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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 to improve to 6-2 at the BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship.

Bottcher, who was to play China’s Qiang Zou in the evening, wanted to avoid a third loss with Russia, Sweden and Norway — the top three teams in the standings entering Draw 14 — on tap through Thursday.

“Everyone is really good and everyone loves to beat Canada,” Bottcher said of the round-robin. “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.”

The Italians put some early pressure on as Bottcher gave up a steal in the second end. His draw to the eight-foot ring was heavy in the third and he had to settle for a single. 

Retornaz followed with a soft tap for a deuce but Bottcher answered with a strong hit-and-roll in the fifth end that set up a draw for two.

“We were able to claw back and gain a little bit of momentum with a good deuce in five and then come out and play a really good second half,” Bottcher said.

The game 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.

Entering the evening draw, Norway was in first place at 7-1 while Canada was in a four-way tie for second spot at 6-2 with Scotland, Sweden’s Niklas Edin and Russia’s Sergey Glukhov. 

Switzerland and American John Shuster were next at 5-3 and Italy was in eighth place at 4-4. 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.

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

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Alberta

Gustavsson leads AHL Senators in 4-2 win over Heat

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CALGARY — Filip Gustavsson stopped 30 shots as the Belleville Senators doubled up the Stockton Heat 4-2 on Wednesday in American Hockey League play.

Lassi Thomson, Egor Sokolov, Mark Kastelic and Parker Kelly scored to help the Senators (8-12-1) halt a three-game slide.

Matthew Phillips and Zac Leslie replied for the Heat (10-12-1).

Garret Sparks stopped 28-of-31 shots for Stockton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

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CALGARY — The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks.

Alberta Education said Wednesday that it approved requests from public and Catholic schools in the city to make the move to online learning.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a release that some school boards are dealing with operational pressures due to rising COVID-19 cases.

“The safety of students and staff is my top priority, which is why I am responding to the boards’ requests and respecting their autonomy,” she said.

“By having a clear process in place, we are giving them flexibility to move to at-home learning when necessary.”

The province said it has not closed any schools for health reasons, and any decision to move a portion of a school to at-home learning is at the discretion of each school board.

About 19 per cent of schools have COVID-19 alerts or outbreaks. Nine schools are currently doing online learning.

Marilyn Dennis, board chair with the Calgary Board of Education, said in the release that the greatest impacts of COVID-19 have been in schools with higher grades.

Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, also said there has been a sharp rise in cases among school-aged Albertans.

The province, with 15,569 active infections, currently has the highest rate of active cases in Canada.

On Wednesday, the province reported 1,412 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths due to the virus. There were 420 people in hospital due to COVID-19, with 92 in intensive care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021.

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