Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Team Koe cruises in round-robin finale, readies for semifinal vs. USA

Canada is now just two wins away from its fourth straight Olympic gold in men’s curling, after a comfortable win to finish up round-robin play at PyeongChang 2018.

The 8-3 victory over Denmark in seven ends on Wednesday morning (Canadian time) gives Kevin Koe’s rink a final record of 6-3, good enough for second place behind Sweden (7-2). It sets up a semifinal against the United States (5-4), who defeated Canada in an extra-end nail-biter earlier in the round robin.

Although a three-game losing streak during the competition did raise some questions about the team of Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert, the Canadians concluded the round robin with two solid wins that should give them momentum in the medal round.

Canada’s skip Kevin Koe watches teammates Ben Hebert, right, and Brent Laing sweep the ice during a men’s curling match against Japan at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Speaking of momentum, the draw against Denmark on Day 12 couldn’t have started brighter for Team Koe, who took advantage of having hammer in the first end to put up a massive four points.

Danish skip Rasmus Stjerne hit and stuck with the hammer for one point in the second, but Koe got that point back quickly, with a final-stone draw to the button in the third.

The Danes, who finished in last place in the 10-team competition, gamely tried to get back into things, scoring another point in the fourth end. But Canada erupted for another big end in the fifth, aided by a nice double runback by Koe on his first stone. In all, Canada put another three points on the board to go up 8-2 at the break.

The lopsided score line did prompt a change from Canada at that point. Alternate Scott Pfeifer got to see his first action of the PyeongChang Games, coming in to replace lead Ben Hebert.

Realizing their apparent fate but choosing to persist anyway, Denmark blanked the sixth end. They followed up with another single point in the seventh and, perhaps to soak up as many remaining moments of their Olympic experience as possible, delayed the handshakes by a few minutes.

Canada vs USA – Curling Mens Round Robin at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Curling Centre on February 19, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.(Photo by Vincent Ethier/COC)

But Denmark would eventually accept the inevitable and concede before the eighth end could begin, giving Team Koe the chance to perhaps scope out its potential medal-round opponents at the Gangneung Curling Centre.

The semifinal draw is scheduled for Thursday morning (6:05 a.m. ET/3:05 a.m. PT). With a loss, Canada would compete for bronze at 1:35 a.m. ET Friday (10:35 p.m. PT Thursday), while a win would take them to the gold medal final at 1:35 a.m. ET Saturday (10:35 p.m. PT Friday).