Team Koe (WCF photo by Celine Stucki) wins to sweep the Curling World Cup Suzhou for Canada.
Suzhou, China - Canada are guaranteed one team in each discipline at the Curling World Cup Grand Final, in Beijing, China next May, after their women's, men's and mixed doubles teams won each final at the inaugural Curling World Cup leg in the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre in Suzhou, China.
After Canada's mixed doubles and women's victories, earlier on Sunday (16 September), the newly formed men's team skipped by Kevin Koe - comprising of third BJ Neufeld, second Colton Flasch and lead Ben Hebert - defeated Norway 6-5.
A crucial error by Norwegian skip Steffen Walstad in the second end cost his side three points and gave the Canadians an early advantage which they never looked like relinquishing.
"The second was a big end and after that we managed to keep control," Koe said. "We weren't really in trouble in any end. He had an unfortunate one there on his last, I think it picked. We got a break there, we capitalised and we played solid."
In the third end, Koe was slightly too heavy with his last stone and missed the chance of a steal, offering a relieved Walstad the opportunity for a simple tap back, for one point, which reduced arrears to 3-2.
A mistake by Norway third Markus Hoeiberg - crashing his own guard - allowed Canada to claim two points in the fourth end and a 5-2 lead at the break.
Although Norway reduced the scores by one in the fifth end, Canada never looked vulnerable and Team Walstad couldn't capitalise on the hammer in the seventh to go into the last end trailing 4-6.
Down to the final shot, Norway had two counting stones in the house, one of which was removed with a straight-forward takeout by Koe for a final score of 6-5.
Koe reflected: "We're really happy. This is the first event of the year and we hadn't played together before properly. There's some really good teams here, we didn't know what to expect.
"It's an outstanding facility here. Whoever gets to play in these are pretty lucky and we're really glad we get to play in another one at the end of the year in the Grand Final. That will be fun too."
Steffen Walstad was understandably disappointed with vital errors at crucial points in the match.
"They're a better team," he said. "We were struggling even in the beginning. My last one in the second was not even close. They are playing a lot better and deserved to win this one, we'll have to come back a lot stronger next time.
"In this field, it's pretty good to have gotten to the final. I think, in time, we'll look back and be pretty happy about the result, if not too happy about the performance in the final. We're playing one of the best teams in the world so even if we were playing well it would be tough to beat them.
Team Walstad hope to be selected to compete in the Curling World Cup third leg in Jonkoping, Sweden in January, if they win the Norwegian nationals later this year.
For the Grand Final the host country, the three winners from the first three legs, the current world champions and a 'special invite' team - such as the reigning Olympic champions - will all earn places.
Those teams will be joined by the two highest ranked Member Associations from the Curling World Cup ranking list that have not yet qualified.
If three different teams win each leg from the same Member Association, all those teams would qualify for the Grand Final.
However, if a team of athletes from one Member Association wins more than one leg of the Curling World Cup, they will receive one space at the Grand Final for their Member Association.
The Curling World Cup ranking list would then be used to determine the other qualifiers, with the next highest ranked Member Association not yet qualified after the first three legs offered a place. The same process will be followed if, for instance, a Curling World Cup stage winner and a world champion team are the same.
The Curling World Cup ranking list, in each discipline, is a cumulation of Curling World Cup points earned by the competing Member Associations at each leg of the series.
Teams are handed three points for a win in eight ends and two points if they win after a shoot-out. The team that loses the shoot-out gets a single point and a losing team after eight ends gets no points. In addition, the winning team, in each discipline, will get ten points and the runner-up five points.
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