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Canadians and Danes try to relax before 3-4 playoff game at men's curling worlds

VICTORIA - Brad Jacobs did not have time to smell the cherry blossoms, go whale watching or visit some of Victoria's other scenic sites Friday.
Team Canada skip Brad Jacobs lays on the floor as he relaxes for a moment during a practice session at the World Men's Curling Championship in Victoria, B.C. Friday, April 5, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VICTORIA - Brad Jacobs did not have time to smell the cherry blossoms, go whale watching or visit some of Victoria's other scenic sites Friday.

Instead, he and his Northern Ontario rinkmates went to their hotel spa in a bid to relax prior to Saturday's do-or-die playoff game against Denmark at the world men's curling championships.

"We're still alive in this thing, and I think what's huge for us is having the whole day off to just rest the body and rest the mind," said Jacobs.

Canada was relegated to fourth place after closing the round-robin segment with two losses, to Sweden's Niklas Edin and Denmark's Rasmus Stjerne, on Thursday. As a result, Jacobs missed out on a chance at two cracks at qualifying for Sunday's final.

The winner of the three-four playoff game will face two-time world champion David Murdoch and his first-place rink from Scotland, which was upset 6-5 by Sweden in Friday's Page 1 playoff game. Sweden advanced to the final.

Jacobs' Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., rink, which includes third Ryan Fry and the front-end brother act of E.J. and Ryan Harnden and alternate Matt Dumontelle, is hoping to pull off feats similar to its accomplishments while winning the Brier in Edmonton in early March. The Jacobs fought through the three-four game en route to the triumph.

"We've never done things the easy way, our team," said Jacobs. "We've been in this position before. We know what we have to do if we want to win this thing."

Jacobs and company have lost two in a row and four of their past six games. But, according to Fry, the Canadians are not feeling overly anxious about their skid.

"It's upsetting that we weren't able to win one of our last two games to secure first place, but we're all going to take it for what it is," he said.

"No one's to blame but ourselves for not winning those games. And, all the credit goes to the teams that we played as well. We came up against some very hot skips and hot teams."

The Jacobs crew only arrived later for the worlds than several other teams, but Fry said travel-related fatigue has not been an issue.

Instead, he noted, the Canadians have had a harder time dealing with back-to-back games and short rest times between evening and morning games. As a result, said Fry, the hosts have not been as precise with their shots as they were earlier in the week, when they opened with five straight wins.

The Canadians, he added, have also had to contend with international rinks that play well above their usual level just because Canada is the opposition.

He included Denmark among that group.

"If you don't bring your perfect game, you're going to lose," said Fry. "(The Danes) beat us once. They played well. We know that they can perform to a very high level, and we're going to do our best to play better than what we've been playing — and more towards the way we were playing at the beginning of the week."

The Danes, who closed out their round-robin schedule by beating Canada 5-3 on Thursday afternoon, have won seven of their past nine games. Stjerne said his Copenhagen-area squad, which includes third Johnny Fredericksen, second Mikkel Poulsen, and Troels Harry at lead, is wary of the Canadians heading into the rematch in wake of Canada's 11-7 loss to Sweden in the final round-robin game for both teams Thursday night.

"It was obvious to see the Canadians had an off day," said Stjerne, a former world junior champion (2009).

"So we know they're going to come back stronger and more prepared, and we know what we're capable of now.

"So I think it's going to be a way harder game."

But, taking time out from some leisurely kicks of a soccer ball with his mates in the parking lot at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre before practice, Stjerne was also intent on maintaining a low-key approach to Saturday's battle.

"I think we're going to try and approach it in the same relaxed way and try and force our game (on Canada)," he said. "It's not necessarily going to be easy, but that's how we're going to approach it.

"Actually, we're just trying to dial out completely, get our minds off (the game). We haven't done anything drastic, just got up early, went out for breakfast, pretty much the same we've been doing all week.

"We thought of going whale watching and getting completely out of the crosshair, but now we're just sticking with it and (planning on) having a quiet night," he said.

Stjerne, a 24-year-old MBA student who also studies information technology, did not dispute Fry's suggestion that his team elevated its game against Canada.

"Canada is one of those teams we definitely want to beat, because there's no pressure on us," said Stjerne. "We can just lay down the shots instead of getting into a mind fog."

Canadian team leader Rick Lang, who played third on the last Northern Ontario rink, Al Hackner, that won a Brier and world title in 1985, said the Jacobs' rink's ordeal is "exactly like" the Hackner rink's plight at the worlds 28 years ago. The Thunder Bay, Ont., squad had to battle back from fourth to beat Stefan Hasselborg of Sweden.

"It was our second Silver Broom, and we had four losses as well, and we were struggling like crazy. But we went out and practised, just like the guys did today, and re-focused and then go our act together.

"But it's a nervous time for any team, for sure."

Note: Stjerne was concerned that the teams had to practise beside each other Friday. Lang said the situation was unusual, but not a major issue. ... The Jacobs' rink's sports psychologist has called a few teams this week from Sault Ste. Marie. Canadian coach Tom Coulterman said the rink will consider bringing him to worlds if the team gets back in the future.