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Team North America prevails at 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup

Sunday Jan 17 2016
by Curling Canada Release

LAS VEGAS — It was a nailbiter of historic proportions to the very end. So, it was only fitting that in the four-day roller-coaster that was the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, it took three attempts to finally win it for Team North America in the final round of skins play.

 Leading 29.5 to 26, Team North America needed an Eve Muirhead miss on her final shot against Jennifer Jones for the title title. Instead, the Scottish veteran made her final shot to put one more point on the board for Team World.

 Then, on Sheet B, Team North America’s Kevin Koe had a difficult raise takeout that would have won the game, and the overall title, against Team World’s Niklas Edin. He missed, forcing a carry-over and leaving the 2.5 available points up for grabs, to be decided in a post-game draw to the button.

 Finally, on Sheet C, in the mixed skins game, John Morris would deliver the killing blow, making a board-weight inturn takeout to beat Torger Nergård’s team 3-2 and set off a wild Team North America celebration.

“I’ve never been a part of something like that, a championship that was so close,” said an ecstatic Morris, whose mixed team was rounded out by third Allison Pottinger, second Nolan Thiessen and lead Natalie Nicholson. “It was pretty electric in there, pretty cool to be a part of.”

The Morris shot gave North America 30.5 points, the exact total needed to win curling’s version of the Ryder Cup.

 At one point, North America trailed 14-10 in the overall standings before fighting back to tie the championship at 22.5 apiece going into the final draw Sunday night.

 The anti-climactic shot-to-the-button between Koe and Edin was held after the Team North America celebration, and Edin covered the pin to bring Team World’s final total to 29.5 points, leaving a one-point victory margin for the hosts — easily the closest in the 12-year history of the WFG Continental Cup.

“Wow,” whistled Lang. “We had to have character, and I think both sides showed a lot of character. They were up on us, then we bounced back and got some momentum, and they just fought crazy hard today. Crazy competition.

“We have great character people on our team and they know what this is about. They take a lot of pride in this; they’re playing their guts out there. There are bigger prizes on the world, but you can tell by the reaction and response at the end that they really wanted to win this thing.”

It marked the fourth straight loss for Team World, although it was a far closer championship than the past three lopsided affairs.

“It’s a little like kissing your sister, but congratulations to Team North America,” said Team World captain Andy Kapp. “They just made a few more shots at the end. We were close this year; we’re looking forward to next year.”

For Jones and her teammates second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen, it was their record sixth WFG Continental Cup title (vice-skip Kaitlyn Lawes has five).

“I’m so proud of Team North America” said Jones. “We got behind a couple days ago, and we just pulled up our socks and here we are.”

Team North America won $52,000 Cdn ($2,000 per member, including captain and coach), while the World team earned $26,000 ($1,000 per member, including captain and coach). As well, Team North America won a $13,000 bonus ($500 per player, plus captain and coach) for taking the most points out of the six skins games.

 Final attendance for the four days was 62,498, a record for not only the event, but also any curling event staged in the United States.

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Sunday PM: It's all tied up going into final round at 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup- LAS VEGAS — Three days and 10 rounds of competition have left us exactly where we started at the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming. On even terms. Deadlocked. All tied up.

So, for the first time in the 12-year history of the WFG Continental Cup, we’ll enter the final draw of competition with both teams on level terms — Team World, 22.5 points; Team North America, 22.5 points.

“You couldn’t ask for more,” raved Team World skip Thomas Ulsrud, who nailed down the tie with a clutch draw to cover the button in his mixed skins game against a North American lineup that featured Pat Simmons, Kaitlyn Lawes, Carter Rycroft and Jill Officer. “Now I’m going to get something to eat, then kick back and watch everybody else. I’ve always been lucky enough to play the last skins draw, so now I’ll be watching, and I think I’ll be more nervous watching.”

There were three skins games on Sunday afternoon, each worth five points in the overall standings, and two of them (UIsrud vs. Simmons in mixed skins, Erika Brown of North America vs. Ayumi Ogasawara of Team World) ended in a tie, 2.5 to 2.5, while the third, an all-male  was won 3-2 by North America’s John Shuster over China’s Jialiang Zang.

 But in both the mixed and men’s games, the eighth end ended in a carry-over, meaning both sets of skips had to throw draws to the button to decide the final skins — two points in the mixed game, and a single in the men’s game.

 And in both cases, the Team World skips prevailed.

 First, Shuster was light on his draw, and Zang made no mistake on his to collect one the point.

 And then Simmons, who barely missed his shot in the eighth end for the outright win, was a centimetre heavy with his draw, and Ulsrud covered the pin for two points to create the tie in the overall standings and set the stage for what should be a drama-filled evening at Orleans Arena.

“Playing that last throw, knowing I needed to cover the pin, those are the moments I live for, you know?” said Ulsrud. “I don’t feel pressure on that one. You’re not going to make them all the time. But it’s really fun to make them.”

 “I thought it was fantastic entertainment,” added Team North America coach Rick Lang, whose team is riding a three-year win streak at the World Financial Group Continental Cup, and was trailing 15.5-14.5 coming into Sunday. “I know my adrenalin is pumping right now, and all our players are, too. Looking forward to a great evening of curling tonight.”

One might think that Team World has the momentum after the late-game heroics from Ulsrud and Zang, but Lang isn’t so sure.

“I think I’m really happy that we came out of this draw as well as we did,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any letdown at all (from losing the three points at the end). We’ll be as pumped as we would have been had we made those points. It’s just going to be a little more work.”

The final round of skins, with five points on the line in each game, at 6:30 p.m. PST, looks like this:

Women — Jennifer Jones (North America) vs. Eve Muirhead (World)
Men — Kevin Koe (North America) vs. Niklas Edin (World)
Mixed — John Morris, Allison Pottinger, Nolan Thiessen, Natalie Nicholson (North America) vs. Torger Nergård, Nadine Lehmann, Håvard Vad Petersson, Marissa Winkelhausen (World)

 A total of 60 points are available over the four days of competition in traditional team, mixed doubles and skins competition, with the first team to surpass 30.5 points declared the winner.

 The winning side receives $52,000 Cdn ($2,000 per member, including captain and coach), while the losing side gets $26,000 ($1,000 per member, including captain and coach). As well, the side that generates the highest points total from the six Skins games will receive an additional $13,000 ($500 per player, plus captain and coach).

 Should the teams end in a 30-30 tie, the overall prize money will be split evenly (the skins money is dependent only on the skins points, and would be treated the same way in a tie for skins points), but there will be one skip selected from each team for a draw to the button to decide possession of the trophy 
 
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Saturday PM: It's going down to the wire at 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup - LAS VEGAS — A three-day roller-coaster ride at the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, has set up what has the potential to be a spectacular closing day at the Orleans Arena.

 Team World carries a narrow one-point lead — 15.5 to 14.5 — over Team North America in curling’s version of the Ryder Cup, but considering Sunday’s closing day of six skins games will distribute 30 points, that lead is truly inconsequential.

 But, suggested Team World skip Thomas Ulsrud, moments after stealing a 5-3 win over Team North America’s John Shuster, that lead will give his team confidence going into the final day, especially after been blown out of the water at the past two WFG Continental Cups.

“Hey, it’s really tight,” said Ulsrud. “It’s been a blowout the last couple years, so Team World is fighting, still leading. We managed to have, I will say, a pretty lucky win at the end there (against Shuster). But winning was important — momentum is the key thing. We’ve never been behind here this week, so as long as we can keep that momentum going, it’s important for us. And it’s good to have that lead.”

Ulsrud got his win when Shuster was heavy on his draw to the four-foot, leaving the Team World side with the counting stone — the lone bright spot on an otherwise dismal evening that saw Team North America win twice.

 Kevin Koe of Calgary rolled to a 7-2 thrashing of China’s Jialiang Zang, while Ottawa’s Rachel Homan made a draw to the four-foot in the eighth and final end to nail down a 5-3 win over reigning world women’s champ Alina Pätz of Switzerland.

 It was Homan’s final appearance of the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup as her team is heading home Sunday to prepare for the Ontario Scotties provincial championship, which begins Monday in Brampton.

“It’s too bad we can’t stay and help the team out and cheer them on, but we have provincials to go to and everybody understands that,” said Homan. “We got a point for them today, and hopefully they can keep it rolling tomorrow.”

Team North America has raised its game ever since a dramatic mixed doubles win in the Saturday morning draw by Jill Officer and Matt Hamilton that prevented a Team World sweep and cut the visitors’ overall lead to 14-10.

“We were in trouble this morning; it could have been 16-8, and then Jill and Matt had a really big doubles win and that got us some momentum for the rest of the day,” said Team Koe vice-skip Marc Kennedy. “It looks like we’re starting to play a little better, so it should be an interesting day tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, team captains (Andy Kapp for Team World, Ann Swisshelm for Team North America) and coaches (Pål Trulsen for Team World, Lang for Team North America) set their matchups for Sunday’s skins games.

 They are as follows:

1 p.m.
 Women — Erika Brown (North America) vs. Ayumi Ogasawara (World)
Men — John Shuster (North America) vs. Jialiang Zang (World)
Mixed — Pat Simmons, Kaitlyn Lawes, Carter Rycroft, Jill Officer (North America) vs. Thomas Ulsrud, Alina Pätz, Christoffer Svae, Nicole Schwägli (World).

6:30 p.m.
 Women — Jennifer Jones (North America) vs. Eve Muirhead (World)
Men — Kevin Koe (North America) vs. Niklas Edin (World)
Mixed — John Morris, Allison Pottinger, Nolan Thiessen, Natalie Nicholson (North America) vs. Torger Nergård, Nadine Lehmann, Håvard Vad Petersson, Marissa Winkelhausen (World)

“Skins is one end at a time, so really, it’s 30 mini-games tomorrow,” said Kennedy. “Hopefully we just make the right shots at the right time.”

Each skins game is worth five points in the overall standings.

 A total of 60 points are available over the four days of competition in traditional team, mixed doubles and skins competition, with the first team to surpass 30.5 points declared the winner.
 



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