EDMONTON — Canada's Brad Gushue opened the Ford world men's curling championship with a 7-5 victory over Peter de Cruz of Switzerland on Saturday at the Northlands Coliseum.
Gushue took control of the back-and-forth game when Swiss fourth Benoit Schwarz missed his final shot in the seventh end. The St. John's skip had hammer and delivered a draw to score three.
This is the first appearance at this event for Gushue's team of vice-skip Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker. They earned the berth by beating Kevin Koe last month in the Tim Hortons Brier final.
The Swiss team was aggressive at the start and it nearly paid off. Schwarz had a chance to score four in the opening end but he rubbed a Canada guard and settled for a deuce.
He was thin on a takeout attempt in the second end and left a Canada stone on the 12-foot ring. A Gushue draw gave Canada a pair to pull even.
After a blank, Gushue buried two stones and forced Schwarz to draw the four-foot for a single. With a load of rocks in play in the fifth, a Gushue in-off gave him one point and a 3-3 tie.
Switzerland moved ahead again in the sixth end with a single before the Canada three-spot in the seventh. Schwarz had a chance to pull even in the ninth but he jammed and settled for a single.
Both teams struggled at times with the frosty conditions at the 13,286-seat venue. Schwarz threw at a clip of 74 per cent while Gushue was at 82 per cent.
Walker was hampered by a shoulder strain over the final weekend of the Brier but it did not appear to be a factor Saturday.
In other early games, Japan's Yusuke Morozumi defeated Italy's Joel Retornaz 9-5 and Germany's Alexander Baumann edged Jaap van Dorp of the Netherlands 6-5 in an extra end. American John Shuster needed only six ends to complete a 9-2 rout of Russia's Alexey Stukalskiy.
Attendance figures for the opening draw weren't immediately available but the venue was about half-full. A second draw was scheduled for Saturday night.
Gushue was scheduled to return to action Sunday morning against Russia.
Round-robin play continues through Thursday night. The Page playoffs begin Friday and the medal games are set for April 9.
Attendance records were set in this arena for the men's world championship (184,970 in 2007), the Brier (281,985 in 2005) and the Olympic Trials (175,952 in 2009).
Koe won the world championship last year in Basel, Switzerland. Canada has won gold 35 times in the 58-year history of this event.
Gushue has a chance to become the first skip to win gold at the world junior championship (2001), Olympic Games (2006) and world men's championship.
A podium appearance here would also give his team a berth in the Olympic Trials in December in Ottawa.
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