Brad Jacobs didn’t show any jitters in his first appearance at the world men’s curling championships.
The Canadian skip opened the tournament Saturday with a 7-6 victory over Rui Liu of China.
The win was much more convincing than the score indicated. Jacobs built up a 7-2 lead while curling at a 96 per cent success rate.
“I thought we would be a little more nervous than we were, because we never played in the worlds before, and everyone’s there, and all eyes on us cheering for us,” said Jacbobs.
“It was wild, but we weren’t nervous. But because we weren’t nervous, it allowed us to come out and play our game. It was awesome all around.”
Jacobs is attempting to give Canada a fourth consecutive title. The 27-year-old Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native is the youngest Canadian skip to compete for a world championship since Edmonton’s Kevin Martin at the age of 24 in 1991.
“It was definitely everything I hoped it would be,” said Jacobs. “We were on sheet A and the whole side of sheet A was pretty much packed (with fans.) When we walked out before the game, the fans cheered. And every shot, they were cheering us throughout the game.
“Even though you’re into the game, you still hear what people say. You still hear what they yell at you, and it’s nice to have those words of encouragement.”
But he and his rink, which includes the front-end brother tandem of E.J. Harnden and Ryan Harnden and third Ryan Fry, did not need much.
The game was decided after Jacobs stole one point in both the fourth and fifth ends and scored three more in the seventh to take the commanding 7-2 lead.
Liu scored two in the eighth end, and stole one more in the ninth as Jacobs missed a takeout attempt. But Jacobs effectively ran Liu out of rocks in the 10th end, thanks to a key double takeout by E.J. Harnden, while giving China a meaningless steal of one.
“Even in the ninth end, (when) we missed that double (takeout) on my last one, we knew we were in control that whole game,” said Jacobs.
It was Jacobs’ lone game of the day. He will take on Finland (0-1) and Scotland (1-0) on Sunday.
“We’re going to have to come out and do exactly what we did against China — come out firing and try to get a (read on) the ice as quick as we possibly can.”
In the opening end, Jacobs hit and rolled behind cover in the 12-foot ring with his second shot, forcing Liu to draw to the button to score one with the hammer.
But Jacobs showed his draw skills in the second end. With Jacobs lying two, Liu took out the Canadian skip’s shot stone and rolled behind a logjam of rocks.
But another Jacobs stone remained shot rock and he deftly drew to the button to score two and take a 2-1 lead.
“We had a very good chance in the second to lay three, force (Jacobs) to one, and he ended up getting two,” said China co-coach Lorne Hamblin, a Morris, Man., native.
“But the Canadians put on a clinic. I was really pleased to see the guys come back and make him throw his last shot, because that’s what you want to do.”
Liu had a chance to score one in the third end. But rather than tie the game, he chose to blank the end and retain the hammer.
However, Liu could not take advantage of last shot in the fourth end. With his final throw, Jacobs busted up a logjam of stones, leaving three Canadian shot rocks. Liu took out the one that mattered most, but the Chinese skip’s shooter rolled too far away, enabling Jacobs to steal one and take a 3-1 lead.
“We should have had two in (the fourth end), which would have worked good, but we mis-split the house,” said Hamblin. “We were set up good to get our deuce, but then we ended up giving them a steal of one.”
Jacobs stole another point in the fifth end as he rested his final shot between a Chinese and Canadian guard. Liu missed a difficult in-off takeout attempt with his last shot, giving Jacobs a 4-1 lead.
Liu scored one in the sixth end to reduce his deficit to 4-2, but the China rink made more costly mistakes in the seventh end to erase any doubt about the outcome.
After Liu failed to bury his final shot behind cover, Jacobs took it out and scored three in the process.
“That just opened the game up,” said Jacobs. “We knew (we could) run them out of rocks, which we’re good at.”
Liu finished with an 84 per cent success rate. As a team, Canada curled 94 per cent, while China made 88 per cent of its shots.
In other opening-draw action, Sweden’s Niklas Edin overcame a 4-0 deficit to edge Finland’s Aku Kauste 7-6. The Finnish skip had a chance to tie in the 10th end as he attempted to hit and stay for two, but his shooter rolled out and he was only able to pick up one point.
Meanwhile, Jiri Snitil’s Czech rink downed Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud 8-5, and Switzerland’s Sven Michel beat Andrey Drozdov of Russia 6-4. It was Russia’s first-ever game at the worlds.
Later Saturday, China made up for its loss by whipping the Czech Republic 12-5, while Brady Clark of the U.S. won his first game by thumping Denmark’s Rasmus Stjerne 8-3.
After a first-draw bye, Scotland’s Murdoch posted a 7-5 win over Yusuke Morozumi of Japan, and Sweden’s Edin remained unbeaten with a 6-5 decision over Russia.
Following his big win, Jacobs was determined not to take other teams lightly.
“Every game is going to be a test for us, because we’re rookies at the worlds,” he said. “This is a little different. It does have a different feel when everyone’s cheering for you.”