Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin delivered a satisfying short program on Friday to sit in third place in pairs at Skate America, the fifth stop on the ISU Grand Prix figure-skating circuit.
Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China lead the group with 74.36, while Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov of Ukraine were second at 61.70.
Duhamel, of Lively, Ont., and Buntin, of Kelowna, B.C., followed at 59.64, also a season best.
The Canadians skated to a string quartet version of Hotel California and are vying to better their fourth-place finish from two weeks ago in China.
"We were all very pleased with the performance," coach Richard Gauthier said. "The practices were strong all week and now they feel they are headed in the right direction. Tonight they not only executed the elements, but the whole program came together and it showed in the results."
U.S. ice dancers stake early lead
American ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto — silver medallists at the world championships and the 2006 Turin Olympics — scored 39.28 points Friday for a waltz that put them well ahead of Russia's Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski at 36.94.
The original dance is Saturday and the free dance Sunday.
The compulsory dance is usually something of a snoozer, but Belbin and Agosto made the audience — and judges — take notice because, well, they just looked so darn good.
Belbin couldn't have been happier with her outfit, called Tiffany Ribbon and provided by Designs to Shine, a ballroom costume company that supplies dresses for the TV show Dancing With the Stars. She changed costumes after the couple won the Cup of China two weeks ago.
"This is a beautiful and regal dance and I wanted to have something special," Belbin said.
The turquoise dress was noticeable for all the right reasons. Belbin also sported faux diamond earrings given to her by a South Korean fan.
"There are some very friendly fans," she said with a laugh.
Khokhlova and Novitski scored a season best with their performance. "That was a very good beginning," Novitski said.
In men's competition, Shawn Sawyer of Edmundston, N.B., is fifth after the short program. His score of 65.95 places him fewer than six points out of third spot.
Evan Lysacek of the U.S. is first with 79.17, Florent Amodio of France second, with 72.65, and Brandon Mroz of the U.S., third with 71.40.
Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., stands 10th with 59.05.