Just when it looked like Canada’s world men’s curling title hopes were about to end, Brad Jacobs gave them new life.
Jacobs’s Northern Ontario rink advanced to the tournament’s gold-medal game by downing David Murdoch of Scotland 6-3 in the semifinal Saturday night.
He will meet Sweden’s Niklas Edin in Sunday’s championship contest.
“I’m really looking forward to playing Sweden in the final,” said Jacobs. “They’re good friends of ours off the ice and rivals on the ice.”
The win over Scotland gave Canada a chance at a fourth consecutive world title. It was the second triumph of the day for Canada after the hosts crawled into the playoff round with two straight losses and four setbacks in its previous six games altogether.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Jacobs of his team’s success following its struggles. “But, obviously, we’re grinders.”
The semifinal was decided in the six end as Murdoch missed a double-takeout attempt, enabling Jacobs to count three points and go up 6-3. Jacobs stole one more point in the eighth thanks to another Murdoch miscue, and the teams shook hands after the Scottish skip drew for one meaningless point in the ninth.
Now, Jacobs’s Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., squad is in position to become the first Northern Ontario team to claim a world title since Al Hackner guided his Thunder Bay rink to gold in 1985. Sweden was also the other finalist that year.
The Soo crew felt reinvigorated after getting a day off from games Friday, when it only took part in a short practice and went to a spa at the team’s hotel.
“The full day off (from games Friday) really helped us out,” said Jacobs. “That was the biggest reason why we were able to come out so refreshed and so hungry today. We played awesome.”
The Scots, who finished first in the round robin with an 8-3 record, squandered their second chance at the final after losing to Sweden in Friday night’s 1-2 Page playoff game.
“We had a few chances,” said Murdoch. “Those guys played extremely well.”
Jacobs made a whopping 93 per cent of his shots against Scotland, well up from his 82 per cent average over 17 round-robin draws. Canadian third Ryan Fry was good on 83 per cent of his attempts while lead Ryan Harnden and second E.J. Harnden shot 96 per cent and 94 per cent, respectively.
“We really stuck together as a team here,” said Fry. “It’s not easy coming back when you have hiccups in the road or bumps in the road. What we were able to do is phenomenal.
“A true meaning of a team is when adversity hits and you’re able to perform.”
Denmark will play Scotland for the bronze medal, also on Sunday. The Danes missed their chance at gold after losing 8-6 to Canada in the 3-4 playoff game earlier Saturday.
Canada claimed the victory in the 10th as Jacobs drew for two points, breaking a 6-6 tie. With three Danish rocks in the house and Canada holding the hammer, Canadian third Fry made a terrific triple-takeout with his second shot, ultimately giving Jacobs the opportunity for a deuce.
“We went out and we played really well — what we needed to do,” said Jacobs. “Denmark’s real tough. They made a lot of shots.”
Canada atoned for a loss to the Danes on the final day of the round-robin segment. It was the first of back-to-back Canadian losses on Thursday as Jacobs and company fell to fourth place and had to settle for a do-or-die re-match with Denmark instead of a spot in the Page 1 playoff game and two cracks at the final.
“They were more in it today,” said Stjerne, a former world junior men’s championship (2009.) “We knew that in the playoffs they always step it up. We tried to do the same (as in the round-robin win). We had some key misses.”
The shot, which ignited the flag-waving crowd, ultimately prevented Stjerne from making the steal he needed for the win.
“When Fry made that shot in 10, that was the loudest cheer we’ve ever had,” said Jacobs. “That gave us all chills. When he did that, we really wanted to close that game out for the crowd.”
How did Jacobs react to Fry’s shot?
“It was, like, ‘thank you.’ That just got us out of big trouble,” said Jacobs. “I don’t know if he wanted to play that shot — but we had to play that shot, and he just threw it perfect. We called it perfect and that was the shot of the game right there.”
The Danes lost for only the third time in their last 10 games in the competition.
Stjerne has a chance to match the bronze medal that his father Tommy skipped Denmark to in 1990. The Danes had not reached the playoff round since then.
But the chance to make his mark in family and Danish history was of little consolation to Rasmus Stjerne following the loss to Canada.
“Right now, it hurts,” he said.
Notes: Canada placed fourth as a result of a loss to Sweden in the final round-robin game for both teams. ... Scotland curled without Tom Brewster, who earned silver as a skip at the 2011 and 2012 worlds, but has been playing third this year. Brewster was left out of the Scottish lineup after shooting only 60 per cent in Friday’s loss to Sweden. Brewster was replaced by alternate Greg Drummond. Murdoch noted his team had rotated its other four players on a game-by-game basis all week, adding that nobody’s shooting was exceptional enough to merit staying in the lineup for an extra game.
Editor's note: This article was correct to fix an error that said the semifinal was decided with Jacobs count three points and go up 5-3.