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It’s going down to the wire at 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup

LAS VEGAS — A three-day roller-coaster ride at the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, has set up what has the potential to be a spectacular closing day at the Orleans Arena.

Team World carries a narrow one-point lead — 15.5 to 14.5 — over Team North America in curling’s version of the Ryder Cup, but considering Sunday’s closing day of six skins games will distribute 30 points, that lead is truly inconsequential.

But, suggested Team World skip Thomas Ulsrud, moments after stealing a 5-3 win over Team North America’s John Shuster, that lead will give his team confidence going into the final day, especially after been blown out of the water at the past two WFG Continental Cups.

Team World's Kristian Lindström, left, and Team North America's John Morris, second from left, were having a great time with Swedish fans on Saturday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team World’s Kristian Lindström, left, and Team North America’s John Morris, second from left, were having a great time with Swedish fans on Saturday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“Hey, it’s really tight,” said Ulsrud. “It’s been a blowout the last couple years, so Team World is fighting, still leading. We managed to have, I will say, a pretty lucky win at the end there (against Shuster). But winning was important — momentum is the key thing. We’ve never been behind here this week, so as long as we can keep that momentum going, it’s important for us. And it’s good to have that lead.”

Ulsrud got his win when Shuster was heavy on his draw to the four-foot, leaving the Team World side with the counting stone — the lone bright spot on an otherwise dismal evening that saw Team North America win twice.

Kevin Koe of Calgary rolled to a 7-2 thrashing of China’s Jialiang Zang, while Ottawa’s Rachel Homan made a draw to the four-foot in the eighth and final end to nail down a 5-3 win over reigning world women’s champ Alina Pätz of Switzerland.

It was Homan’s final appearance of the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup as her team is heading home Sunday to prepare for the Ontario Scotties provincial championship, which begins Monday in Brampton.

“It’s too bad we can’t stay and help the team out and cheer them on, but we have provincials to go to and everybody understands that,” said Homan. “We got a point for them today, and hopefully they can keep it rolling tomorrow.”

Team North America has raised its game ever since a dramatic mixed doubles win in the Saturday morning draw by Jill Officer and Matt Hamilton that prevented a Team World sweep and cut the visitors’ overall lead to 14-10.

“We were in trouble this morning; it could have been 16-8, and then Jill and Matt had a really big doubles win and that got us some momentum for the rest of the day,” said Team Koe vice-skip Marc Kennedy. “It looks like we’re starting to play a little better, so it should be an interesting day tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, team captains (Andy Kapp for Team World, Ann Swisshelm for Team North America) and coaches (Pål Trulsen for Team World, Lang for Team North America) set their matchups for Sunday’s skins games.

They are as follows:

1 p.m.
Women — Erika Brown (North America) vs. Ayumi Ogasawara (World)
Men — John Shuster (North America) vs. Jialiang Zang (World)
Mixed — Pat Simmons, Kaitlyn Lawes, Carter Rycroft, Jill Officer (North America) vs. Thomas Ulsrud, Alina Pätz, Christoffer Svae, Nicole Schwägli (World).

6:30 p.m.
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)

“Skins is one end at a time, so really, it’s 30 mini-games tomorrow,” said Kennedy. “Hopefully we just make the right shots at the right time.”

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.