24 straight wins enough to keep a smile on Kevin Koe’s face

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The winning streak is now at 24 games for Kevin Koe and company.

The team out of Calgary hasn’t lost a game in nearly two months, not since Feb. 7 in Draw Five of the Alberta provincial playdowns.

Their improbable and impressive streak includes five consecutive wins to capture the Alberta title, followed by 13 straight to claim the Brier. The run continued Tuesday afternoon at the men’s world curling championship with a 7-4 victory over Germany, pushing them to 6-0 on the week so far.

And don’t for one second think they’re not aware of the streak. At least one player on Team Koe is keeping track.

WATCH | Canada cruises to win over Germany:

Canada scored a 7-4 win over Germany in Draw 10, improving to 6-0 at the men’s world curling championship. 1:18

Lead Ben Hebert didn’t hesitate when asked whether he could remember a time he’s won this many games in a row.

“Only once. I know when it happened too. When we won the Olympics with [Kevin] Martin in 2010, we won 35 games in a row to end the season,” said Hebert. “We went undefeated at the Slam, the Olympics, Bear Mountain event and the Players Championship.”

Martin guided Hebert and the team to a perfect record in Vancouver to claim Olympic curling gold on home soil. They beat Norway 6-3 in the championship game in front of a raucous crowd.

“That was a different time though,” Hebert said. “We were getting a few softies in there.”

This Koe team is in its first season together, with third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch in addition to lead Hebert, and it has been on a tear.

Kevin Koe, left, and lead Ben Hebert chat following their 10-2 victory over Norway on Monday. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

“B.J. said ‘[the win streak is] a record for me,’ and I said ‘it’s not a record for me.’ I was just teasing the boys though,” Hebert said.

Skip Koe questions Hebert’s accuracy regarding his past accomplishments.

“First of all, you can’t believe much of what he says,” Koe said with a laugh. “If he says it’s 35, it’s definitely not that long. I think he forgets the truth sometimes.”

Despite the joking around, even Koe is impressed by their string of victories.

“That’s pretty good considering the events they’ve come at too. A lot of pressure and a lot of great teams,” he said.

It was another solid performance from start to finish by the Canadians in their game against Germany. They stole two in the third end to take a 3-1 lead and never looked back. After the Germans cut the lead to 3-2 in fourth, Koe made a hit and stick for three in the sixth end to take a controlling 6-2 lead. 

Germany would get as close as 6-4 but after a Canadian single in the ninth to make it 7-4, Canada ran the Germans out of rocks in the final end to solidify the victory. 

Toughest tests ahead

Koe, Hebert and the rest of Team Canada admit their toughest games are ahead. In the coming days they play juggernauts like Sweden, Scotland, Switzerland and the United States — all teams that could easily stop the streak.

“Odds are we’re not going to win all our games this week but we just have to win the last one,” Koe said. “It’s not about throwing the highest percentages or getting all-star awards. It’s about winning games.”

Koe relishes the big moments. The always cool and calm skip seems to thrive under the pressure, especially with the time clock ticking down.

During this streak, he’s made for some unforgettable moments. Take for instance his heart-stopping last-rock, clock-ticking-down heroics at the Brier.

On three different occasions Koe delivered game-winning shots with less than a minute on the clock, which includes his dramatic Brier-winner against Brendan Bottcher with just 13 seconds left.

WATCH | Koe rallies to win Brier:

Trailing by one in the 10th end, Koe stepped up and nailed a double takeout to score two, edging Brendan Bottcher’s Wild Card team 4-3 to win the 2019 Brier. 1:48

“Historically, I typically play pretty well at the big events,” Koe said. “Those are the games for me that are the most fun. Maybe that’s why I play good and am excited to play them.”

Should Canada go on to an undefeated record to win the world curling championship this year, it would mean Koe’s team stretched their winning streak to 31 games. Still not up to Hebert’s past achievements but remarkable nonetheless.

It would also mark the 12th time a team has gone undefeated at worlds. The 11 other times were all accomplished by Canadian teams, mostly recently by Brad Gushue in 2017.

Sweden, Japan are 5-1

Sweden’s Niklas Edin and Japan’s Yuta Matsumura, who needed an extra end to get by South Korea’s SooHyuk Kim 8-7, were at 5-1.

Switzerland’s Peter De Cruz (6-0) kept pace with the Calgary skip with a 7-4 victory over American John Shuster, who fell to 4-2.

Italy’s Joel Retornaz (3-2) dumped Norway’s Magnus Ramsfjell 10-4 in morning play. Ramsfjell rebounded in the afternoon with a 9-4 victory over Jaap Van Dorp of the Netherlands (2-4).

Russia’s Sergey Glukhov defeated China’s Qiang Zou 7-1 in the other afternoon game. Scotland was 2-3, Russia improved to 2-4, while China joined Germany and Norway at 1-5.

South Korea (0-6) was the lone winless team entering Draw 11. Round-robin play continues through Friday night.

The six-team playoffs begin Saturday and the medal games are set for Sunday.

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