The last one may have been a runaway but this eighth version of curling’s Continental Cup at the Langley, B.C. Event Centre appears to have all the makings of a down-to-the-wire photo finish.
That’s if Day One is any criterion.
Team World, trailing in the record book 4-to-3 in terms of Cups won, inched in front on the leaderboard Thursday, accumulating 30 points to Team North America’s 24 following two rounds of team games — one featuring men, the other women — and one round of mixed doubles.
“I think we’re pretty much evenly matched,” said Scotland’s Tom Brewster shortly after the firing had died down.
“I think it’s going to be pretty tight, isn’t it? It’ll come down to who makes the shots on the day. This is what it’s about — coming to play on ice like this.”
Canada’s Glenn Howard saved the best for last on the night draw, firing a clutch double takeout to score a tying deuce and draw with double Euro champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway in team scuffling.
“I’ve never been so happy to tie a game in my life,” chirped Howard after playing eight ends of catch-up.
“He made a great shot. He had to roll to sit two but he rolled just a touch too far and left me the double.”
Howard admitted the atmosphere at the Event Centre may be slightly “more relaxed than at a Brier” but “this is fun and we were pumped”.
“You’re not as stressed, no but I haven’t jumped up and down like that for a long time — because you’re playing for a bigger team. Normally you just have the four of you jumping around but here you’re playing for a bigger team, everybody’s cheering and it’s exciting stuff.
“I wanted to make that last shot for everybody, not just for our team, and that’s what really cool about this format. It really gets the blood flowing and the adrenaline going.”
It was the third last-rock offering of the day that turned certain victory, or defeat if you will, into a split of the points.
In afternoon mixed doubles, Ulsrud scored a last-end deuce for a 9-9 tie for his duo that included Sweden’s Cissi Ostlund with the American pair of Shawn Rojeski (U.S.) and Marliese Kasner (Canada), while Brewster, playing with China’s Qingshuang Yue, fashioned an eighth-end pair to square the account at 7-7 with Wayne Middaugh of Canada and Nina Spatola of the U.S. (Continued Below…)
Photos from Draw 3[flickr-gallery mode=”tag” tags=”d32012wfgcontcup” tag_mode=”all”]
Middaugh took the blame for failing to win his match.
“I feel bad about that game,” he said. “The only reason we didn’t win was I didn’t know the rules. And it’s my own fault for not reading the rules. We purposely blanked the seventh end thinking we’d retain hammer and we lost it.”
Middaugh led 7-5 playing the seventh and purposely blanked the seventh end expecting to have last rock in the eighth. That would have been the situation in a normal curling game. But not mixed doubles, which involves two players per side, one male and one female, playing five rocks each over eight ends of play with no sweeping, except by the two players involved. You blank an end in this discipline and you yield the hammer.
As a result, Brewster executed a precise big-weight takeout to score two and gain three points in the six-point contest.
“That’s a big thing,” said Middaugh. “But it’s written in rules and we didn’t know it. You have to read the rules and take responsibility for it.”
In the morning women’s teams, Canada’s Amber Holland gave up a last-end deuce to settle for a 5-5 draw with Scotland’s Eve Muirhead.
In other late tussles, Canadian champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg administered an 8-3 thrashing to Sweden’s Niklas Edin and Brewster forced a sawoff on the night by clouting Pete Fenson’s U.S. champs from Bemidji 7-1, stealing a pair of deuces en route.
“It’s different,” admitted Stoughton. “You’re looking over to other games more than normal to see how your other teams are doing. It’s a little unusual, hoping the other guys do well before the game.”
Stoughton cracked a four-ender in the fourth end to close the door early on the Swedes.
“We had a great setup by Ben (lead Hebert) and Reid (second Carruthers). We were looking golden all end and he just couldn’t get that one good draw in there and I had a pretty routine shot for the four,” said Stoughton.
Canada’s Stefanie Lawton posted the stunner of the morning, clobbering world champion Anette Norberg of Sweden 11-3 while Bingyu Wang of China squared the account for Team World on an adjacent sheet of ice,, shading Patti Lank of the U.S. 6-5.
“We started out today with a weight problem,” said the 45-year-old Norberg, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and three-time world champion.
“We haven’t played this much curling this season and what we have played on has been pretty straight ice. So it has been difficult for us to adjust here.”
The playing conditions for the Continental Cup could be described as anything but straight.
Trailing 2-1 playing the fourth end, Norberg eschewed an out-turn com-around draw to the eight-foot with backing and attempted an in-turn raise on her own front stone at the top of the rings. But her last stone didn’t have the weight to improve her position, leaving the North Americans with a four-point theft.
For the Swedish team, it was all down hill from there.
“I wouldn’t have believed it (the game would be that lopsided),” said Lawton, who qualified as a Team North America member with a Canada Cup triumph a year ago.
“We played strong and that steal of four sort of turned the game around. Her shots didn’t seem to work out for her and it was a tough break for them but I guess we’ll take it.”
Norberg confessed the big swing from outside ice was a factor in her shot-calling decision in the fourth.
“Definitely, it was possible to draw down there, it curled in there,” said Lawton, “but they’d just played the bump with their first one and obviously she was thinking same shot, same ice. She had to take a hair less ice and it didn’t curl the same as her first one.”
The day’s edge for Team World arrived in mixed doubles with a win and the two draws.
The unit of Norberg and Sebastian Kraupp of Sweden posted the draw’s only doubles victory, 8-4 over North Americans Carruthers and Kim Schneider of Canada.
Media Scrum from Draw 3