Canadian curlers can't get cocky

By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — International curling sometimes seems like a giant game of rope-a-dope when it comes to the Canadians.

How many times has it happened?

The curling Canucks go through the round-robin like they were playing against pylons and then, when they get to the playoffs all cocky and overconfident, somebody rises up and sucker punches them.

Down goes Canada!

It’s been Kevin Martin’s story.

Quite possibly the greatest curler in history, the Edmonton skip has one gold medal to show for a previous two Olympics and four world championships.

It’s been Canada’s story, too.

Three Olympics and one gold medal in men’s and one gold medal in women’s is not what Canadians figured for a sport the Scots invented, but Canada perfected.

So when Martin hits a second straight country with a five-ender early and runs up the score to 10-3 with Denmark’s Ulrik Schmidt shaking hands after five here Friday, should you start to get juuuuussst a little nervous instead of confident.

With any other country, it would work the other way.

But with Canada, when it looks too easy, it usually ends badly.

Martin was forced to throw his last rock in opening-day victories against Thomas Ulsrud and his jester-panted people from Norway and four-time Olympian Andy Kapp of Germany.

But since then, it’s been a steady stream of blowouts, starting with a 7-3 win over Niklas Edin of Sweden, a 12-5 victory over Thomas Dufour of France and the 10-3 clobbering of Schmidt Friday.

And with Canada clear and away at 5-0, regardless what happens tonight against David Murdoch of Great Britain — the world champion who has won four consecutive games against Martin, three of them at last year’s Worlds — a spot in the semifinals is pretty much guaranteed for Canada again.

Second Marc Kennedy says it’s weird how it’s worked.

“We still haven’t played a team at their best. I don’t understand why teams don’t play better against us. Maybe they’re intimidated or something. I don’t know what it is,” he said.

So how is it that Murdoch’s team, which is in a tad of trouble with a 2-2 record out of the gate, beat Martin all three times including the finals at the Worlds and then at the TSN Skins Game on the way here?

“They tend to rise to the occasion against us,” said Kennedy.

Third John Morris said he’s not bothered by the lack of competition since the first day of play.

“We had good games against Norway and Germany. You need a mix of close games, and games like this. We want to keep learning the ice. We know the round-robin doesn’t mean anything once you’ve made it into the playoffs. You have to win the semifinal and win the final to get the gold medal,” he said.

“You play who you play,” said lead Ben Hebert. “We’re ready. We were ready for Norway the first day. We’ve been ready for every team every game. We just have to keep coming to the rink ready to play.”

Martin says his team is doing what he wants them to be doing.

“The guys are shooting well,” he said.

But yesterday, the stats said otherwise.

Against Norway and Germany, they were hitting 90%. Against Denmark, Martin was 70% and Morris 75%.

Maybe it’s best to just keep reading the scoreboard. But with the history here, it might be a good thing if Murdoch rose up and bit these guys again.

On the other hand …

“It could his back to the wall if we beat him. That would give him three losses. It’s a big game for us.”

They could use a big game.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

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