North America leads Team World after Day One at WFG Continental Cup

It may be early days at the World Financial Group Continental Cup but the form chart from the past more than supports the premise that this issue is far from being decided. Team North America may have compiled a whopping 42-12 point lead over Team World on Thursday resulting from six team games (four wins) and three rounds of mixed doubles (a sweep) at Servus Credit Union Place. But stats show the eventual Cup winner has shown the way following Day One only twice in six previous editions of curling’s Ryder Cup-style event. For the record, Team World led after three rounds of the inaugural and lost. Ditto Team North America in Continental Cup II and North America again in Continental Cup IV — both won the Team World.

Kevin Koe at the 2011 Continental Cup in St. Albert

The teams were dead even after opening-day play in Continental Cup III. The past two events have been closer to first-day form with the leaders carrying on to eventual triumph.  On the other hand, no team has previously surpassed 40 points for starters. “I kind of like that one stat but not the other,” said Thomas Ulsrud of Norway, the lone World winner on the men’s side in late-shift team games. “We need a big day tomorrow now. I really don’t like the feeling. They may be getting too far ahead.” Ulsrud, with Torger Nergaard, Christoffer Svae and Havard Vad Petersson, defeated world champion Kevin Koe of Edmonton 7-2, stealing five points over the last four ends and three in the seventh end when Koe slipped a last-rock draw through the rings. Elsewhere in the evening, Olympic champion Kevin Martin skipped his team of John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert past David Murdoch’s World all-stars 6-4 and Pete Fenson (Shawn Rojeski, Joe Polo, Ryan Brunt) of the U.S. executed a clutch last-rock double to subdue Niklas Edin of Sweden 5-3. China’s Bingyu Wang contributed Team World’s other points in the morning, rebounding for a 9-7 victory over Erika Brown of the U.S. Otherwise, it was all home side. “It was a good day,” said Martin, who contributed a dozen points to the lead, joining Ann Swisshelm of the U.S. in a 6-4 mixed doubles win over Edin and Monika Wagner of Germany. “Every point counts in this because it always comes down to a couple of points here and there.” Fenson controlled his match with the Swedes but needed the key shot to squelch a late comeback bid from Edin and Co. “He almost made his last one really good,” said the Bemidji, Minn., pizza parlour operator. “If he rolled it underneath there, it makes my shot much tougher.” Edin made the last one to confront Fenson with three rocks but the shot to win was left open. “It’s nice to win the first one,” said the Fenson, the 2006 Olympic bronze medal winner.  “We’ve been gone from this too long. This is a great event. There’s nothing like this.” The first team to 201 points wins this marquee event, which is based on a format similar to golf’s Ryder Cup, with team, singles, mixed doubles, and skins disciplines. Friday’s action commences at 8:30 a.m. with the second round of women’s teams. Bernard faces Ott, Schoepp goes against Brown and Jones tangles with Wang in a rematch of the 2008 world final.