North America post two shut-outs as lead widens to 98 points

Jan. 15, 2013, 3:48 p.m. (ET)
(ST. ALBERT, Alberta) – If Team World is preparing a comeback at the 2011 World Financial Group Continental Cup, it needs to be ramped up to full gear as North America added 40 more points to their total to expand the lead to 133-35 after this morning’s “A” skins competition at the Servus Credit Union Place. At this rate, the Continental Cup champion could potentially be crowned tonight despite a full day’s worth of play on the agenda tomorrow.

Erika Brown’s American team dominated Germany’s Andrea Schoepp en route to a 20-0 shutout in the women’s “A” skins. For Germany’s lead, Stella Heiss, who turned 18 today, the results were not a welcome birthday present. “I don’t think I’m going to celebrate it because I’m just really happy that I can drive at home and that I [can make] my own decisions now. It’s nothing special,” she said.

On the men’s side, Team World picked up some much-needed points as two-time world champion David Murdoch got past USA’s Pete Fenson, 17-3. In the mixed “A” skins, North America’s team of Kevin Koe, Susan O’Connor, Nolan Thiessen and Cori Morris shut out Team World’s Thomas Ulsrud, Carmen Schaefer, Niklas Edin and Yin Liu.
“We had a good win there, we got our points but we really needed to take all the skins on all the sheets there to get back into this cup. That’s pretty much nailed the coffin there, I think,” Murdoch said.

To count a skin, the team with the last rock must score a minimum of two points. A team can steal the skin if they count at least one point. If a team scores only one point when they have the last rock, they lose the last rock advantage in the next end and the skin is carried over, thus increasing in value. If a team with the last stone blanks the end, they lose the last rock advantage and the skin also is carried over. Point values increase throughout the eight-end games for a total of 20 points in the games in the “A” skins, 30 points each in the “B” skins tonight and 55 points apiece in tomorrow’s “C” skins finales.
Brown and teammates Nina Spatola (McFarland, Wis.), Ann Swisshelm (Chicago) and Laura Hallisey (Medfield, Mass.) started out strong and didn’t even need to throw their last rock in the first end as they already had two points in place. In the second end, Brown’s last rock was a perfect angle raise to promote her stone to the button. Schoepp failed to remove it, resulting in a steal of the skin for the Americans.

Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) and teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Duluth, Minn.) and Ryan Brunt (Bemidji, Minn.) also got off to a positive beginning as they were able to steal the opening-end skin when Murdoch couldn’t convert a tap-back to get a second stone into scoring position. Fenson placed a stone right on the button in the second end with his first stone that Murdoch failed to remove but Fenson couldn’t freeze his second rock to that one, leaving a small opening for Murdoch to blast it out and keep his other two stones in the four-foot to grab the one-point skin and tie the game.

Murdoch’s teammates include Ralph Stoeckli (Switzerland), Andreas Lang (Germany) and Simon Strubin (Switzerland) for this event. “You have to think, think, think,” said Murdoch jokingly. “It really does hurt your head after a while. I’ve got two games today, and I’m really going to need to get some aspirin. It’s a great format, I really enjoy it, and it makes you have to think differently, outwith the box and you have to think a lot more stones ahead than in normal curling.”

Skins were carried over in both American games in the third end. Fenson’s team got two stones protected in the fourth end until Murdoch blasted them out. Murdoch had to chip off a partially-frozen U.S. stone from his other rock in the four-foot to earn the four-point skin and take a 5-1 lead. Fenson countered with a double takeout in the fifth end to grab the two-point skin and cut the lead to 5-3. Fenson snuck a stone into a cluster of rocks in the four-foot in second position with his final stone in the sixth end to get the carryover of the skin when Team World couldn’t remove it. Fenson wasn’t able to earn two in the seventh, making the final end worth 12 points.

The American women grabbed the four-point skin in the fourth when Brown drew through some traffic into the four-foot. Brown’s team continued its dominance of the Germans grabbing four more points in the sixth end to jump ahead 10-0. Schoepp missed her final shot in the seventh end resulting in a carryover of the skin into the final end with a 10-point value meaning it could either result in a 10-10 tie or a shutout. With the last rock advantage, the veteran Brown made an angle-raise takeout to remove the German stone that was partially buried in scoring position in the four-foot. Moments later on the other side of the arena, Fenson approached a similar shot as he tried to win the 12-point skin but didn’t convert, and Murdoch was able to promote one of his own stones to earn the skin and, more importantly for Team World’s benefit, 17 points.

“It’s been so much fun,” said Hallisey, who is playing in her first Continental Cup, and shot 95 percent in today’s match. “We have a great team here that’s been so supportive. The veterans have been so great to us. They keep telling us not to be nervous and providing lots of support and advice.”A full-time pharmacy doctoral student, Hallisey has juggled the demands of training for curling competitions and practicing at midnight to stay on track while keeping up with her studies at the Jefferson School of Pharmacy in Philadelphia. “I just finished my first semester and the school’s been so great. My advisor
was like ‘no, don’t quit curling’ and they’ve enabled me to keep up with classes while I’m away.” Hallisey has three years left in the program and is excited about the career opportunities that lie ahead. “It’s amazing to hear about the lives all these athletes here have outside of curling. They are so different. I’m not sure yet what I want to do when I finish school, but I’m really excited.”

The U.S. women will face Bingyu Wang’s Chinese team while the American men will battle Sweden’s Niklas Edin in this afternoon’s singles skills competition. The hot shots contest is worth 32 points total. Each member of the team must throw at least one of the required six shots – run-through, draw the button, draw the port, the raise, hit and roll, and the double takeout. In addition, Swisshelm and Spatola will play with Canada’s 2010 Olympic gold medalists John Morris and Marc Kennedy in the Mixed “B” skins at 7:30 p.m. They’ll take on Team World’s combination of David Murdoch, Andrea Schoepp, Torger Nergard and Bingyu Wang.

In the “B” skins team final, Jennifer Jones will battle Mirjam Ott while Kevin Koe faces Niklas Edin, also on Saturday night. In the “C” skins on Sunday, Cheryl Bernard battles Bingyu Wang while Kevin Martin will face Thomas Ulsrud in a re-match of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games gold-medal match.

This year, the winning side will receive $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). The side which wins the final men’s skins game will receive an additional $13,000.

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For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling,, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell).