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Playoff pairings set at World Men’s

The playoff pairings have now been established at the Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship in Cortina d’Ampezzo, after the conclusion of the round robin on Thursday evening.

Norway, skipped by Torger Nergård, claimed first place in an exciting showdown with Canada’s Kevin Koe, winning 9-8 by counting one in the 10th end in the see-saw affair, which eventually came down to last rock.

After Canada took one in the first, Norway responded with three in the second end for a 3-1 lead.  For the next five ends, the teams traded deuces and were knotted at seven after seven ends.   Norway then took one in the eighth before Canada tied it in the ninth, prior to the deciding 10th frame, when Nergård drew the four-foot for the win.

Both Canada and Norway had advanced to the showdown by beating China earlier in the day…Canada by a 9-3 count in the morning, while Norway was a 6-3 winner in the afternoon.

The result left Norway, the recent Olympic silver medallists, with a 10-1 mark, while Canada dropped to 9-2.  Both will meet again in the Page Playoff 1 vs 2 game Friday evening at 7:00 pm local time.  The winner will advance to Sunday’s final (4:00 pm local) while the loser goes to Saturday afternoon’s semi-final at 4:30 pm (local time).  Both the semi-final and final can be seen live across Canada on TSN, at 10:30 am ET and 10:00 am ET, respectively.

Nergård had this to say about the key win.  “It wasn’t easy coming into the championship without Tom (skip Thomas Ulsrud, who had to return to Oslo prior to the start of the championship for a family illness), but I think we have showed that we can play well. We are a small nation and there are not many curlers compared to the choice in Canada.

“Winning that game puts us in pretty good shape for the playoffs and our goal now is to win a medal – that last draw was the hardest shot that I had to make all week.”

Afterwards, a disappointed Koe said, “Well, I struggled out there tonight, it wasn’t my best game personally.  So it was a little disappointing, but that happens sometimes – we’ll be OK for tomorrow.  I’ve got a better game than that, so it’s a minor blip – we’ll be fine tomorrow.”

Norway has just three world men’s titles to its name, the last by Eigil Ramsfjell in 1988, while Canada has taken 31 crowns, the last by Kevin Martin in 2008 in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The United States, with 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Pete Fenson at the controls, finished in third place at 8-3, winning both of its games on Thursday, 8-4 over Germany and 10-2 over Sweden.    Meanwhile, Scotland, skipped by two-time world champion Warwick Smith, wound up fourth, also at 8-3 but placed fourth for its 7-5 round robin loss to the United States, after dropping its finale, 9-7 to Switzerland.

That means the United States will face Scotland in the Page 3-4 game Saturday morning at 10:00 am local time, with the winner advancing to the semi-final, while the loser goes to Sunday morning’s bronze medal game.

The balance of the field wound up as follows:  Denmark (Ulrik Schmidt), 7-4; Switzerland (Stefan Karnusian) and Germany (Andy Kapp), 5-6;  Sweden (Per Carlsén), 4-7;  France (Thomas Dufour), Italy (Joel Retornaz) and China (Fengchun Wang), 3-8 and Japan (Makoto Tsuruga), 1-10.