North America grabs a commanding 90-18 lead at WFG Continental Cup

The World Financial Group’s Continental Cup is threatening to become the event’s biggest blowout in its seven-year history. Team North America piled on the points again Friday at the Servus Credit Union Place, sweeping three men’s results on the night’s final draw to take a runaway 90-18 points lead in the four-discipline Ryder Cup-style curling event. Mind you, even a 72-point advantage remained a few cuts short of a sure thing with a remaining 292 points up for grabs in skins game and singles today and Sunday. The most one-sided Continental Cup finish transpired in 2007 at Medicine Hat when the Amerks thrashed the World team 290-110. “Points-wise,” said an elated North American coach Rick Lang of Thunder Bay, “it’s not too significant when you look at all the points left on the board. But, I think, psychologically, they (World) might be feeling a little desperate.” No kidding. The World team won only once in nine matches Friday. And it’s three-for-18 over the first two days of skirmishing. To boot, the visitors have exhibited few signs of being a threat when action resumes on the weekend. “We’re bleeding badly,” said Norway skip Thomas Ulsrud, the Olympic silver medallist who will play his Games final adversary Kevin Martin of Edmonton in Sunday night’s climactic men’s skins final.

Team Martin at the 2011 WFG Continental Cup

“We have to stop the bleeding. The good thing is we play for a lot of points so there’s still a chance. “I certainly hope we can come back. We need to have a team meeting tonight (Friday). I don’t know what (captain) Pal (Trulsen) and (coach) Peja (Lindholm) can tell us but I think everybody on Team World is playing under his standard so we need to get something going here. In skins you can go all out. If you lose early you can go right back. Every end is a new game. So . . . we’ll see.” In the late results Friday, Ulsrud was hammered 9-4 by Pete Fenson of the U.S. while Martin belted Niklas Edin of Sweden by the same score. Edmonton’s Kevin Koe completed the demolition by doubling the count, 6-3, on David Murdoch’s all-star lineup. “The mixed skins will tell a lot,” suggested Martin. “You know how skins work? Carryover, carryover, carryover. And they’re worth a lot of points. By the end of Saturday’s skins, they (World) need to win roughly 70 per cent of the points. They do that, and they’re right back in it. “And 70 per cent isn’t that much to ask in skins game because of all the carryovers. Of course, they still have to make some shots. No, they haven’t played very well yet. But it’s only two days.” World captain Pal Trulsen was left shaking his head in dismay. “We have to win a draw, we haven’t done that yet,” he said. “It isn’t looking good right now, is it? We seem to be hitting all the guards. We need some energy here.” Trulsen opined his team will be required to win most of the key matches that close out the competition. “We have to take almost all the skins and that’s hard to do. We don’t have (two-time Olympic gold-medal winner) Anette Norberg here. She’d take the big skin. Maybe I should call her and get her in here (on the next plane).” Two-time Olympic gold winner Norberg piled up skins points in the three previous Continental Cup renditions won by Team World. “I think the women’s results have been the significant difference,” said Lang. “In the past, the World relied on some very strong women’s teams. This time, our women have been outstanding, dominant and playing well and you see the big score difference.” Actually, the Amerk men haven’t exactly been chopped liver, either. In fact, the World team has managed one win in women’s teams (Bingyu Wang), one in men’s teams (Ulsrud) and one in mixed doubles (Murdoch and Carmen Schaefer). Period. “It’s a game of momentum, you know?” said Fenson. “Our teams are starting to play pretty good and I think everybody’s feeding off each other. Kevin makes one and then we make one and I think that helps a little, too. We have things going right now but it could just as easily go the other way. Anything can happen because it’s curling.  All six of our teams have to keep our heads in it.”