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Team World bounces back at 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup

LAS VEGAS — After a miserable morning at Orleans Arena, Team World righted the ship on Friday afternoon at the World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming.

Losers of all three traditional team games earlier in the day, Team World bounced back to win two of its three mixed doubles assignments in the afternoon draw to pull within one point of Team North America in the overall standings.

Marissa Winkelhausen, left, and Xiaoming Xu enjoyed themselves on Friday afternoon at the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Marissa Winkelhausen, left, and Xiaoming Xu enjoyed themselves on Friday afternoon at the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“This morning was a little disappointing, like taking an empty basket back home,” admitted Team World captain Andy Kapp of Germany. “But we got two points this afternoon and I’m looking forward to tonight’s draw. The way the team is playing and pulling together, I’m very proud of them.”

Team North America — winners of the past three World Financial Group Continental Cups, will take an 8-7 lead into the evening draw — another round of traditional team games beginning at 6:30 p.m. (all times Pacific).

It was a challenging afternoon as players continued to adjust to a revised set of mixed doubles rules. The World Curling Federation is experimenting with new rules aimed at improving the fan experience ahead of mixed doubles’ debut as an Olympic medal sport in 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Curling Canada made the offer to the WCF to try out the rules at the World Financial Group Continental Cup, which features world-class ice and players.

“I think there are some really good things that have been done,” said John Morris, who combined with Rachel Homan to produce the lone Team North America win, a 10-6 triumph over the tandem of Sayaka Yoshimura and Oskar Eriksson. “The fact we have music in the background, the power play — those are great things that have been added bring some energy and spice to mixed doubles. The timing thing is a lot to adjust to and a little confusing. I think it’s something they’ll re-assess at the end of the season. Maybe go back to thinking time, which makes it easier for the officials and the players.”

At one point, Yoshimura made a takeout to score four for her team, but the shot was nullified because she took too much time to throw the shot. Morris wanted the officials to overrule the illegal delivery and was unsuccessful, so he and Homan allowed their opponents to score four in the next end.

“It wasn’t an error on the officials’ part,” said Morris. “They were doing their job, but it just felt bad. I felt they deserved the four points on the scoreboard, and we wanted to make it right.”

The Rat Pack entertains the crowd at Orleans Arena. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

The Rat Pack entertains the crowd at Orleans Arena. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

The final round of mixed doubles, Saturday morning and worth double points in the overall standings, will see a return to the traditional thinking time system rather than all three games using the same clock and delivering their shots at the same time.

The timing rules are experimental and will continue to be reviewed by the World Curling Federation.

In the other mixed doubles games, Alina Pätz and Christoffer Sundgren of Team World scored three in the seventh end and stole another in the eighth for a 9-7 triumph over Brent Laing and Jennifer Jones, while Marissa Winkelhausen and Xiaoming Xu cruised past Team North America’s Natalie Nicholson and Tyler George 8-2.

Team World’s success on Friday was even more impressive considering the language barriers that aren’t a factor on Team North America, said Kapp.

“It’s not so easy — a Swiss girl playing with a Chinese guy, but they get along, and they have communication that works,” said Kapp. “Sports is always international, and that’s what Team World is about.”

A total of 60 points are available over the four days of competition in traditional team, mixed doubles and skins competition, with the first team to surpass 30.5 points declared the winner.

Tickets for the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup can be purchased at www.curling.ca/2016continentalcup/tickets/ or by calling 1-888-234-2334.

For the complete schedule, go to: www.curling.ca/2016continentalcup/draw-schedule/

TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for the Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the World Financial Group Continental Cup.