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Retornaz upends Schwaller to top the table at KIOTI National

PICTOU COUNTY, N.S. — Both Joël Retornaz and Yannick Schwaller entered the final men’s round-robin draw of the KIOTI National undefeated but like Highlander, there could be only one standing at the top.

It was Retornaz who came away with the victory and the No. 1 playoff seed as his Italian club upended Schwaller’s Swiss squad 7-4 Friday at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.

The good times are rolling for Retornaz, who captured his second career Grand Slam of Curling men’s title last month in the HearingLife Tour Challenge.

“We really wanted to show and to bring our top performance this week and I think the team is doing great,” Retornaz said. “We won the last Slam, which was the first Slam of the season, and we want to be up there all the time.

“First goal was to make it to the playoffs, we made it with one game before the end of the pool and that was really good because the team is playing well. We were out there just trying to make ourselves comfortable today too with this last game. We thought that if we win this, we’re in a good position for the playoffs with hammer and everything. It worked out tonight, too. I’m happy and proud of my team.”

Schwaller started with the hammer and converted for a deuce in the second to open the scoring. The teams traded singles in three and four then Retornaz started to take control of the game counting a couple in the fifth to tie it 3-3.

Retornaz limited Schwaller to a single in the sixth and capitalized big time in the seventh. Team Schwaller fourth Benoit Schwarz-van Berkel made an uncharacteristic miss on his last allowing Retornaz to score a critical four points on an open hit.

Both teams were evenly matched with Team Retornaz shooting 92 per cent and Team Schwaller firing at a 91 per cent pace.

“We expect to play all games until the last end against the top teams in the world, so we can’t expect to win games early and easy,” said Retornaz, who ran Schwaller out of rocks in the eighth end. “We always have an opponent in front of us and Team Schwaller is a good team. We play them many times in the season and we’re not winning all of our games against them.

“We knew it would have been a battle, some back and forth between two top teams and it worked out well for us in the end. We were able to come back (from) an early, small lead for them, but we just kept working and kept trying to play our game. As I said, it worked well in the end for us.”

Elsewhere in Draw 15, Scotland’s Team James Craik defeated Team Korey Dropkin of the United States 9-4, Canada’s Team Kevin Koe clipped Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat 7-6 in an extra end and Japan’s Team Riku Yanagisawa went out on a high note with a 6-5 extra-end win over Canada’s Team Reid Carruthers.

There were seven teams tied with 2-2 records for the final three playoff spots with Mouat, Craik and Dropkin all advancing based on draw-to-the-button shootout scores.

Koe and fellow Canadian clubs Team Aaron Sluchinski, Team Matt Dunstone and Team Brad Gushue missed the cut.

That snapped an unreal streak of 27 consecutive playoff appearances for Gushue, who reached 10 finals and won five championships during that stretch.

Yanagisawa (1-3) and Carruthers (0-4) had already been eliminated.

Retornaz will play Dropkin in Saturday’s quarterfinals while Mouat meets Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin (3-1), Canada’s Team Brendan Bottcher (3-1) goes up against Scotland’s Team Ross Whyte (3-1) and Craik, who qualified in his Grand Slam major debut, takes on Schwaller (3-1).

KIOTI National: Scores | Standings | Draw Schedule | Broadcast Schedule


The KIOTI National continues with the final women’s round-robin draw at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT on Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific, Sportsnet+ (Canada) and (international).


The KIOTI National is the second event of the Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world. … The semifinals are also on tap Saturday with both finals scheduled for Sunday.