North America extends lead at Continental Cup curling event
North America leads World 19.5-10.5 heading into Sunday
North America will take a nine-point lead into the final day of the World Financial Group Continental Cup in Penticton, B.C.
And while that may seem like a healthy advantage in curling's version of the Ryder Cup, 30 points will be on the line Sunday in six skins games.
North America added to its lead on Saturday night in the final men's team draw, winning two of the three games to take a 19.5-10.5 lead in the 60-point competition. The first team to 30.5 points will win the WFG Continental Cup, although as the defending champion, the World squad would retain possession of the championship if the teams end up tied with 30 points after the final draw.
The World team got a badly needed shot in the arm in Saturday's final game. With two North American wins on the board, Sweden's Niklas Edin made a raise-double takeout to score one in the eighth end for a 5-4 win over Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont.
"It was an important one, both for Team World and for our own team," said Edin, who won the European championship last month. "We haven't been playing that well, but we put it together for a pretty good game. It was close to the end and we could have lost it, but getting the win was really important."
That set the tone for a potential comeback on Sunday, with Edin scheduled to take on North America's Heath McCormick of the U.S. in a skins game.
"That'll be a lot of fun," said Edin. "We've been playing better and better and I think we have a chance to get some skins. It's always interesting with lots of stones in play. It'll be fun to play and hopefully we can tighten up the match."
Edmonton's Kevin Martin got Saturday evening off to a solid start for his side, scoring two in the first end and four more in the third to cruise to an 8-3 win over Norway's Thomas Ulsrud.
"We seem to be firing on all four cylinders right now and that's nice to see," said Martin vice-skip John Morris, whose team struggled in a pair of events in December. "New year and a new team, it looks like. We got an early lead on those guys and just kept the pedal on the gas."
Martin's team will be split up for a pair of mixed skins games on Sunday. Morris will skip one team against Scotland's Tom Brewster, while Martin has been matched up with four-time world junior women's champion Eve Muirhead, also of Scotland, in an intriguing pairing.
In Saturday's other men's team game, McCormick made an open hit for one in the eighth end for a 4-3 North American victory over Brewster.
"It wasn't the prettiest," said McCormick. "At the end of day, if you make the last shot, that's what counts."
The six skins games (two mixed, two women's and two men's) on Sunday will offer a total of five points per game, with the first six ends of each game worth one-half point each, while the seventh and eighth ends are worth one point each. In skins, a count of at least two with last rock or a steal is required in order to win an end. Otherwise, the points carry over.
The winning side receives $52,000 ($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 point total in Sunday's six skins games will receive an additional $13,000.
Each team has won four Continental Cups.