Early lead for N. Americans

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

EDMONTON - No Continental Cup has ever been decided on the first day.

There’s plenty of reasons this event has a sliding scale of game values, where each day’s matches are worth more points than the previous day’s.

If each game was worth the same, based on Thursday’s results, this event might be over before it barely gets started.

Team North America won five of its first six matches after a clean sweep in the afternoon mixed doubles, assuring them of a winning Day 1 record.

And, with two wins in last night’s men’s matches, North America has a 7-2 record and a comfortable 42-12 points lead over Team World.

Team North America came up with the wins they were expected to win and there were the huge upsets.

“I’m sure the pressure builds if you haven’t got any points for your team yet,” said Susan O’Connor, the third for Cheryl Bernard’s team.

After a morning win in team, O’Connor combined with Shawn Rojeski of the U.S. for a huge upset win in the afternoon mixed doubles.

“They had us up against a pretty tough duo (Thomas Ulsrud and Bingyu Wang),” said O’Connor. “Team World was probably counting on them to win that one.”

Still, O’Connor put the situation in perspective.

“When we came off the ice this morning (in Bernard’s win over world champ Andrea Schopp), we were told we only won six points,” said O’Connor. “I was: ‘Ah, that’s a lot of work for six points.’ It is really back-end weighted. Totally, for confidence and getting on a roll, it’s great, but it’s a long, long week yet. Pressure builds in those later dates.”

If nothing else, it sure beats the alternative. During the last event in Camrose, Team World got off to a huge first-day start and a 36-18 lead. Even though Team North America was able to put on a late charge, the momentum was too much to overcome.

Carter Rycroft, second for world champ Kevin Koe, likes being ahead on the first day. It sure beats the alternative.

“It’s all confidence, it’s all momentum,” said Rycroft. “This is my third one and both times we’ve had horrible starts. It’s huge, especially in this event after losing the last one, to get off to a good start.”

Rycroft expects Team World to come out firing after they got caught napping in Day 1.

“To tell you the truth, I think they were a little surprised with how we came out,” said Rycroft. “I think they weren’t expecting this. You could sort of see that. They like getting the points early. Not that anybody else doesn’t, but you could sorta see they weren’t expecting this.

“We weren’t expecting five out of six, but we wanted to come out strong, have a big start, have a good start.”

Rycroft has been on enough intimidating teams to sense when the opposition is intimidated.

Kevin Martin has been there, done that enough times to understand the rhythm of this event.

“All the pressure happens at the end,” said Martin. “Right now, it’s fun for the crowd and fun for the players. It’s kinda like a four-day Skins game. The first part is really relaxing and fun and the pressure builds.

“Cheryl’s team probably played the best today. You can probably thank Cheryl for our good start. You need somebody to lead the charge and she led the charge.”

EXTRA ENDS: Kevin Martin’s team was presented with the Olympic banner and Olympic rings courtesy of Bill Comrie, the man who made the Edmonton-based Brick an international furniture retailer.

“I was having a beer with Wayne Gretzky and Greg (CCA CEO Stremlaw) came into the room,” said Comrie. “I said, ‘When are they going to get their rings?’ and Greg said it wasn’t in the budget. I said well, they’ve got to get rings. This is a big feat here in Canada and in Vancouver what Kevin’s done. I said I’ll buy them. It was born from there and today we gave Kevin and his team the rings.”

Comrie was unsure how much the rings cost him.


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