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Team North America fighting back at 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup

LAS VEGAS — It’s looking more and more like the final day of the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling is going to be a dogfight down to the wire.

Team World held onto its lead in the overall standings after Saturday afternoon’s penultimate round of traditional team play, looking to end a three-year losing streak at the World Financial Group Continental Cup.

But Team North America continues to hang tough, knowing that the bulk of the points in this event will be up for grabs in Sunday’s six skins game — each worth five points in the overall standings.

Niklas Edin of Team World calls instructions to his sweepers. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Niklas Edin of Team World calls instructions to his sweepers. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

We just have to keep close enough to stay within striking distance,” said Team North America captain Rick Lang. “Coming into this round it didn’t look good, but we had some great comebacks out there.”

Team North America entered the afternoon draw trailing 14-10, but managed to grab 2.5 of the three available points thanks to its two women’s teams on the ice.

Erika Brown of the U.S. was in cruise control, rolling to an easy 7-2 win over Team World’s Ayumi Ogasawara, while five-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Jennifer Jones stole the winning point in the eighth end for a 6-5 victory over Team World’s Eve Muirhead.

In the lone men’s game, Team World’s Niklas Edin salvaged a half-point, drawing for a single point in the eighth end for a 4-4 tie with Team North America’s Pat Simmons.

Muirhead missed on a double-takeout on her first shot, and then a runback takeout on her last shot to leave Jones with the winning steal.

“It was a huge point for us,” said Jones. “We were trailing coming into today, and we need every point we can get. It was tight the whole way, and we had to steal the winning point, so it was a huge momentum switch for us.”

Edin, meanwhile, was up 3-1 through five ends, but Simmons came back with two in the sixth and a clutch steal in the seventh, forcing Edin to take the single in the eighth for the tie.

“We definitely want to come back strong tonight (in the final round of traditional team games, at 6:30 p.m. PST),” said Edin. “There are good rolls and bad rolls; we had some good fortune last night, and now we had some of it against us instead. We’re just going to have to turn it around again.”

Team World won two of the three mixed doubles games earlier on Saturday, but a dramatic game-winning shot from Team North America’s Jill Officer in the last game on the ice provided a jolt of energy for her teammates, said Lang.

Team North America's Erika Brown tells her teammates to stop sweeping as Team World skip Ayumi Ogasawara looks on. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team North America’s Erika Brown tells her teammates to stop sweeping as Team World skip Ayumi Ogasawara looks on. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“That was huge,” said Lang. “I don’t think we can say loud enough how great that was for us. I said she’ll be the MVP if we hang on to win this thing. It just lifted all of our spirits, and you could sense that during the afternoon draw.”

The captains (Andy Kapp for Team World, Ann Swisshelm for Team North America) and coaches (Pål Trulsen for Team World, Lang for Team North America) will decide the matchups for Sunday’s skins games, which will be contested in men’s, women’s and mixed competition. Those matchups will be announced during the Saturday evening draw.

Rachel Homan’s team won’t be participating in the skins due to its tight travel schedule to be back home for the beginning of the Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts provincial championship, which gets underway Monday in Brampton, Ont.

Each skins game is worth five points in the overall standings.

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.