Now that he’s wriggled off the hook, there’s a very big fish still loose in the Ford Word Men’s Curling Championship pond.Thomas Ulsrud and the Norwegian team have barged their way into the Page Playoff 3-4 game at the FWMCC, presented by Richardson, thanks to a 5-4, 11-end victory over France during Friday afternoon’s tiebreaker at the Brandt Centre.
It marked Norway’s sixth straight win, and it came just 18 hours after the Scandinavians had stolen their way to a dramatic 7-6 decision over Canada in Thursday night’s round-robin finale. Canadian skip Jeff Stoughton was heavy with his final stone of the 10th end, allowing the Norwegians to escape with victory, finish with a 7-4 record, and earn Friday’s tiebreaker date with France (7-4).
“I was telling my wife that when Jeff was sitting in the hack, and getting ready to throw his last stone, I was thinking, ‘Too bad it’s over now, just when we were starting to click,’ ” said Ulsrud, whose 2010 Olympic silver medalists had stumbled to a 2-4, round-robin record here in Regina before catching fire. “Now, I think we have the same chance as the other teams.
“If you’d asked me two or three days ago if we were going to play on Saturday, I’d have said, ‘No way.’ But we hung in there. And this was a real tough game against France,” added Ulsrud, whose Oslo-based outfit includes third Torger Nergaard, second Christoffer Svae, and lead Haavard Vad Petersson.
“We have to play a little more, but we get to rest today now. And hopefully (Saturday), we’ll play one, maybe two games. Hey, I’m skipping. I’m just holding the broom,” he quipped. “I’m not tired.”
Saturday’s Page 3-4 game against Sweden (7-4) is slated for 12:30 p.m. CST at the Brandt Centre. The winner moves on to the semifinal at 5 p.m.
Canada (10-1) and Scotland (9-2), who finished with the two best round-robin records at Regina, will collide in the Page 1-2 game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. CST.
France (7-4) was the dark-horse outfit of this year’s tournament, advancing to its second tiebreaker game in five years. Unfortunately for skip Thomas Dufour, last-rock tosser Tony Angiboust, second Lionel Roux, and lead Wilfrid Coulot of Chamonix, Norway was the outfit no one wanted to play, after reeling off consecutive round-robin wins against the United States, Denmark, Scotland, China, and Canada.
“I believe that they were one of the strongest teams of the field. They’ve been very good the past few games, and very difficult to beat,” said Dufour. “But we are very pleased. We cannot say that we are that disappointed. We didn’t expect to play so well. Maybe next year things will go the same, and even better.”
Ulsrud won Friday’s showdown with a simple hit-and-stick on his final rock of the 11th end. But the game was turned on its ear in the ninth, with the score 3-3, when Angiboust attempted to blank the end with a runback double takeout. One red stone remained in the back of the house, giving Norway a steal of one.
“We thought it was the best thing to do. We hoped that if we blanked the end, we were in a very good position to win this one,” said Dufour. “Even with the miss, we still had our chances.”
In the 10th, Angiboust drew for a piece of the button, nestling against a Norway rock at the back of the four-foot, to tie the game 4-4 and send it to an extra end.
But that miss in the ninth “was a big change in the game,” said Ulsrud. “Obviously, we just tried to hold them to one and go for the extra. We managed . . . but it was tight.”