New Zealand men record historic first World Juniors win

  • New Zealand skip, Matthew Neilson © WCF / Richard Gray

New Zealand men made curling history by qualifying for the World Junior Championships for the first time, but Matt Neilson’s team went on to write a further chapter in the story. In the championship’s opening session on Saturday evening they defeated Italy for a first-ever win at this level in the Queens Place Emera Centre, Liverpool, Nova Scotia, in Canada.

In their game against Italy, a steal of one point in the eighth end gave New Zealand a 4-2 lead. Italy responded with a score of two points in the ninth end to level the game at 4-4.

In the tenth end, New Zealand had last stone advantage and their fourth player Anton Hood held his nerve to play a hit and stay to score the one point that gave his team a 5-4 victory.

Afterwards, New Zealand skip Matt Neilson said, “that shakes off a bit of nerves. It’s a big thing coming over here but once we were out in the first game, we started to feel good. I definitely had a shaky hand holding the broom [for the last shot] trying to hold it straight, but I have a lot of confidence in the guys and a lot of confidence in the shots.”

He added, “making history again… it’s getting to be a habit. We hope it won’t stop there. We want to keep ploughing through and making the people at home proud…that’s what it’s all about.”

Meanwhile an umpire’s measure on the last stone of an extra end meant that defending champions Canada opened their campaign with a defeat to United States.

Canada scored three points in the fourth end to move into a 4-1 lead, but the Americans also scored three points – in the eighth end, to level the score at 6-6. The teams then swapped single points in the last two regulation ends to take the game to an extra end.

United States skip Andrew Stopera had last stone advantage in the extra end and he played an in-turn draw to get inside two Canadian stones already sitting in the house. When this shot came to rest, there was little between the stones and after an umpire’s measure, United States scored the one point that gave them the game, by 8-7.

Afterwards, Stopera said, “we had to battle the whole way there, and to go down to a three against a team like that then fight back and put some ends together feels really good. It’s never over against those guys. We feel really good about this first win, but there’s a lot of curling to go this week.”

Elsewhere in the opening session, Scotland beat Sweden by 11-4, with a steal of four points in the fifth end helping them to build their score. Afterwards, Scottish skip Ross Whyte said, “we really turned up for the first half of that game and tried to put the foot on the gas. We did that, so we’re really pleased. We put some pressure on them and they struggled a wee bit. We had good communication and a good grip of the ice, so hopefully we can keep that going.”

In the other two games of the session, Germany beat China by 6-3 while Norway were 9-6 winners over Switzerland. Norwegian skip Magnus Ramsjfell said, “we were on to it from the start and that’s what we were focussing on. We wanted to carry forward the momentum from the Norwegian nationals where we won - I think we did that.”

Results and standings:

Session one: Sweden 4-11 Scotland; Canada 7-8 United States; Norway 9-6 Switzerland; China 3-6 Germany; New Zealand 5-4 Italy.

Standings after session one (W-L):

Germany 1-0
Norway 1-0
New Zealand 1-0
Scotland 1-0
United States 1-0
Canada 0-1
China 0-1
Italy 0-1
Switzerland 0-1
Sweden 0-1

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