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USA Curling

North America continues to lead Cup race

By Terry Kolesar | Jan. 19, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

Final skins event to determine 2014 Continental Cup winner in Las Vegas

(LAS VEGAS) - With one round left to determine the winner of the 2014 World Financial Group Continental Cup, John Shuster and the American men added two more points to the North American total this afternoon at the Orleans Arena.

A new attendance record was set at the Continental Cup as 4,802 fans packed the stands for the 10th draw. So far, 46,392 have attended the event, which is being hosted for the first time outside Canada.

Fifteen points were available in this afternoon's skins competition. North America earned 6.5 and now leads 24-21 over Team World. The first side to surpass 30.5 points is declared the Cup winner. Fifteen more points will be available in the final session of skins at 6 tonight, which will feature the American women.

Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jeff Isaacson (Virginia, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Hibbing, Minn.), and John Landsteiner (Hibbing, Minn.) enjoyed the opportunity to play the offensive-driven skins format against Sweden's Niklas Edin rink. "It kind of fits our game style so it's more like practice for us. It is always good to practice a round against some of the teams we'll see in Sochi," said Zezel, who is set to make his Olympic debut in Sochi next month.

In the skins format, teams must earn a minimum of two points with the last rock to earn a skin. The points value for the first six ends was a half-point. If a side does not earn the skin, it carries over into the next end and increases in value. The side also loses the hammer if they do not earn the skin. When steals occur, the side stolen against also loses the last-rock advantage. The format allows for aggressive play with lots of rocks in play.

"We didn't really change too much. We changed a little bit how we set up ends. We tried to throw our corner guards a little tighter to the house. That's the advice Jeff Stoughton gave us. We tried doing that to get more options with the draws," said Zezel, 22, a student at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minn. "We did ok; we got two out of the five [available points]. John's first rock in eight picked so that kind of hurt."

In the opening end, Sweden was not able to score two points so the skin was carried over into the second end. The Swedes also defaulted the last-rock advantage in this format and the American men had a chance to grab the one-point skin. However, Shuster's final stone was heavy and Sweden stole the point and got the last-rock advantage back.

Twelve stones were in play when Shuster threw his final stone of the fourth end. Six were in the house and Shuster's stone slipped through the port and chipped out the Swedish shot rock in the four-foot to have two in scoring position. Edin tried to follow suit but his stone rubbed a guard and the U.S. stole the skin.

In the fifth end, Edin converted an angle raise takeout to remove the U.S. stone in the four-foot, but Isaacson swept the shooter stone out and the skin was carried over into the sixth. Shuster attempted a takeout through a port filled with guards but the up-weight shot rubbed on a guard and Sweden stole the one-point skin to take a 2-1 lead. Shuster's team benefitted from a gaffe by Edin in the following end as the Swedish skip removed his own stones and left two North American rocks in scoring position. 

With the game tied 2-2, Sweden was unable to earn the final skin so the two sides had a sudden-death draw shot to determine which side would earn the skin. Edin drew first and nearly covered the button. Shuster's shot was a tad heavy and sunk into the back of the four-foot so Sweden earned the final one-point skin for Team World. 

"It's hopefully going to come down to the last few rocks," said Edin, who won the Olympic bronze medal in Vancouver. "We're really glad we could win this because it looked really bad with three ends to go. Hopefully the crowd will be able to see some good curling tonight." 

In the women's skins competition, Team World's Margaretha Sigfridsson took 3.5 skins compared to Team North America's Jennifer Jones (Canada) team, which earned 1.5. In the mixed skins, Team North America's squad, skipped by Rachel Homan of Canada, took three skins while Team World's Tom Brewster grabbed two.  

Erika Brown and the U.S. ladies face Team World's Eve Muirhead tonight in the final women's skins event. In men's skins, Team North America's Brad Jacobs (Canada) will play Team World's Thomas Ulsrud (Norway). The mixed skins lineups include Team North America's Jeff Stoughton, Emma Miskew, Mark Nichols and Lisa Weagle against Team World's David Murdoch, Satsuki Fujisawa, Scott Andrews and Miyo Ichikawa.

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 which generates the highest points total from the six Skins games will receive an additional $13,000 ($500 per player, plus captain and coach). 

The Continental Cup format is changing for 2015 and will not include American teams. "It's been a lot of fun and I'd love to do it again so hopefully we make it back sometime," said Zezel, who is playing in his first Cup. The 2015 event will be staged in Calgary. 

Competition                       World    North America

Team-Round 1                  2              1

Mixed Doubles, Rd1       1              2

Team-Round 2                  0              3

Team-Round 3                  1.5          1.5

Singles                                  5              1

Mixed Doubles, Rd2       0.5          2.5

Team-Round 4                  1              2

Team-Round 5                  .5            2.5

Skins-Round 1                   8.5          6.5         

Skins-Round2

Grand Total                        21           24

The Cup is a joint collaboration of USA Curling, the World Curling Federation, and the Canadian Curling Association, and is being staged outside of Canada for the first time. Live scoring can be found at http://www.curling.ca/2014continentalcup-en/results/.

NBC Sports Network will televise two games. The U.S. women's team competition from Saturday will air on NBCSN from 1:30-3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. The U.S. men's team competition from Sunday, will air from 8-10 p.m. ET on Jan. 26. NBC Sports Live Extra - NBC Sports Group's live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets - will stream NBCSN's coverage at NBCSports.com/liveextra.

In addition, Universal Sports Network will televise two of Sunday's skins matches from the Cup. The first game will air from 5-7:30 p.m. ET on Monday, followed by the second skins match from 5-7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. 

USA Curling is sponsored by AtomAmpd, Nike, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, Sitrin, BalancePlus and The RAM Restaurant & Brewery, and is partnered with Hilton, United Airlines, RJM Licensing Inc., and CurlingZone. 

Visit the USA Curling website at www.usacurl.org and connect with USA Curling on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare. 

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

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