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Team World cranks up the pressure on rivals at World Financial Group Continental Cup

Team North America earned its first point Friday morning at the 2019 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, but it could only stem the bleeding, not stop it.

The North American side, swept in all nine opening-day matches at the Orleans Areana in Las Vegas on Thursday, came out with a bit more urgency Friday morning, and were rewarded when Ben Hebert of Chestermere, Alta. and Winnipeg’s Dawn McEwen teamed together in mixed doubles to defeat Sweden’s duo of Sofia Mabergs and Christoffer Sundgren representing Team World 6-3.

But that was it. Team World continued its relentless pressure on Team North America, thumping its rivals in the other two mixed doubles matchups. Scottish stars Eve Muirhead and Bobby Lammie of Team World defeated Team North America’s Sarah Anderson and John Landsteiner, both from the U.S., 8-4, while the Swiss combo of Silvana Tirinzoni and Benoît Schwarz representing Team World thumped Team North America’s Joanne Courtney of Edmonton and Winnipeg’s B.J. Neufeld 9-3, most of the damage being done with a five-ender in the sixth end.

The mixed doubles wins were worth one point in the standings and increased Team World’s lead to 11-1 with plenty of points still on the table. But the pressure is growing on the North Americans to get things on the rails.

The World Financial Group Continental Cup format pits Team North America against Team World in a series of Team Play, Mixed Doubles, Team Scramble, Mixed Team Play and Skins games. The first to score 30.5 points is declared the World Financial Group Continental Cup champion when play ends Sunday.

There was plenty of motivation Friday when Team North America showed up to play in the morning. Its six-event winning streak in the competition is at stake, but also pride and a fair amount on money to be won. The winning side receives $85,000 Cdn (shared among 24 players, coaches and captain), while the losing side gets $45,000 (shared among 24 players, coaches and captain).

Silvana Tirinzoni and Benoît Schwarz of Switzerland bested Joanne Courtney and B.J. Neufeld 9-3 during Draw 4 at the World Financial Group Continental Cup. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

But pride may have been the key motivating factor. Nobody wants to be embarrassed in front of thousands of fans in an arena and a huge television audience.

Hebert tried to lighten the tension for Team North America by playing to the crowd and cracking some good one-liners.

“It’s a fun game,” he said. “When you’re down nine, ten to nothing to try to go out and have a good time. If you’re going to get run out of the building you might as well put a smile on and entertain the people. We were winning too, so it was easy to have fun out there.”

But he understands the situation his team is facing.

“They’re playing some good curling and we aren’t as sharp as we want to be,” said Hebert. “We had a good meeting yesterday with the players and coaches and there’s some big points still available on Sunday (Skins matches). We’re certainly going to need to turn the tide here.”

Team World, on the other hand, continued to let the good times roll.

“We’re having a lot of fun,” said Tirinzoni. “Every game we look forward to play. When you don’t play it’s so much fun to watch the other teams play. I’m enjoying every minute.”

Tirinzoni said the five-ender was just one of those ends that can happen when good teams collide.

“Actually there were a lot of misses on both sides,” she said. “If one freeze was made the five was never in play. The ice was very tricky in that spot.”

The 2019 World Financial Group Continental Cup continues today with a mixed doubles draw at 1:30 p.m. and a men’s team competition at  6:30 p.m. (all times PST).

TSN/TSN2 and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the World Financial Group Continental Cup. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule. The event is also live in the United States on ESPN3.

For ticket information, as well as team lineups and the full event draw for the 2019 World Financial Group Continental Cup, go to https://www.curling.ca/2019continentalcup/

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at: https://www.curling.ca/?lang=fr