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Playoff race heats up at 2016 Ford Worlds

SWIFT CURRENT — Five teams remain in contention for four playoff spots after play Wednesday at the Ford World Women’s Curling Championship, presented by Meridian Manufacturing.

Canada’s Chelsea Carey, Scotland’s Eve Muirhead, Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa and Switzerland’s Binia Feltscher all have 7-2 records. Russia’s Anna Sidorova, at 6-3, is one game back. The five teams each have two games left to play.

The logjam was created Wednesday evening when Fujisawa defeated Erika Brown of the United (4-5) 7-4, Carey topped Finland’s Oona Kauste (1-8) 7-1, and Sidorova defeated Feltscher 6-3. While a loss wouldn’t have mathematically eliminated the Russians, it would have left them teetering on the brink. Muirhead had the evening draw off, after beating Russia and losing to Switzerland earlier in the day.

Things will get interesting Thursday when three of the teams at the top of the standings bang heads. Canada plays Japan and Scotland in its final two games. Japan plays Scotland and Canada. Switzerland has Italy and South Korea on its dance card, while Russia finishes up with games against Germany and Denmark.

Carey said Wednesday night’s game was important in that it removes some of the pressure from the final day of round-robin play.

“We’re in a good place,” Carey said. “If we split we are in something and if we win both we are in a really good spot. Winning this game took the pressure off a little bit for tomorrow which is nice — come out loose and make some shots.”

Carey came out firing on the night draw after letting one get away in the afternoon in against South Korea’s Ji Sun Kim (4-5).

Canada gave up two on the ninth and a steal of two on the 10th to drop an 8-7 decision.

The Canadian skip said there wasn’t much discussion between the afternoon loss and the evening games.

“There wasn’t much to discuss,” she said. “We had the game and I missed a shot. That is what it is and you can’t do anything about that. You just toss that one in the trash and move forward.”

Russia's Alexandra Raeva, left, and Margarita Fomina sweep a stone during Wednesday's win. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Russia’s Alexandra Raeva, left, and Margarita Fomina sweep a stone during Wednesday’s win. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Carey, whose team is rounded out by third Amy Nixon, second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Laine Peters, alternate Susan O’Connor, team coach Charley Thomas and national coach Elaine Dagg-Jackson, said she is seeing improvement in the confidence level of her team.

“We’re getting better and better. The ice was really nice today which helped,” said Carey. “We struggled to figure paths and stuff in some of the previous games. Today it was really good and really consistent. There is a general feeling of confidence when you know what draw weight is.

While it takes great shooting to beat the Swiss team, Sidorova said good old-fashioned Russian cooking didn’t hurt. Coach Svetlana Kalalb made borscht between games. After the meal and an afternoon nap, the Russians came out and played one of their best games of the week.

Sidorova is looking forward to the final day of the round-robin.

“We are ready to play and play to win tomorrow . . . when we play our best we know we can beat anybody.”

That said, Sidorova cautioned that any team can beat any other at the competition.

In the other game on the evening draw, Denmark’s Lene Nielsen (4-5) defeated Italy’s Federica Apollonio (1-8) 7-5. In addition to Scotland, South Korea (4-5), Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson (3-6) and Germany’s Daniela Driendl (3-6) had byes.

There are draws at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times MDT) Thursday at the Credit Union iplex.

For ticket and other event information, visit http://www.curling.ca/2016worldwomen/tickets/

For the complete results, standings, the schedule and much more, visit http://www.curling.ca/2016worldwomen/

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

TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the 2016 Ford Worlds.