Canada Winter Games - Curling Semi -Finals

Friday, 1st March 2019

Hayato Sato admits, it wasn’t the most comfortable position to be in.

Tied 5-5 in an extra end and needing to draw the four-foot circle for the win, the British Columbia skip settled into the hack to attempt to deliver the final blow against Manitoba’s Graham Loewen in a 2019 Canada Winter Games curling semi-final at Pidherney Centre in Red Deer late Friday night.

“My heart was definitely racing, but it was go back to the process of line and weight - that’s all it is. We were lucky we had the little out there, but I think we made the right call and got away with it,” said Sato.

His draw failed to curl as much as expected, but he got a rub off a Loewen stone and made the final shot count for the 6-5 win and a berth into Saturday’s 10 a.m. gold-medal final against Ontario’s Daniel Del Conte.

Del Conte was fortunate in escaping with a 6-3 win over Newfoundland and Labrador’s Nathan Young in the other semi, when Young’s draw to the eight foot for the win sailed too deep and Del Conte stole three points for the victory.

In women’s play, Hayley Bergman’s Manitoba squad doubled New Brunswick’s Erica Cluff 6-3 and, like her provincial mate Del Conte, Ontario’s Bella Croisier watched Nova Scotia’s Cally Moore go too deep with her draw to steal a 6-5 victory.

Croisier now meets Bergman at 10 a.m. Saturday for the women’s gold. Cluff faces Moore for women’s bronze and Loewen tackles Young for bronze, also at 10 a.m.

“I was like, ‘The line was pretty good, but they weren’t touching it,’ ” Sato said of his last-shot victory in which his sweepers Joshua Miki and Troy Chong anxiously watched and weren;t laying a broom to the shot.

The teams had traded timeouts on the final few shots of the extra ninth end.

“He was just going through the options and wanted to see what I liked (for a final shot),” Sato said of coach Bryan Miki, a Brier and World champion with B.C. in 2000. “I liked the out-turn draw and threw it a little heavy on my first shot, but got a feel for draw weight and it worked out in the end.”

And how.

B.C. had lost just once this week, back in Draw 4 in a 6-3 loss to the same Manitoba team he beat Friday. Since then Sato’s team has rattled off seven straight wins and finished first in the round-robin, giving him last-rock advantage and selection of rocks in the final.

“Last year we were in St. Andrews (for the Canadian U-18 championships) and we didn’t even make playoffs, so it definitely feels good that we’ve made it this far and hard work is paying off,” Sato said of his week. “Everyone has been playing well and they’re giving me easy shots. It’s always nice when I get to just make open hits and open draws and I’m proud of my team for helping me out there.”

Like B.C., Ontario also finished 9-1 in round-robin play, but the one loss came at the hands of Sato, so Del Conte will have a chance to avenge the 9-7 setback.

As for the women, Bergman’s team continues to roll as Manitoba jumped out to a 4-1 lead on New Brunswick at the break and coasted to the 6-3 win.

“We weren’t sure we were going to make it this far. Our goals changed during the week, but I think mentally we’re in a really good place. It’ll be really hard, but we can focus on making sure it’s just another game to us,” Bergman said of the chance at the gold medal.

“I expect a good game. We played them earlier on and it was a solid game, it was just a few shots here and there that ended up swinging the game the way it did,” she said of the 5-3 loss in Draw 9 in which Croisier scored three in the sixth end to help take it.

“We’re more than happy,” Bergman said of her current position. “No matter what happens (Saturday). I’m sure if we get the silver we would be a little disappointed, but overall we’ve had such a great week and we’re happy with that.”

Earlier in the day, in the final round-robin draw on Friday morning, Sato came back from a 4-2 deficit at the midway break to record a three-ender in the fifth and a steal of two in the sixth on the way to a 7-5 win over Alberta. That clinched first place for the B. C. men at 9-1, identical to Del Conte’s record, but the head-to-head victory earlier in the week gave Sato the nod.

Newfoundland and Labrador placed third and Alberta fourth with similar 7-3 marks while Manitoba (6-4) and New Brunswick (5-5) were fifth and sixth, respectively, to clinch the playoff spots. On the women’s side, Ontario’s Croisier finished atop the standings at 9-1, ahead of Manitoba at 8-2 and Alberta at 7-3. Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan were next at 6-4 with New Brunswick at 5-5.

In the quarter-finals in the afternoon, Nova Scotia toppled Saskatchewan 6-4 and New Brunswick edged Alberta 5-4 in women’s play, while Newfoundland and Labrador downed New Brunswick 6-2 and Manitoba downed Alberta 5-3.