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It’s all tied up going into final round at 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup

LAS VEGAS — Three days and 10 rounds of competition have left us exactly where we started at the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming.

On even terms. Deadlocked. All tied up.

So, for the first time in the 12-year history of the WFG Continental Cup, we’ll enter the final draw of competition with both teams on level terms — Team World, 22.5 points; Team North America, 22.5 points.

Team World's Thomas Ulsrud watches his shot as Jill Officer of Team North America looks over his shoulder. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team World’s Thomas Ulsrud watches his shot as Jill Officer of Team North America looks over his shoulder. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“You couldn’t ask for more,” raved Team World skip Thomas Ulsrud, who nailed down the tie with a clutch draw to cover the button in his mixed skins game against a North American lineup that featured Pat Simmons, Kaitlyn Lawes, Carter Rycroft and Jill Officer. “Now I’m going to get something to eat, then kick back and watch everybody else. I’ve always been lucky enough to play the last skins draw, so now I’ll be watching, and I think I’ll be more nervous watching.”

There were three skins games on Sunday afternoon, each worth five points in the overall standings, and two of them (UIsrud vs. Simmons in mixed skins, Erika Brown of North America vs. Ayumi Ogasawara of Team World) ended in a tie, 2.5 to 2.5, while the third, an all-male  was won 3-2 by North America’s John Shuster over China’s Jialiang Zang.

But in both the mixed and men’s games, the eighth end ended in a carry-over, meaning both sets of skips had to throw draws to the button to decide the final skins — two points in the mixed game, and a single in the men’s game.

And in both cases, the Team World skips prevailed.

First, Shuster was light on his draw, and Zang made no mistake on his to collect one the point.

And then Simmons, who barely missed his shot in the eighth end for the outright win, was a centimetre heavy with his draw, and Ulsrud covered the pin for two points to create the tie in the overall standings and set the stage for what should be a drama-filled evening at Orleans Arena.

“Playing that last throw, knowing I needed to cover the pin, those are the moments I live for, you know?” said Ulsrud. “I don’t feel pressure on that one. You’re not going to make them all the time. But it’s really fun to make them.”

Team World players celebrate during Sunday afternoon's draw. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team World players celebrate during Sunday afternoon’s draw. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“I thought it was fantastic entertainment,” added Team North America coach Rick Lang, whose team is riding a three-year win streak at the World Financial Group Continental Cup, and was trailing 15.5-14.5 coming into Sunday. “I know my adrenalin is pumping right now, and all our players are, too. Looking forward to a great evening of curling tonight.”

One might think that Team World has the momentum after the late-game heroics from Ulsrud and Zang, but Lang isn’t so sure.

“I think I’m really happy that we came out of this draw as well as we did,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any letdown at all (from losing the three points at the end). We’ll be as pumped as we would have been had we made those points. It’s just going to be a little more work.”

The final round of skins, with five points on the line in each game, at 6:30 p.m. PST, looks like this:

Women — Jennifer Jones (North America) vs. Eve Muirhead (World)

Men — Kevin Koe (North America) vs. Niklas Edin (World)

Mixed — John Morris, Allison Pottinger, Nolan Thiessen, Natalie Nicholson (North America) vs. Torger Nergård, Nadine Lehmann, Håvard Vad Petersson, Marissa Winkelhausen (World)

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.

The winning side receives $52,000 Cdn ($2,000 per member, including captain and coach), while the losing side gets $26,000 ($1,000 per member, including captain and coach). As well, the side that generates the highest points total from the six Skins games will receive an additional $13,000 ($500 per player, plus captain and coach).

Should the teams end in a 30-30 tie, the overall prize money will be split evenly (the skins money is dependent only on the skins points, and would be treated the same way in a tie for skins points), but there will be one skip selected from each team for a draw to the button to decide possession of the trophy.

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.

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2016continentalcup/?lang=fr