Canada and Scotland sharing the driver’s seat after three games? Figures. But what about the defending Olympic silver-medal winners, the defending world silver-medal winners, the nation that has been out of the Ford Worlds playoffs only once in the last decade?
“We are in trouble, we’re leaking oil, we’re desperate now,” said Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud after dropping a pair of matches — to the Czech Republic (7-5) and Germany (9-8) — on Sunday in the Ford World curling championship at the Brandt Centre.
“The funny thing is, one or two ends in each game really seem to make trouble for us,” said Ulsrud, who lost in an extra-end morning tussle but was down 8-3 after six ends in the evening before staging a futile comeback that fell short to Andy Kapp’s last-rock takeout shot.
“We’re not playing like we normally do. For some funny reason we need to start this engine up.”
Ulsrud (1-2) has to figure out a way to get back in the chase on Monday against Sweden’s Niklas Edin and France’s Thomas Dufour, both with 2-and-1 records.
To compound matters, the Norwegians were hardly impressive in winning a come-from-behind squeaker on Saturday against lowly Korea.
This may be shades of the old days for Norway when Pal Trulsen was directing traffic and telling reporters every year at the Worlds that his team was a notoriously slow starter. More often than not, Trulsen’s teams recovered from those slow starts in miraculous fashion.
“I’m going to give him a call,” quipped Ulsrud. “Wake him up in the middle of the night. We need help.”
Scotland’s Tom Brewster enjoyed the biggest advancement on Sunday, winning twice, albeit while exhibiting less than great style attempting to play with a lead.
The Scots hammered winless Korea for five in the fourth end of their afternoon tilt, led 7-1 and required an additional five ends to kill off the match. On the late shift, Brewster’s crew was up 6-2 at the half and the skipper still had to execute an angle-raise takeout with his last of the 10th end to ensure a 10-6 win over Switzerland’s Christof Schwaller.
“We made it difficult for ourselves but I think the guys played a great last end,” said the Scottish skip whose young teammates are playing at this level for the first time.
“We haven’t played well with the lead but I think that’s partly to do with the arena ice and partly to do with the fact we’re not making the runbacks and double peels like we normally do. I think we’re just adjusting to the ice and by the end of the week we’ll be good.
“We feel good about the 3-0 record and hopefully we’ll be tied next Sunday with Canada and have the hammer coming home.”
Jeff Stoughton and the home favourites from Winnipeg were called upon only once on Sunday and responded with a 7-4 win over Kapp’s Germans.
Kapp was heaving a sigh of relief at getting his first win later in the day. “We needed that one,” he admitted. “It was a little frightening for the coach. But in the last end we knew we had hammer again and at the end of the week nobody will be asking how we won it.
“It’s tougher competition all the time but it is a lot of fun, with great ice and great crowds. That’s why you practise all year to play in it, put a show on and just enjoy it.”
Jiri Snitil’s Czechs defeated China 8-5 on the late draw for their second win of the day and China’s first defeat. That left the Czechs at 2-1 with China, France and Sweden.
“Our best-ever record here is three wins so we’re more than halfway to a personal record,” beamed Snitil.
The Swedes knocked off France 7-6 and Pete Fenson’s U.S. team 11-2.
“We’re competing for the playoffs and so are they,” said Swedish skip Edin following the massacre of the Yanks.
“It’s important to win those games, even more so than against teams like Stoughton who will be there and teams who won’t be there. We are looking at the playoffs all the way. That’s our goal. We need to focus on making the playoffs and peaking there.”
Early aggression and defensive hitting are Sweden’s long suits and they made them work to perfection against the U.S. squad (1-2) that yielded four multiple counts.
“We struggled with the ice, dug ourselves a big hole and couldn’t get out of it quick enough,” said U.S. vice-skip Shawn Rojeski.
“These Swedish guys are fantastic hitters. You don’t want to get that far behind with them. A three or four-point lead to them, it’s tough to get out of it.”