Team North America got two well-timed shots in the arm to close out the opening day of the World Financial Group Continental Cup Thursday evening.
Big victories by Canadian skips Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard in men’s team games at the South Okanagan Events Centre in curling’s version of the Ryder Cup helped Team North America claw back some of Team World’s lead after three rounds of action.
Team World, the defending champion, carries a 5-4 lead into Day 2; the first team to claim 30.5 points of the 60 available will win the WFG Continental Cup.
Martin’s team had struggled of late with Martin undergoing hernia surgery in December.
But in his first full game back on the ice, Martin made an inturn draw to the four-foot in the final end to beat Team World’s Tom Brewster 4-3.
“I felt really good, actually — the whole game,” said Martin, the 2010 Olympic gold-medallist. “I really enjoyed getting back out on the ice.”
Martin was able to wrap up his game and then watched Howard pull out an exciting 6-3 win over Team World’s Thomas Ulsrud of Norway that wasn’t secure until Howard made a tough double-takeout with his final shot of the eighth end, eliciting a celebratory fist-pump from his long-time rival Martin.
“That was a hard shot, and he didn’t have a lot of time,” said Martin with a smile. “No timeouts, no time on the clock. That’s a heavy-pressure shot.”
Howard was a part of the North American team that went down to defeat to Team World last year in Langley, a result that was determined when the World squad built a massive early lead over the first two days.
“Last year we got ourselves into a hole right at the beginning of the week and we couldn’t come back,” said Howard. “We definitely don’t want to do that again here. To get two out of the three was great. We’re only one point back, and we can claw back at them.”
In the other evening game, Team World’s Niklas Edin prevented a North American sweep with an 8-7 win over Team North America’s Heath McCormick making a draw for the win in the eighth end after forcing McCormick to one in the seventh.
“It was really important (to lead after the first day),” said Edin. “On paper, they have so many strong players and so many good teams. So I think it’s really important for us to have the lead and build confidence throughout the entire squad. We’re in a good position, I think.”
The WFG Continental Cup continues with three draws on Friday. Women’s and men’s singles at 1 p.m. and men’s team games at 6:30 p.m.
There will be 12 more traditional team games (six men’s, six women’s), each worth one point for a win, and one-half point for a tie. All games are eight ends and there are no extra ends. For the six mixed doubles and six singles matches, one point will also be awarded for each victory, one-half point if tied.
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 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 final three skins games will receive an additional $13,000 ($500 per player, plus captain and coach).