An opening weekend round-robin game was part of the usual buildup to the playoffs for a perennial curling contender like Canada’s Brad Gushue.
It was quite the opposite for New Zealand’s Anton Hood.
The 23-year-old Auckland skip was in new territory Sunday at his first world men’s championship, playing a curling power like Canada in front of the host team’s adoring crowd.
Hood — ranked No. 188 in the world — soaked in the full TD Place experience and was still smiling afterward despite dropping an 8-2 decision.
“It’s just awesome to watch how they do it and how they play,” said Hood. “We learned so much just from that game alone.”
The fourth-ranked Gushue opened with a deuce and iced the win with a hit for three as New Zealand conceded after seven ends.
“It was pretty incredible to play in front of a crowd of (several) thousand against Canada in Canada,” Hood said. “We loved every minute of it.”
Gushue did face some anxious moments in what looked like a lopsided matchup on paper.
Hood made an angle-raise double-takeout to sit three in the second end. Gushue drew the button but still left an around-the-horn possibility that could have given New Zealand a whopping six points if made.
However, Hood played the wrong turn — using an out-turn instead of an in-turn — and nosed the stone to give up a steal.
“We dodged that bullet,” Gushue said. “Really from that point on I feel like we controlled the game and didn’t give him much of a chance.”
Hood called it a good example of a learning experience on one of the sport’s biggest stages.
“We really just needed to take a second and slow down and take that opportunity,” he said.
Canada would force Hood to make some great draws to prevent big ends. He successfully drew against four in the third end and against five Canada stones in the sixth.
Gushue improved to 2-1 after four draws while Hood remained winless at 0-3.
“We’re just going to get better and better from this point onward,” Hood said. “So we’re excited.”
In other Draw 4 matchups, defending champion Niklas Edin of Sweden defeated Scotland’s Bruce Mouat 7-4 in a rematch of last year’s Olympic final.
Switzerland’s Yannick Schwaller beat Germany’s Sixten Totzek 7-3 and Japan’s Riku Yanagisawa dumped South Korea’s Byeongjin Jeong 9-2.
Canada was scheduled to play Norway’s Magnus Ramsfjell on Sunday night.
Entering evening play, Switzerland and Sweden led the standings at 3-0. Japan and Norway were also unbeaten at 2-0 ahead of Canada and Scotland at 2-1.
“(Hopefully) we can start to get that mojo going,” Gushue said. “We’re getting closer though. I felt much better today than I did when we played yesterday.”
The top six rinks in the 13-team field at the end of round-robin play will qualify for the playoffs. Medal games are scheduled for April 9.
Gushue’s St. John’s, N.L.-based side took silver at last year’s world championship in Las Vegas. His lone world title came in 2017 at Edmonton.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press