Italy continued their strong streak in the 2022 World Men’s Curling Championship playoffs in Las Vegas, NV.
Joel Retornaz’s foursome have now won five in a row and finished the round robin in third place at 8-4. Their second and third straight wins came on that crazy Thursday, in which they beat Switzerland for a time violation and beat the Czech Republic despite losing a player to ejection.
The winning streak is starting to look like third Italian Amos Mosaner at February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, where he and mixed doubles partner Stefania Constantini crushed the entire field to claim Olympic gold.
It was the first title of Italian curling champion. This Retornaz race also marks the first time that Italy has reached the qualifiers for any (adult) World Championship.
Italy will face the Swiss in one of two playoff qualifiers on Saturday, with the winner meeting Sweden (9-3) in one of two semi-finals. Yannick Schwaller’s Bern side qualified despite going 6-6 in the round robin when Korea lost their final round robin game 8-7 in an extra end against the Netherlands .
In this match, Korean skip Kim Soo-Hyuk made one of the greatest curling shots ever. In the 10th end, with one second remaining on his clock, Kim played an in-off on a very long guard just off the side cushion against three Dutch counters. He cornered the shooter to score a point and force an extra volley.
Korea and Germany also finished 6-6 but, due to the Draw Shot Challenge score, missed the playoff draw. There are no ties at the World Championships.
The other playoff qualification will see hosts USA (7-5) take on Scotland (7-5) with the winner to face Canada (10-2) in the semi-finals.
Scotsman Kyle Waddell, with Ross Paterson delivering fourth rock, won his final round robin match 9-7 against Schwaller.
“We tried not to be too worried,” Waddell said. “I’m really happy with where we are, especially after the bad day yesterday, we felt we didn’t do ourselves justice yesterday.”
Canadian Brad Gushue beat Denmark’s Tobias Thune 9-2 in just six ends to claim first place in the playoffs.
“We’ve been fighting for the hammer all week, and now we don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Gushue said. “It’s an advantage to have, especially if we meet Nik in the playoffs.”
Nik, of course, refers to Swedish captain Niklas Edin, three-time reigning world champion and holder of three Olympic medals of all colors.
Edin and his Beijing Olympic champions beat Norway 7-6 in their round robin final to clinch second place and a critical semi-final spot.
“It was a super important win,” Edin said. “That was the frustrating part when we couldn’t control the ice, we didn’t play well in that game and we were lucky to win it. Making the semi-finals is a big relief.
Norway and the Czech Republic finished 5-7 while Finland finished at 4-8. The Dutch finished 3-9 while Denmark finished 2-10.
A USA victory over Scotland would continue to validate Korey Dropkin’s impressive performance at the Orleans hotel/casino. After losing back-to-back playoff games to John Shuster at the Olympic Trials, the young Dropkin team was nominated to represent the United States in Las Vegas.
The team curled well, winning two key games a day before surprising Canada with a 10-6 score.