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Canada's Bottcher beats Italy's Retornaz 7-4 at world men's curling championship

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CALGARY — Coming off an upset loss and with a contender-heavy schedule on the horizon, Canada's Brendan Bottcher was in desperate need of a solid victory on Tuesday afternoon.

His Edmonton-based team delivered with a 7-4 win over Italy's Joel Retornaz at the BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men's Curling Championship.

Bottcher wanted to avoid a third round-robin loss with tough matchups against Russia, defending champion Sweden and Norway still to come. 

"Everyone is really good and everyone loves to beat Canada," Bottcher said of the competition. "So the best game they play all week is often against us. We knew that going in. Everyone told us that was the case. 

"But now we're experiencing it and we really have to play our A-game every game."

Bottcher made it a two-win day with a 6-5 victory over China's Qiang Zou in the evening. Bottcher drew the four-foot ring for the single point in the 10th end.

"There's certainly no easy games out here," Bottcher said. "I thought we had control for most of the game and that carried through to hammer in the last end."

In the early game, things turned in the sixth end when Retornaz was drawing against three. His stone was light, giving Canada a steal and a 6-3 lead.

Canada ran Italy out of rocks in the 10th to win it. 

"We've been really resilient this week," Bottcher said. "It hasn't been easy at times. We've had ups, we've had downs, we've been fighting the ice a little bit. 

"There's a lot that goes into a world championship and this is our first time here. We're learning as we go a little bit."

In other afternoon games, Norway's Steffen Walstad beat Switzerland's Peter de Cruz 10-5, Scotland's Bruce Mouat doubled Japan's Yuta Matsumura 6-3 and Germany's Sixten Totzek topped Denmark's Mads Norgard 8-6.

Russia's Sergey Glukhov edged Italy 8-7 in the evening. Scotland defeated Switzerland 7-4 and Sweden's Niklas Edin dumped South Korea's Yeong-Seok Jeong 10-2.

After 15 draws, Norway led at 7-1 while Canada was tied at 7-2 with Sweden, Russia and Scotland. American John Shuster was in sixth place at 5-3 ahead of Switzerland (5-4) and Italy (4-5).

The top six teams will reach the playoffs. 

Bottcher, third Darren Moulding, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin will close out their round-robin schedule Friday against Germany.

The top two finishers in the 14-team round-robin earn byes to the semifinals on Saturday. 

Teams sitting third through sixth in the standings will compete in qualification games with winners to reach the final four. Medal games are set for Sunday. 

Edin beat Canada's Kevin Koe in the 2019 world championship final in Lethbridge, Alta. The 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic.

The top six teams will also earn spots for their respective countries at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

No spectators are allowed in the WinSport Arena, which was also the case at the recent Canadian men's, women's and mixed doubles championships.

Two Grand Slams are next on the bubble calendar before the world women's playdowns in late April.

Notes: Teams were advised via email that the rocks would be sanded after Tuesday's late-night practice session, a WCF spokeswoman said. ... Stone papering was a hot topic on the penultimate day of last month's Tim Hortons Brier. A communication breakdown resulted in some players not being informed of the sanding before their pre-game practice.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press