04/02/2015 22:02 EDT | Updated 06/02/2015 01:12 EDT

Canada warms up for playoffs with pair of wins at world men's curling playdowns

HALIFAX - Canada's Pat Simmons warmed up for the playoffs Thursday by earning a pair of round-robin victories at the world men's curling championship.He edged Finland's Aku Kauste 6-5 in the morning and topped Italy's Joel Retornaz 7-6 in the afternoon at Scotiabank Centre. Next up is an appearance in Friday night's Page playoff 1-2 game against defending champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway.It will be an opportunity for Simmons to avenge his lone loss at the tournament. The victor will also fast-track right to Sunday's gold-medal game."They're just a very good team from top to bottom," Simmons said of the Norwegians. "They make shots and they put the rocks in good spots and they set up ends well. They can play all the shots as well that are necessary. They're not unlike teams that we would play at the Brier."We're used to that and it's just a matter of us executing better."Simmons and Ulsrud finished tied in first place at 10-1. Norway, which beat Canada 9-3 on Tuesday, will get the top seed and choice of hammer or stones since it won the head-to-head meeting.Canada opened the scoring against Italy with a pair and exchanged deuces before a blank in the fourth end. Retornaz pulled even in the fifth but Simmons replied with two more points in the sixth.Italy put the pressure on with a deuce in the ninth end but Simmons had the hammer in the 10th and hit a takeout for the one-point win.Simmons did well to escape the morning draw with a victory. He hit a draw for two in the 10th after Kauste flashed his final throw."Two situations where it was nice to have to make a decent last rock," Simmons said. "That was a good practice I guess for me and they were good team shots. A couple gutty performances and a couple gutty wins."It feels a lot better than a couple (losses) going into tomorrow, that's for sure."Norway closed with a 6-4 win over Switzerland's Marc Pfister. Ulsrud outscored Japan's Yusuke Morozumi 10-8 in the morning draw.Sweden's Niklas Edin (8-3) locked up the third seed and a spot in the Page 3-4 game Saturday with a 7-6 win over China's Jialiang Zang. Edin beat Scotland's Ewan MacDonald 11-6 in the nightcap.American John Shuster beat Russia 6-5 in an extra end to move into fourth place at 6-5. Finland also improved to 6-5 with a 7-5 win over Italy.The U.S. and Finland will play in a tiebreaker Friday for the fourth seed.Switzerland dropped a 9-6 decision to Japan in the evening. That left both teams with 5-6 records.China and the Czech Republic were next at 4-7, followed by Italy and Scotland at 3-8. Russia was last in the 12-team field at 2-9.Announced attendance in the morning was 1,712 at the 10,500-seat venue. Attendance was 2,103 in the afternoon and 1,538 in the evening.The medal games are set for Sunday. Canada finished fourth at last year's event in Beijing.___Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.