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Canada's Einarson goes 1-1, Gushue drops opener at Pan Continental Curling Championships

Kerri Einarson Kerri Einarson - Curling Canada

KELOWNA, B.C. — Canada's Kerri Einarson opened the Pan Continental Curling Championships on Sunday with a 9-2 rout of Taiwan's Cynthia Lu at the Kelowna Curling Club.

But she struggled in the evening draw and lost a 10-7 decision to Japan's Satsuki Fujisawa.

The event serves as a world championship qualifier for countries outside Europe.

Einarson, from Camp Morton, Man., stole a pair in the fourth end and added a steal of three more points in the fifth to pull away against Taiwan.

Lu made a single in the sixth end and the teams shook hands after Einarson made a raise takeout for a deuce in the seventh.

In other early results, South Korea’s Eunji Gim beat Mexico’s Team Adriana Camarena 10-1, Fujisawa beat New Zealand's Jessica Smith 9-4 and American Tabitha Peterson topped Australia's Jennifer Westhagen 10-4.

In the evening draw, Einarson led 2-1 after three ends. Japan scored one in the fourth and stole two in the fifth to grab a 4-2 lead. Canada bounced back with three in the sixth to take a 5-4 lead, but Japan scored two in the seventh and eighth ends to go up 8-5.

Einarson scored two in the ninth with last rock to pull within 8-7, but couldn't produce a steal in the final end.

“I thought their team played really well, and I know for myself, I wasn’t super happy with my performance, so I’m looking to turn that around,” said second Shannon Birchard. “A couple shots here and there, and it’s a different game. I think we can just take what we learned from this game and improve going forward.”

In other late draw results, the United States crushed Taiwan 10-2 in eight ends, South Korea rocked New Zealand 15-2 in six ends, and Mexico edged Australia 8-7 in 11 ends.

Japan, South Korea and U.S. lead after opening day with 2-0 records, followed by Canada and Mexico at 1-1. New Zealand, Taiwan and Australia are 0-2.

Einarson settled for a third-place finish at the inaugural edition of the Pan Continental championship last year. She'll play winless Australia on Monday.

In men's round-robin play, Brad Gushue of St. John's, N.L., was upset 8-5 by South Korea's Jongduk Park on Sunday afternoon.

Gushue, the defending champion, needs a top-five finish to book Canada's spot in the March 30-April 7 world playdowns in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Gushue, vice-skip Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden, lead Geoff Walker and coach Caleb Flaxey also started last season’s Pan Continentals with a loss. In 2022, the United States won the opening round-robin victory against the Canadians.

This year, the Canadians are backed by alternate Jim Cotter from nearby Vernon, B.C., and national coach Jeff Stoughton.

"My draw in the fifth end was the turning point. I threw what I wanted and the ice was a little heavier in one direction than the other and we didn’t catch onto it as early as we should have and it cost us,” said Gushue.

“It’s a challenging environment to curl in; I’m not going to lie. I think there’s enough here to work with where we can play a little bit better than we did today and just hopefully not miss any more draws against two.”

Team Gushue returns to the Kelowna Curling Club on Monday morning with a game against New Zealand’s Team Anton Hood (1-0). Gushue will then play Korey Dropkin's U.S. team that's skipped by Andrew Stopera.

In other men's games, Riku Yanagisawa of Japan beat Randolph Shen of Taiwan 12-2 in six ends, Dropkin of the U.S. rocked Rayad Husain of Guyana 19-0 in six ends, and Hood of New Zealand edged Jay Merchant of Australia 8-6.

As host, Canada has an automatic entry at the March 16-24 world women's championship in Sydney, N.S.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2023.