of rocks in play, creative shotmaking and loads of scoring.

"Everybody was just throwing the high punches and hard ones," said Canadian coach Rick Lang. "Both teams made some really spectacular shots to put those numbers up there, it wasn't like it was poor curling. Everybody was aggressive and then the skips were just going toe to toe.

"'First one to 12' at one point I said, and they almost got there."

The teams traded three-spots in the early going before Shuster hit an incredible angle-raise takeout in the fourth end to score four for a 7-4 lead. Simmons scratched out a deuce in the fifth and pulled even by stealing a single in the sixth end.

The Canadian skip got the partisan crowd rocking with an impressive double takeout to score three in the ninth end. Fans treated him to a standing ovation for the effort.

Shuster tied it in the 10th with a tapback for one. But Simmons and his Calgary-based team of John Morris, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen played it smart in the extra end and some solid sweeping helped that final stone find the target.

"It wasn't like we were going all out offensively either," Simmons said. "It just kind of snuck up on us when we didn't put our rocks in the exact right spots and then they made us pay all night. It was unbelievable."

Japan was alone in first place at 2-0 after a 7-4 win over Russia and a 9-3 rout of Scotland. Skip Yusuke Morozumi scored five in the eighth end to send Scotland's Ewan MacDonald to 0-2.

Earlier, MacDonald — a three-time world champion — dropped a 6-5 decision to Italy's Joel Retornaz in an extra end.

Defending champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway opened with a 9-7 victory over China's Jialiang Zang. Niklas Edin of Sweden, the 2013 world champion, picked up a 6-5 victory over Finland's Aku Kauste in the afternoon draw.

Edin drew his final stone into the house to score a pair for the victory.

"We made a lot of easy mistakes in the beginning and it took a while to get control of the rocks and the ice," Edin said. "But then once we got that, we played pretty good. I was glad we could turn it around at the end."

Switzerland's Marc Pfister edged Jiri Snitil of the Czech Republic 6-5 in an extra end. Snitil earned a split on the day with an 8-7 win over Finland.

Attendance was 2,233 for the opening draw. The venue holds 10,500 for curling.

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 looking to win world gold for the first time. Thiessen and Rycroft won in 2010 with skip Kevin Koe while Morris was victorious in 2008 with skip Kevin Martin.

Canada has won gold on 34 occasions in this event's 56-year history. The most recent Canadian title came in 2012 when Glenn Howard won in Basel, Switzerland.

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