BASEL, Switzerland — Canada's Kevin Koe opened round-robin play at the world men's curling championship on Saturday with a 7-3 victory over Finland's Aku Kauste at St. Jakobshalle.
The teams traded singles for the first five ends and Canada took a 3-2 lead into the break. Canada was able to protect a rock in the four-foot for a steal of one in the sixth end and Koe put it away with three points in the ninth.
"It was a close game, but we stayed patient and they were chasing us most of the game," said Koe. "I don't even know when they were even sitting two at many points in the game. We were solid, but they were good too so it was actually a good game for us to have coming out of the blocks, to get a test like that."
In the ninth, Koe hit a double-takeout on his first rock and followed with an open hit for the victory. Koe threw 90 per cent for the game while Kauste was at 81 per cent.
"It's nice not to have to make real hard shots against two or three points early in a game, especially when it's a close game," Koe said. "Solid effort for sure. And the ice looks good. There's a lot of curl out there so I think it sets up good for us."
Koe and his Calgary-based team of third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing and lead Ben Hebert had a bye for the opening draw. They will play Denmark and the United States on Sunday.
Scotland's Thomas Ulsrud won both of his games to sit in first place at 2-0. Defending champion Niklas Edin of Sweden opened with an 8-5 victory over Japan.
"It was a good start, but we had a lot of communication problems in sweeping," Edin said. "The ice as it is right now is pretty tricky. But I think we got into it pretty well after half the game.
"We got a lead and luckily we could keep that lead for the whole game. It was definitely not an easy win."
Round-robin play continues through Thursday evening. The Page playoffs begin Friday and the medal games are scheduled for Sunday.
Koe won world gold with a different team in 2010 in Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy. He finished fourth in 2014 in Beijing.
Canada hasn't won world gold since 2012 when Glenn Howard was victorious at the same venue in Basel. Laing was on that team with Wayne Middaugh and Craig Savill.
"The guys have been making fun of me all week because I don't remember anything about the town, but I remember what happened in here," Laing said with a smile. "I was actually looking over at the sheet where Glenn threw the draw to win the world championship the first time we walked in here yesterday.
"The memories come back right away, and it's a pretty cool feeling to be back, for sure."
The Canadian Press