Red-hot start!

Canadian skip Kerri Einarson, right, directs teammates Briane Meilleur, left, and Shannon Birchard during Saturday’s win. (Photo. Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team Canada blows past Italians to kick off world women’s event

If there is one thing Kerri Einarson has shown in her brief period on the world curling stage, it is that she knows how to handle Italy.

Einarson skipped her Team Canada to an overpowering 9-2 victory over Team Italy in the minimum of six ends of play Saturday to kick off the 2022 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Women’s Curling Championship at the CN Centre in Prince George, B.C.

The win gives Einarson’s Canadian team, based in Gimli, Man., the push-start it never got last year when it opened the world women’s event in Calgary with a loss on its way to a slow 1-4 start that was only rescued by a surge in the latter part of the schedule.

That surge included a 10-4 win over the same Italians, skipped by Stefania Constantini. She was also able to get the best of Constantini in last year’s world mixed doubles championship with teammate Brad Gushue.

“It always feels good to get off to a great start,” said Einarson, who is supported in Prince George by third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard, lead Briane Meilleur, alternate Krysten Karwacki, team coach Reid Carruthers and national coach Renée Sonnenberg.

It was a dominating win for the Canadians who are facing a couple of pressure points this week in front of their country, both on television and in the seats at the CN Centre. They desperately wanted to get off on the right foot — unlike last year when they opened with a loss against Team Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg — plus the fact Canadian women haven’t won the world title since 2018 in North Bay, Ont. Einarson finished in fifth position last year.

So, for an opening act in the 13-team round-robin event, this was important for the three-time Canadian champions who were denied a chance to perform in the world event in 2020, also in Prince George, when it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Constantini, despite Italy’s lacklustre record at the world women’s event, represented no easy pushover. She recently won the 2022 Olympic mixed doubles gold medal in Beijing, China, with partner Amos Mosaner and was looking for more glory.

Only Team Canada came with its ‘A’ Game. The Canadians opened with two peerless ends, stealing two in the first and three more in the second with precise shotmaking. The Italians were hard-pressed to score one in the third, but a skips’ deuce in the fourth netted two more for Canada.

Constantini, who was supported by vice-skip Marta Lo Deserto, second Angela Romei, lead Veronica Zappone, alternate Giulia Zardini Lacedelli and coach Violetta Caldart, was under constant pressure. Facing two more Canadian shot stones in the fifth, Constantini’s draw to the four-foot came up short and it was only a matter of time until the Italians cried ‘uncle’.

Einarson shot 100 per cent in the first five ends and ended up shooting an incredible 96 per cent.

Einarson thought the Canadians’ ability to find draw weight early was a key to their success.

“We got a handle on draw weight right away,” she said. “We really controlled the front, got our rocks in great spots, and were able to put some pressure on them.”

Sweeting was thrilled to finally play at the world event in Prince George after a two-year wait.

Turkish skip Dilsat Yildiz calls to her teammates during her country’s debut at the 2022 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Women’s Curling Championship (Photo, Curling Canada/ Michael Burns)

“It’s so special,” she said. “It’s an incredible feeling representing Canada. It (fan support) boosted us.”

It was also a good start for 2018 Olympic gold-medal champion Hasselborg who skipped Team Sweden to a comfortable 9-6 win over skip Dilsat Yildiz’s Team Turkey, making its world curling debut. Hasselborg, for all her success on the ice, is still looking for her first world title after winning silver in 2018 and 2019.

In other opening games, Team United States, skipped by Cory Christensen, defeated skip Alzbeta Baudysova’s Team Czech Republic 9-2, and Team South Korea, skipped by EunJung Kim, needed an extra end to post a 7-6 win over Team Norway, skipped by Marianne Roervik.

Team Canada is scheduled to play Team Norway in the evening draw at 7 p.m. (all times Pacific).

The 2022 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Women’s Curling Championship continues Sunday with draws at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2022 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Women’s Curling Championship are available by CLICKING HERE.

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