Canada's Bottcher gets rock intel from rival for world curling championship

·4 min read

CALGARY — A Canadian rival's assist fills a gap for Brendan Bottcher at the men's world curling championship.

The world championship stones in Calgary are not the rocks Bottcher and teammates threw to win a Canadian title last month in the same arena.

The World Curling Federation's stones employed at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre were last tossed at the 2019 men's world championship in Lethbridge, Alta., where Kevin Koe represented Canada.

Colton Flasch, Koe's second that year, has supplied Bottcher's foursome with a "rock book" that is a scouting report on each stone's movement.

"He gave us his book from the '19 worlds," Bottcher third Darren Moulding said. "That just shows us Canadian curlers, we've got each other's backs."

Bottcher, Moulding and front end Brad Thiessen and Karrick Martin from Edmonton came from behind to beat Scotland's Bruce Mouat 9-6 in Canada's opener Friday.

The hosts were to face Japan in an evening draw.

Down 5-2 at the fifth-end break, Canada scored two in the sixth, seventh and ninth ends to be up 8-6 coming home without last-rock advantage.

The Scots couldn't generate a deuce with hammer and gave up a steal of one. Mouat, a bronze medallist in 2018, is a contender for the title in Calgary.

"We were resilient that game," Bottcher said. "We battled hard. That was a big win for us in the course of the week.

"I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a little bit of butterflies. It's a pretty cool feeling. We've been wearing the (Canada) jerseys for a few days now. We're playing in a world championship. That's frigging cool."

Koe defeated Bottcher in the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier final and took silver in Lethbridge behind champion Niklas Edin of Sweden.

Nine of 14 skips in this year's BK Tires and OK Tire World Men's Curling championship also competed in Lethbridge.

They have stone intelligence the Canadians would lack if not for Flasch's generosity.

"We are all Team Canada and anything to help them," Flasch wrote in a message to The Canadian Press.

"I would think with no information they would be at a slight disadvantage and any extra information early in the week would only help them."

The WCF's stones feel lighter and not quite as lively in the house as the Brier rocks, said Moulding.

Norway, Italy and the Russian Curling Federation Team skipped by Sergey Glukhov also opened with wins Friday.

Glukhov's official team name is Russian Curling Federation because of World Anti-Doping Agency sanctions against his country.

After scoring two in the sixth end, Bottcher wrested momentum away from Mouat in the seventh. The Canadian skip's last stone of the end skimmed by a guard for a tap to lie three.

Mouat missed an attempted triple takeout for a multi-point end. Bottcher stole two to lead 6-5.

No spectators are allowed in the arena, which was also the case at the Canadian men's, women's and mixed championship in Calgary preceding the men's world event.

Participants were subject to quarantine and testing before getting on the ice. They're confined to the arena and the hotel while competing to avoid the COVID-19 virus.

"We feel safe," Norwegian third Torger Nergaard said. "They had a few test events before the guys from Norway came, so that's good."

The top two teams in the round-robin standings earn byes to the semifinals April 10.

Third through sixth compete in qualification games with third versus sixth and fourth versus fifth.

Qualification winners advance to the semifinals. The gold and bronze-medal games are April 11.

Head-to-head results, and then pre-game draw-the-button distances, solve ties.

The top six teams qualify their countries to compete in men's curling in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Norway's Steffan Walstad needed an extra end to get by Denmark's Mads Noergaard 7-6, RCF downed Jaap Van Doorp of the Netherlands 8-5 and Retornaz thumped South Korea's Jeong Yeong-seok 7-1 in the morning draw.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press