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Europe defeats North America, 208-179 to win Continental Cup

by Jeff Timson, St Clair's Group.

Thunder Bay, November 30, 2003

Europe, spearheaded by Sweden's Peja Lindholm, captured the Continental Cup Sunday night at Fort William Gardens, giving the visitors bragging rights for a year and $125,000 (Cdn) to be shared by its 24 curlers and coach Kristian Soerum.

Lindholm managed to take 17 points in the men's 60-point Skins game against North America's Randy Ferbey, making the overall score 208-179, well above the 201 points required to declare a champion.

Defending champion North America faced a monumental challenge trying to retain the 'Cup', heading into tonight's final. The onerous task of trying to overcome a 42 point deficit, after Europe's Anette Norberg had blanked North America's Sherry Middaugh, 60-0 in Sunday afternoon's women's Skins game, fell to Randy Ferbey and his consecutive two-time current world championship team of third Dave Nedohin, second Scott Pfeifer and lead Marcel Rocque.

However, his opponent, Lindholm, not only a two-time world champion himself, had also played in the men's Skins final of the Continental Cup last year, losing a tough one to Kevin Martin on a steal in the last end, in a game which down to last rock, as North America won 207-193.

Tonight's victory a year later proved a sweet reward for Lindholm and his Ostersund team of Tomas Nordin, Magnus Swartling and Peter Narup.

It was a game which had more than its share of dramatics and one that appeared to be possibly producing a second 'Miracle on Ice' as the seventh end approached. Spurred on by the crowd chanting 'Stayin Alive', Ferbey's team played what could be described as the most defensive strategy they've likely adopted in the past several years, cautiously ensuring that Lindholm could neither get set up for a deuce or be in position to steal.

In Skins, each end is worth a stated number of points, but in order to claim the points, a team must either score two or more points with hammer or steal. If neither happens, the points value is carried over to the next end.

Ferbey's squad took the first three skins (counting in the first end with hammer, then stealing in the second and third), building a 14-0 lead, before Lindholm was able to take his own six point skin in the fourth.

After a fifth end carry over, the sixth end proved dynamic, when Dave Nedohin, who throws skip rocks for the Ferbey team, made an amazing triple with his last stone, killing all three Lindholm counters, two in the button, one in the four foot. The result left North America with a host of rocks in the rings and forced Lindholm to make a decision. Either draw the four-foot, give up the hammer and force a carry-over or throw his rock away, give Ferbey the 'skin', worth 16 points on a steal, but retain hammer. He chose the latter, as the scoreboard now read North America 30, Europe 6.

However, in the seventh end, worth 11 points, the game suddenly ended innocently enough when Nedohin's final stone, an attempted come around to the eight-foot, wound up raising a Lindholm stone further into the 12-foot, which, combined with another stone at the back of the 12-foot, gave the Swedish skip the required two counters and the 'skin'. Thus, Lindholm didn't have to throw his last brick.

Having surpassed the magic 201-point mark (of the 400 points available), the game was over and the eighth end was not played. The game score was recorded as North America 30, Europe 17.

"It feels very good," said Lindholm. "I actually told Tomas (Nordin) after we won that this is a different feeling than winning a worlds. This was wild, really wild. Ferbey's team was playing excellent every end and they kept the pressure on us. But I'm proud of my team for the way we played. I'm very proud that we stood up and won."

On his reaction to Nedohin's triple, Lindholm, who has only played two Skins games in his life (both Continental Cup men's finals), added, "That was an unbelievable shot, one of the best shots I've ever seen. But I've always focused on my opponent making every shot, because if you're expecting your opponent to miss, you lose a lot of energy. We just said we can, we will do it and we did. I'm very happy about that."

Said Ferbey, "We gave it all we've got. We thought that if we could get to the eighth end, we'd have a chance. It's such a high stakes game. But we knew it was going to be tough. It's disappointing because we have 20 other teammates."

Sanctioned by the World Curling Federation (WCF), USA Curling and the Canadian Curling Association (CCA), the Continental Cup offered a purse of $200,000 (Cdn). The winning side received $125,000 while the losing side shared $75,000.

Twelve teams, six representing Team North America and six carrying the colours of Team Europe, contested a variety of competitions, each weighted on a points basis. Team (72), Mixed Doubles (36), Singles (32) and Skins (260) events. The side which first earned 201 of the 400 available points became the champion.

The summary totals showed Europe with a 42-30 edge in Team play, 20-12 in Singles and a 134-113 edge in Skins, while North America came out ahead slightly in only the Mixed Doubles, 24-12.

Next year's Continental Cup is scheduled for Medicine Hat, Alberta, November 25-28.


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