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Playoff spots still up for grabs at Ford World Men’s

With idle Canada and Scotland solidified in the Ford Worlds playoffs — the Page One-Two match on Friday at 7:30 p.m. that will send the winner directly to the final and the loser to Saturday’s 5 p.m. semi-final — the focus Thursday afternoon moved to survival for five teams scratching and clawing to maintain breath on the sudden-death side of the post round-robin scene at the Ford Worlds.

Jeff Stoughton at the 2011 Ford World Men's Curling Championship(Photo: Michael Burns)

Teams from Switzerland (skipped by Christoph Schwaller of St. Moritz) and Germany (skipped by Andy Kapp) were dealt near-death blows at the Brandt Centre while Sweden’s Niklas Edin ensured a placing in a tiebreaker at least, and possibly the Page Three-Four tussle.

Edin and his team from Karlstad (7-4) dominated the Swiss 7-4 in a Draw-16 contest while Kapp (6-5) tumbled behind 4-1 early and failed in a late comeback bid when Jiri Snitil of the Czech Republic (4-6) executed a precise last-rock tap in the four-foot to score a winning deuce in a 9-8 finish.

Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud, the 2010 Olympic silver medallist, remained in contention with his fourth straight win, a low-scoring 3-1 effort over China’s Yansong Ji (4-7) that effectively snuffed out China’s last hope of a playoff look. Earlier in the day, China bowed 5-4 to unbeaten Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg in one of Canada’s toughest tests of the week.

Ulsrud (6-4) needs a fifth straight win against Canada tonight in the final round to assure the Trouser Boys of another medal shot.

“Before we came here we already planned to beat Canada,” said Ulsrud. “We planned to beat them in the final. So now it looks like we have to beat them twice to be champions and that’s what we’re here for. It’s been a long wait. I’m kicking myself for the first four or five games. We were playing terrible by our standards.

“But the last four games, it’s been the old Norway team I know. Maybe all that back-to-the-wall stuff makes us play better. We were at a point where there was no more fooling around. Don’t try to play half shots or safety shots. Just do it.

“We had a long talk about that and now it’s working out. But playing Canada is totally different than playing China. No offence to China, they are a really good team, but it’s going to be a whole other story playing Canada.”

Scotland’s Tom Brewster of Aberdeen, who had already locked up second place, finished at 9-and-2 with an afternoon 7-6 heist over Pete Fenson of the U.S. Brewster shook himself awake after falling behind 6-1 in the sixth end.

“Actually, we said in the sixth end, ‘let’s go all out and try to force the issue,” said Brewster, who has tonight off. “They got the three and then they started to miss shots. They were hitting so much that they missed their draws. Our guys were flat the first six. We played a great last end, right enough.”

Fenson rubbed on a guard with his last rock of the fracas as the Scots stole their fourth straight point.

“The ice picked up, really, really fast and that caught them out,” said Brewster. “And we were playing all our shots down one side, kind of intentionally.”

Brewster said he’ll begin to concentrate on his next assignment, the Page One-Two playoff, Friday morning.

“We’ll sit down in the morning and have chat about it,” he said.

Fenson, who has chance to knock out France’s Thomas Dufour (6-4) tonight, has only three wins in 10 starts.

“We came to win the event, planned to make the playoffs, we knew it was a tough field,” said the Bemidji pizza parlor owner. “Like I said earlier, this is the world championship. If you don’t play good you’re not going to be around for the playoffs. We were spotty at best. It was a little strange. Abnormal for us.

“We lost some games on last shot with rubs here and there. We’re not used to this. Usually, we win or we lose. We’ve had a few games this week that were a little different than that. But we haven’t really analyzed it that much yet.”

Sweden’s Edin, who has been forced to overcome some adversity this week, was all smiles as he departed the icehouse for a night of relaxation.

“You have me smiling now,” he said. “Actually, this was the first game where we played like we usually do. So it feels great. It took a long time. This is the 11th game. Now we’re ready for playoffs or a tiebreaker.

“We’ve played well but we haven’t always made the points. Teams have been good at bailing out against us. We’ve missed a couple of key shots and made odd mistakes at wrong times, I guess.”

But . . .

“We’ve got the momentum now. We needed some breaks and we got them in this game against the Swiss.” Sweden earlier hammered Korea 8-4.

“Maybe we under-estimated the field a bit since we have a poorer record than we anticipated,” analyzed Edin. “We’ve talked about that danger the last few games. I hope it ‘s not the case but maybe we’re a little guilty. I think that, tactically, maybe we should have gone for the wins a little more instead of playing like we were scared of losing.”

On tonight’s closing docket, Norway needs a win against Canada, France needs a win against the U.S., Switzerland must beat Korea and hope Norway and France lose and Denmark plays the Czechs in a play-out-the-sting contest.