Hammer time!

Peter de Cruz, at left, and Benoit Schwarz toppled Kevin Koe on Thursday night at the 2020 OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Europe takes early lead over Canada at OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup 

LONDON, Ont. — Team Europe found a way to hammer Team Canada during opening-day action at the OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup, presented by Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning and Plumbing.

Europe’s mantra? When you’re given the hammer to start the game, keep banging. Team Europe started all three games with hammer and were sure to take advantage.

“Having hammer is super important,” said Swiss skip Peter de Cruz about his team’s evening sweep. “Nowadays in curling, it’s key.”

With wins on all three sheets, Team Europe finished the day with a 7-2 lead against the home country at The Sports Centre at Western Fair District.

de Cruz had the hardest task on paper in his matchup against defending Tim Hortons Brier champion Kevin Koe of Calgary.

Calgary’s Chelsea Carey succumbed to Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg on Thursday evening. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Yet, it was de Cruz – throwing second rocks – who hung on to a 7-6 win with the help of supporting cast Benoit Schwarz throwing fourth, Sven Michel at third and Valentin Tanner at lead.

In other games, Scotland’s Bruce Mouat took care of Toronto’s John Epping 9-5 and Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg doubled up defending Scotties champion Chelsea Carey of Calgary 6-3.

de Cruz paved the way to his win with a pair of deuces in the first three ends while holding Koe to a single, then stealing another pair in the fourth for a commanding 6-1 lead.

“It’s always satisfying to beat him,” said de Cruz. “We actually have a pretty good record against Kevin. I think we’re pretty even in the last couple  of years but he’s super fierce, super good. 

“Even when we had a lot of points on the board, you just never know. If they start playing how they know how to play, you’re probably going to give up a deuce and force you to one. That’s what happened. It was pretty comfortable until the end.”

Then he lived up to his back-of-jersey nickname, Pistol Pete, in the sixth end – chiselling out a near-frozen Koe rock.

“That was pretty lucky,” said de Cruz. “I think we had at least two or three lucky breaks in this game. We didn’t necessarily play our best game. It was just good enough. We need to pick it up in the next couple of days.”

So far, de Cruz has been 1-1 in OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup appearances, winning last year in Las Vegas, while being on the losing end when this event was held in London in 2018.

“We had some unfinished business two years ago,” the London, England-born de Cruz said. “This one feels a little different with Team Canada against Team Europe. If we can go out and tease the Canadians a bit, we’ll do it.”

The more important fact to de Cruz and his European teammates is the lead they’re taking into Friday’s action.

Team Europe’s start is eerily similar to last year’s event in Las Vegas, when de Cruz and his Team World mates managed to hang on for their first win in seven years even though Team North America mounted a fierce comeback.

“It came down to one of the last shots in the last skins,” de Cruz recalled. “We have a pretty good lead, but it’s going to be a long few days more.”

The 2020 OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup continues with draws Friday at 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (all times EST).

TSN/TSN2 and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule. 

The OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup format pits Team Canada against Team Europe in a series of team play, mixed doubles, scrambles and skins games. Teams earn points by winning games and the first to score 30.5 points is declared the OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup champion.

For ticket information, as well as team lineups, go to https://www.curling.ca/2020continentalcup/

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

Curling Canada