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Czech Republic surprises Norway at Ford World Men’s

Thomas Ulsrud and his Norwegian champions are on thin ice at the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Richardson.

Photo: CCA/Brennan Schnell

Norway lost its first game in history against the Czech Republic on Sunday morning, falling 7-5 in 11 ends, and now holds a very shaky record of one win and one loss after three draws at the Brandt Centre.

“We need to get things fixed, you know?” shrugged Ulsrud after Sunday’s defeat. “We were struggling quite a bit with the broom. We were seeing some different swings with the rocks. But I hate to say it . . . it’s not the rocks, I think it’s the players. Hopefully we’ll have this sorted out for tonight’s game against Germany.”

In Sunday’s other Draw 3 result, the Swiss crew helmed by Christof Schwaller downed the United States 6-4. Both teams now sit in the middle of the pack with a one-win, one-loss record.

Canada (2-0) and France (2-0) are at the top of the standings, while China (1-0) and Scotland (1-0) are also undefeated.

In the past 13 months, Ulsrud’s Norwegians have claimed an Olympic silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and a runner-up finish at the 2010 worlds, although Ulsrud himself was not at Cortina D’Ampezzo, leaving the squad in the capable hands of third Torger Nergaard because of a family illness.

But here at Regina, the Scandinavians are fortunate that they’re not winless after two starts.

During Saturday’s first draw, they trailed 7-3 to Korea after seven ends, but scored a deuce in the eighth and stole singles in each of the ninth, 10th, and 11th, to escape with victory.

No such luck Sunday morning. Ulsrud had to make a tricky draw just to tie the game 5-5 after 10, but Czech skip Jiri Snitil made a simple hit-and-stick with his final stone of the 11th for the winning deuce.

“I thought we were over this. Unfortunately we picked off where we left off yesterday. We started off really badly this game. We picked it up toward the end, but it was too little, too late,” said Ulsrud, whose Snaroen Curling Club crew from Olso includes Nergaard, second Christoffer Svae, and lead Haavard Vad Petersson.

“They had a head start on us every (end). We haven’t been sharp the first couple of ends, and we’ve been trailing. It’s a struggle from the start. We’re missing easy shots at the beginning of the game, missing shots you normally don’t miss.”

Snitil, making his third appearance at the Ford Worlds, was understandably elated.

“Our game plan was to stay as close as possible, and not let them score big ends, which happened,” said Snitil, whose Brno-based outfit includes third Martin Snitil, second Jindrich Kitzberger, and lead Marek Vydra. “We were close enough to make them feel unsafe, and a little nervous.”

Meanwhile, Switzerland got itself on the win sheet after a tough opening-draw defeat to Canada on Saturday. Christof Schwaller’s foursome from the St. Moritz Curling Club, which includes third Marco Ramstein, second Robert Hurlimann, and lead Urs Eichhorn, stole a point in each of the seventh and eighth ends en route to victory.

“The steal in the seventh was very close . . . two for the U.S., or one for us,” said Schwaller. “That game was very important for us. (Saturday) night, we agreed (it’s no big deal) when we lose to the favourites, but today we showed everyone that we’re in the tournament, and on the board.”

American skip Pete Fenson was facing an open hit for three points in the ninth that would have tied the game 6-6, but didn’t come through.

“We had a little trouble, as a team, with the ice early,” said Fenson, whose quartet from Bemidji, Minn., includes third Shawn Rojeski, second Joe Polo, and lead Ryan Brunt.

“We fought back, I had a hit for the tie, and threw it poorly. I was a little straight with it, and it just ran. It was a straight spot on the sheet . . . it ticked and rolled into our own, and kicked it out, a little bad luck there.

“We just need to come back out relaxed and focused, and play like we’ve been playing.”

Draw 4, which begins at 1 p.m., will pit Scotland against Korea (0-2), Canada against Germany (0-1), China against Denmark (0-2), and France against Sweden (0-1).