LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — After an unbeaten run at the national playdowns, Canada's Kevin Koe picked up where he left off Saturday at the world men's curling championship.
Koe made an open hit for the single point and a 6-5 extra-end victory over South Korea's SooHyuk Kim in the opener before dumping Russia's Sergey Glukhov 11-3 in the night game.
"It was really kind of a perfect day," Koe said. "Two wins obviously, but I think it's good for us to have been tested and have a close game in our first game. That can never hurt us going forward."
The Calgary-based team, which includes third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch and lead Ben Hebert, was the only rink to post two victories on Day 1 at the Enmax Centre.
In a tight opener, Neufeld set things up nicely in the extra end. His brilliant double peel was followed by a throw that cleared things out and also tapped a South Korean stone off the 12-foot ring.
"It was a bit of a grind, but we were always in control," Koe said. "We weren't really in trouble. A little bit of a defensive game but I thought we played solid."
The 56th-ranked Glukhov, who dropped an 8-2 decision to Scotland's Bruce Mouat earlier in the day, was overmatched in the nightcap.
Koe opened with three points, added a deuce in the third and tacked on three more points in the fifth. With things well in hand, Canada alternate Ted Appelman came on for Hebert after the mid-game break.
The teams shook hands after Koe scored three points in the seventh end.
Round-robin play continues through Friday night with the top six teams making the weekend playoffs.
Kim, the world No. 49, wasn't afraid to be aggressive against the top-ranked Koe. He delivered a nice angle-raise runback to sit shot stone in the first end before drawing for one.
Koe was also in form. He drew for three points in the second end and nailed a hit and roll in the fifth that led to a single and 4-2 lead heading into the break.
In the ninth, with Canada sitting one in a crowded house, both skips were off on their final draw attempts. Kim was light and Koe was wide as Canada took a single.
Needing a deuce to force an extra end, Kim caught a break when Koe missed a double takeout on his final throw. Kim coolly drew to the eight-foot ring for the pair.
"We were totally in control that game, but it was still a little nerve-racking because they never go away," Koe said.
Koe struggled when he was forced to draw wide. But he could rely on his hits and finished with a shooting percentage of 84 per cent.
Canada threw 86 per cent overall. Kim finished at 82 per cent while his team came in at 78 per cent.
"We knew it was going to be a battle," said Canada coach John Dunn. "There's not going to be an easy game at this championship for us.
"Everybody wants to beat Canada. So be patient, be disciplined. I think we just showed that we did that."
St. John's, N.L., skip Brad Gushue won silver for Canada at last year's world championship. He lost to Sweden's Niklas Edin in the final at Las Vegas.
The defending champion had the afternoon off before downing China's Qiang Zou 9-4 in the evening. Italy's Joel Retornaz whipped Germany's Marc Muskatewitz 9-3 and Switzerland's Peter De Cruz defeated Norway's Magnus Ramsfjell 10-4.
Earlier, Japan's Yuta Matsumura topped Italy 6-4 and Jaap Van Dorp of the Netherlands scored two in the 10th end for a 6-5 win over American John Shuster.
Koe, a two-time world champion, last represented Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he finished fourth.
Notes: Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in attendance. ... Koe beat Appelman in the Alberta final last month. ... Kim earned a spot in the field with a 7-3 win over England in the inaugural world qualification event last January in New Zealand. ... With their home rink booked, the Western Hockey League's Lethbridge Hurricanes moved across town to the Nicholas Sheran Arena for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against Calgary on Saturday night. The Hitmen won 6-5.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press