Canada's Jeff Stoughton was quick out of the starting gate Saturday at the Ford World Men's Curling Championship.
His Winnipeg rink downed Denmark's Tommy Stjerne 9-5 after an 8-4 defeat of Switzerland's Christof Schwaller in the opening draw to sit at 2-0. Neither game went the distance as Stjerne shook hands after eight ends and Schwaller conceded after nine.
"Good day, two and oh, that's perfect," Stoughton said. "That's all we can ask for. It doesn't matter how we get them. We're taking them."
Stoughton, third Jon Mead, second Reid Carruthers and lead Steve Gould took different paths to their two victories.
They were never in real trouble versus Switzerland, but against Denmark they were momentarily scrambling after giving up a steal of three in the third end to trail 4-2
Canada stole a big four points back in the sixth to get the upper hand on Stjerne, whose team is the oldest in the field with an average age of 50.
"We knew we were going to get some misses, so we took our time and were patient and finally got our big end to take control of the game," Stoughton said.
The world championship features 12 teams. The four teams with the best record at the conclusion of the preliminary round Thursday advance to the Page playoffs.
Canada has just one game scheduled Sunday and it will be against Germany's Andy Kapp, who holds the record for world championship victories with a career 66, but who has yet to win a world title. Kapp skipped Germany to silver medals in 1997 and 2007.
Thomas Dufour of France joined Canada atop the standings with a pair of wins Saturday. Norway's Thomas Ulsrud, China's Yansong Ji, Pete Fenson of the U.S. and Scotland's Tom Brewster were 1-0. Switzerland, Germany, Sweden's Niklas Edin and Jiri Snitil of the Czech Republic were 0-1, while Denmark and Dong Keun Lee of South Korea were 0-2.
Kapp fell 6-4 to China, while Ulsrud, the Olympic and world silver medallist last year, needed an extra end to get by South Korea 8-7 in the opening draw.
Stoughton's rink may be from Manitoba, but they were loudly supported by near-capacity crowds Saturday at Regina's Brandt Centre. That gave the skip a rush of adrenaline he had to ride out in the first few ends versus Switzerland.
"I don't think my heart got down under 100 until the fourth end," Stoughton said. "It was exciting. It takes a lot out of you and you have to calm down a little bit. It's great to get No. 1, that's for sure.
"We were hoping the place would be packed and they'd be cheering for Canada. Why wouldn't they? If it was a Saskatchewan team playing in Winnipeg, we would adopt them just as quickly as Regina is adopting us."
Canada's comeback versus Denmark began with excellent shotmaking by Carruthers and Mead in the sixth end as they positioned rocks on or around the button behind cover.
A couple of misses by Denmark third Anders Soderblom had Stjerne facing low percentage shots to try and limit the damage. After wrecking on a guard attempting a takeout through a port, he sailed the last shot of the end wide to give up the steal of four and fall behind 7-4 to the hosts.
Stjerne, 53, is skipping Denmark at the world championships for the eighth time in his career, but this is his first appearance since 1998. He defeated a team skipped by his own son Rasmus, the 2009 world junior champion, in an extra end at the national championship to earn a return trip.
"That was terrible in the sixth end, but we would have maybe lost the game anyway," Stjerne said. "I'm not disappointed in the loss.
"This is definitely my last performance in a worlds. I just want to enjoy this."
Canada's first game versus Switzerland required measurements of stones in the first, eighth and ninth ends. The Canadians tried to score a pair with the hammer in the first end, but was held to one point. The measurements went their way in the eighth and ninth, however, as they scored a single point to lead 6-4 and then stole two the following end.
The foursome curled an outstanding 96 per cent as a team versus Ontario's Glenn Howard to win the Tim Hortons Brier final last month in London, Ont. They weren't quite as sharp to open the world championship at 82 per cent.
"We had a little struggle out there just getting used to the atmosphere and the rocks and the ice," Stoughton said. "Once we got onto it a little bit better, we made a couple of shots."
The skip made a key shot in the ninth and had Schwaller drawing against three Canadian stones with the last shot of the end. Schwaller was just happy to give up the steal of two.
"We needed a double there, just to make sure they didn't get an easy deuce," Stoughton said. "The skipper's got to make one once in awhile so it was good timing."
Canada has won 32 world men's curling championships since the first one was held in 1959. Canada has also won three of the last four: Kevin Koe (2010), Kevin Martin (2008) and Glenn Howard (2007).