Continental Cup — down to the last point

Is it over before it’s over? Well, not exactly. But almost. Team World, by virtue of a 30-25 skins victory from China’s Bingyu Wang over Canada’s Stefanie Lawton on Sunday morning, fell a mere one-point short of the magic 201-point mark at the World Financial Group Continental Cup, thereby leaving Canada’s Jeff Stoughton with an almost insurmountable task in today’s men’s final. The last skins match against Team World’s Thomas Ulsrud of Norway at 5 p.m. PT is worth 55 points and North America’s Stoughton, the Canadian champ, will have to sweep the bundle in order to retain the Continental Cup trophy. Patterned after golf’s Ryder Cup, a last-ditch sweep would mean the teams finished in a dead heat at 200 points. That would enable Team North America to retain the trophy it won last year at St. Albert and earn a split of the total $78,000 prize money awarded the teams — $39,000 — plus the $13,000 up for grabs to the winning side of the final match.

Bingyu Wang celebrates during Draw 10 of the 2012 World Financial Group Continental Cup. (Photo by Michael Burns/CCA)

Any other final scenario would see Team World take the trophy for the fourth time, plus $52,000 designated for the winning side. Winner of the final match still wins $13,000 while the overall losing side takes home $26,000. A sweep of skins in one match at the Continental Cup is not uncommon but it never has transpired in a men’s final. In the 2003 women’s final at Thunder Bay, Anette Norberg’s Swedish team whitewashed Sherry Middaugh of Team North America 60-0 en route to Team World’s first Cup triumph. “We need the sweep, obviously,” agreed Amerk coach Rick Lang. Heading in, Team World leads 200-to-145. “That game was just like the whole week has gone for us. We get our hopes up a little bit and everything is going really well and looking good and you think it’s great and then they come back and finish off on us. Every time we thought we had hope they came back and stomped on us. You have to give them credit. “It’s kind of disappointing, but I texted Jeff the moment we’d scored enough points to continue and told him,’ you’re on, it’s up to you guys’. So he’s ready to go. “One philosophy (when requiring a skins sweep) is you don’t go as hard and you don’t take as many chances and you tend to play it open and hope the points just keep building and building. You do that by holding them to one and not taking any risks at all. “Norberg went the other way against Sherry Middaugh. She went hard the other way, threw every rock in play, guarded everything including other guards and went for every point. She wound up winning every skin. “I know that, after that, Randy Ferbey had to try to take every point against Peja (Lindholm) and it didn’t even look like a skins game. They started peeling and running out rocks and it worked for a while. We’ll see what Jeff has up his sleeve.” Lawton’s Saskatoon team of Sherry Anderson, Sherri Singler and Marliese Kasner was lightning quick out of the gate, grabbing 13 points in the third end after Wang blew a second-end open takeout shot. In the fifth, after another carryover, Lawton scored a deuce and went up 25-zip. But the match turned in the sixth when Wang executed a precise bump for a deuce to pick up eight points, stole the seventh end for another 10 points on the strength of a great hit-and-roll with her last rock, and then succeeded in warding off Lawton’s bid for a deuce in the final end, forcing a carryover button draw and hitting the four-foot ring full for the 12 points after Lawton’s draw over-curled and managed only a piece of the four. “I just threw the last one and left my team to make the shot,” said Wang. The rock didn’t require much sweeping. “I just kept telling them the weight’s fine,” she said. “We just decided to play this like a normal game and try to score points. We have played skins only in practice against our coach and only three times at the Continental Cup. “It’s good. We didn’t have the good start for the skins but we came back and tried our best and we got the points back. I think we will win this in the end with our teamwork. I hope we can get that one more point and start celebrating.” Lawton said she needed another half-inch on her last rock to get the proper angle on a raise that would have given North America a deuce and trimmed the total deficit to 29 points. “The weight was perfect,” she said. “It was a really a tight game and she made some great shots to finish it off. But we just about had it (the last 12 points). It’s a game of inches and we were so close. “They started making more shots in the latter ends and that made our shots tougher. “We didn’t want to do it, but we’ve put it all on Jeff’s shoulders. I know he’ll give it his best effort.” Draw 10 Media Scrum