CAMROSE, Alta. — The memories started flowing as soon as Benoît Schwarz walked into Encana Arena and looked up in the lobby to see pictures of past events at the venue.
Among them is a collage from the 2018 Canadian Open when Schwarz captured his first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title with Peter de Cruz’s team.
Schwarz, who now throws fourth stones for skip Yannick Schwaller, was beaming with a smile when talking about playing in Encana Arena again five years later for the 2023 edition of the Co-op Canadian Open.
“It feels super good,” Schwarz said. “Unfortunately, in a way, I’m the only one left from the team so I cannot share this feeling with the others, but I sent them back a couple of pictures, so it’s nice.
“It’s a nice touch that they did a picture and in itself, it’s a very nice building. Good memories from the last time.”
Schwaller’s Swiss side scored their first victory with a 6-3 decision over Team Wouter Gosgens from the Netherlands during Draw 7 action Wednesday.
Schwaller (1-1) remains in the B-side of the triple knockout preliminary round while Team Gosgens, making their top-tier Grand Slam series debut this week, dropped to 0-2 and into the C-side. Teams must win three games before they lose three in order to qualify for the playoffs.
“For sure, a big win because it’s their first Slam,” said Schwarz, who shot 92 per cent in the game. “When you’re playing your first, there’s always extra motivation. Those Dutch, they’re playing actually very solid. It’s no surprise that they qualified, I think.”
Gosgens opened with the hammer but was limited to one point and Schwaller went to work counting three for the lead in the second stanza. The teams alternated singles in the third and fourth and Schwaller swiped one in the fifth to make it 5-2.
It was lone points back and forth again in the sixth and seventh. Gosgens held the hammer coming home, however, Schwarz ran him out of rocks before he could throw his skip stones.
Elsewhere, WFG Masters champions Team Joël Retornaz also improved to a 1-1 record by an identical score defeating Team Reid Carruthers 6-3.
“It feels good because it’s always a win and we needed one if we wanted to be positive in this competition,” Retornaz said. “We lost yesterday in our opening game and we had a good performance today. It was a good bounce back to win this one against a good team.”
Team Retornaz made history last month by becoming the first Italian club to capture a Grand Slam title after defeating Team Bruce Mouat in the men’s final. Mouat turned the tables claiming a victory in their rematch this past weekend in the Mercure Perth Masters.
Retornaz said his team is feeling good overall coming off of back-to-back finals appearances on tour.
“We had a nice break for Christmas, we started tough in Perth with good performances in the final there,” Retornaz said. “We’re confident and we just want to play our best and see what happens here.”
It’s the first event for Carruthers (0-2) with Brad Jacobs subbing at third after the Winnipeg club mutually parted ways with Jason Gunnlaugson over the holiday break.
Meanwhile, Calgary’s Team Brendan Bottcher and Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., reached the A-finals with 2-0 records.
Bottcher scored three sets of deuces and stole a point to beat Toronto’s Team John Epping 7-2 while Gushue got past Scotland’s Team Ross Whyte 5-1 thanks to a key steal of three points in the fifth end.
Epping and Whyte drop down into the B-side with 1-1 records.
Triple knockout action continues with Draw 8 at 10 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. local time. Single draw tickets plus full-event, weekend and daily passes are available at the Encana Arena box office and online at camrosegsoc.goigniter.com.
NOTES: The Co-op Canadian Open is the fourth event of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season with 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world at Encana Arena. … Broadcast coverage of the Co-op Canadian Open begins Thursday at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT on Sportsnet and streaming online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or Yare (international). … Triple knockout action runs through to Saturday morning. The quarterfinals are scheduled for Saturday afternoon followed by the semifinals in the evening. Both finals are set for Sunday.