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North America continues to roll at WFG Continental Cup

It’s been a one-sided battle to date, but Rick Lang isn’t in a comfort zone just yet.

Team North America continued to put the boots to Team World at the 2011 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Monsanto, on Friday morning at Servus Credit Union Place – winning all three women’s games, grabbing all 18 points available, and taking a commanding 60-12 lead.

The first team to 201 points wins this Season of Champions marquee event, based on a format similar to golf’s Ryder Cup, with team, singles, mixed doubles, and skins disciplines.

Friday morning, the Winnipeg-based Jennifer Jo

Bingyu Wang at the 2011 Continental Cup

nes team clobbered Bingyu Wang’s Chinese outfit 10-6, Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard pushed past Mirjam Ott of Davos, Switzerland by a 7-5 count, and Erika Brown of Madison, Wis., stole two late points to break a tie and defeat Germany’s Andrea Schoepp 7-5.

In the six previous editions of the Continental Cup, no team had ever scored 40 points on the first day until North America built up a 42-12 lead here Thursday night. And the Can-Am bunch has won 10 of 12 head-to-head showdowns through four draws to date.

But Lang, the North American coach from Thunder Bay, Ont., is stressing caution.

“Our ladies have been dominant here, which is fantastic. I don’t think it’s from (Team World’s) poor play; I think it’s from our really good play, which is nice to see. They really are loving the ice, and playing with a lot of confidence,” said Lang.

“I can equate this to a national championship. If you’re 3-0, you’ve got a little bit of a buffer, you can relax, and you don’t feel the stress and pressure,” added Lang. “But I’ve been in this (Continental Cup) before; on Saturday night, it looked like we were going to win it all, and we lost it on Sunday afternoon by a lot.

“This is just a start. We have to really keep the pedal to the metal. The pressure’s on our men now; they’ve got to keep up to the ladies. That’s kind of a good thing.”

Friday morning, Jones and her crew of Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer, and Dawn Askin started things off with a four-ender, with a Lawes double takeout setting up a Jones hit-and-stick for four. Jones drew for two more in the third, and stole two more in the fourth, as Wang struggled with weight and placement, to put the game away.

“We’ve had some fun. (The North Americans) felt like we really came together as a team early, and I think that’s really helped,” said Jones, the 2008 Ford world women’s champion. “I think it’s just about getting momentum. They’re definitely still in it. The skins are where all the points are at (with 260 weekend points up for grabs). But it’s about feeling good and coming together as a team and getting some momentum going . . . right now, the momentum’s on our side.”

Bernard and her 2010 Olympic silver medal-winning crew of Susan O’Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire, and Cori Morris held off a late charge by Ott, the 2006 Olympic silver medallist.

Leading 6-2 in the sixth, Bernard was called for a hog-line violation on her final stone, leaving Ott with a hit-and-stick opportunity for three, but the Swiss slinger missed completely and counted just one. In the seventh, Bernard was looking at three Team World rocks, and attempted her own hit-and-stick, but rolled out of the rings as Ott scored two more and made it 6-5 North America.

But in the eighth and final end, Bernard removed the World shot stone with an angle-raised takeout, then knocked out an Ott rock and hung around for a point, ending the Team World threat.

“We struggled in the beginning but it was a very good fight back,” said Ott. “At the end it was really close. We had a couple of rocks that were well played and really very close, but that’s curling.”

Brown and her foursome, which includes Nina Spatola, Ann Swisshelm, and Laura Hallisey, scored their first women’s team win of the weekend, thanks to thefts of a point in each of the seventh and eighth ends.

In the seventh, Schoepp attempted a draw for a point to break a 5-5 tie, but came up short. And in the final stanza, the defending world women’s champ tried to tap Brown’s shot stone and score a deuce, but her brick didn’t curl and she flashed on the attempt.

“I think I shot 40 per cent yesterday, so I’m pleased that I’m contributing a little bit more today,” said Brown. “It’s exciting to look across the ice and see that all the scoreboards are leaning your way.”

Said Schoepp: “(The game) was only (worth) six points. If it would have been more, I would have played a safe draw (in the eighth). Winning one end in the skins is worth more than this.”

Friday’s fifth draw, which begins at 1:30 p.m. MT, will feature three mixed doubles matches worth a total of 18 points. On Sheet A, the World’s Ott and Ralph Stoeckli take on North America’s Officer and Blake MacDonald. On Sheet B, the World’s Schoepp and Sebastian Kraupp cross swords with North America’s Bernard and 2010 Olympic champion lead Ben Hebert. And on Sheet C, two-time world champion David Murdoch and Carmen Schaefer will team up for the World against Brown and Pete Fenson of North America.