North America 155, World 45 after Singles Competition

It’s now merely a matter of time. The North American segment of the World Financial Group Continental Cup, leaders from the first rock thrown on Thursday, moved to within 46 points of wrapping up its fourth title in seven tries Saturday afternoon at St. Albert’s Servus Credit Union Place. Racking up a 22-10 point advantage in singles competition (four points for a win, two points for a tie, with an eight point bonus for highest aggregate), the Amerks lead the frustrated Team World curlers, 155-45, heading into Saturday night’s round of 30-point skins games involving men’s, women’s and mixed teams. The first team to hit 201 points wins. “I don’t know what’s happening,” admitted World captain Pal Trulsen, who led the World to a victory two years ago at Camrose. “We’re just not with it this year. In curling, that happens sometimes.” The analysis is more likely to show that the North American teams have been close to immaculate. Take Kevin Martin’s Olympic gold-medal winning lineup in Singles play. Of six shots played, Martin and his men were perfect in five, scoring less than the maximum five points only in the hit-and-roll shot. The Martin team, in fact, has been the strength of the Amerk charge from the beginning, winning both its team assignments as well as its members’ participation in mixed doubles. The final count in singles:

Ben Hebert of Team North America (Photo: Michael Burns Photography)

Martin (John Morris, Marc Kennedy, Ben Hebert) blitzed Dave Murdoch’s all-star lineup 27-16 while U.S. champion Pete Fenson’s Bemidji, Minn., crew (Shawn Rojeski, Joe Polo, Ryan Brunt) defeated Niklas Edin’s Swedes 21-18 and Erika Brown’s Yanks (Nina Spatola, Ann Swisshelm, Laura Hallisey) defeated Bingyu Wang of China 11-10. The World team received victories from Thomas Ulsrud (Torger Nergaard, Christoffer Svae, Havard Vad Petersson) 21-19 over Kevin Koe of Edmonton and world champion Andrea Schoepp (Monika Wagner, Corinna Scholz, Stella Heiss) 15-14 over Cheryl Bernard of Calgary. A sixth match — Mirjam Ott of Switzerland vs. Jennifer Jones of Canada — was deadlocked at 16 points apiece. North America, for its three wins and one tie, also earned an eight-point bonus for winning the aggregate score (the total of scores from all six games, 108-96), hence the 22-10 edge. The Amerks won two out of three skins matches earlier, two of them shutout, to pretty much seal the deal. In late games today, Jones and Ott collide in a 30-point skins issue while Koe and Edin also play a 30-pointer. In a mixed skins match, John Morris will skip Swisshelm, Kennedy and Spatola against Murdoch, Schoepp, Nergaard and Wang. Team North American clinched the win on Saturday night three years ago en route to a lopsided 290-110 decision. Should the Amerks prevail, the war will be settled but Sunday night’s final 55-point skins game battle for a winner-take-all $13,000 still will feature Martin representing North America and Ulsrud directing the World fortunes. “We’re in tough,” admitted Murdoch, the 2009 world champion from Scotland. “I think the coffin pretty much was nailed shut when we suffered two blankings this morning.”