Canada’s Kerri Einarson clinches playoff spot at women’s curling worlds

PRINCE GEORGE, BC — A playoff berth snugly in her pocket before the last draw of the preliminary round, Canada’s Kerri Einarson felt bullish about her women’s world curling championship prospects Friday.

An 8-5 morning win over Germany gave the host country an 8-3 record with one game remaining at night against the Czech Republic (2-8).

“We’ve just shown a lot of grit,” Einarson said. “We just really grinded through the round robin and we still are, but we’ve been getting better and better.”

Three-player Japan forfeiting their afternoon game against South Korea because of COVID-19 suddenly completed the playoff picture with two draws remaining.

Switzerland (11-0), Canada and Sweden (8-3), South Korea (7-3) and Denmark and the United States (7-4) were going to be the top six teams continuing to play for a world title regardless of Friday’s remaining outcomes.

Defending champion Silvana Tirinzoni earned one of two byes to Saturday’s semifinals. The other was still in play between Canada, South Korea and Sweden.

Members of the Japanese team tested positive for COVID-19 in morning rapid tests, the World Curling Federation said in a statement.

The WCF didn’t identify those players. Japan was minus third Seina Nakajima and alternate Chiaki Matsumura in an 11-3 loss to the Swiss that dropped the Japanese to 6-5.

Japan, whose three players wore masks Friday, was the second country among 13 impeded by the virus. Scotland dropped out on the second day after members of their team tested positive.

Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur out of the Gimli Curling Club in Manitoba earned a playoff berth a second straight year, but their road in Prince George was less fraught.

They opened 1-5 before winning six of their last seven to squeeze into the final playoff berth in Calgary last year. Einarson lost in a qualification game there to fall short of the semifinals.

The Canadians went 2-2 on opening weekend in Prince George before winning five in a row, including the forfeit from Scotland.

“Definitely a lot less stressful,” Einarson said. “We’ve been playing much better as a team. I’ve got a good handle on the ice and the girls are throwing really well, so definitely makes my job easy.”

Canada rebounded from an 8-7 loss in an extra end to South Korea the previous evening, when Einarson gave up a steal of one in the 10th and the 11th.

The hosts were 92 per cent in shooting accuracy to Germany’s 84 in front of a tournament-high1,728 spectators Friday the CN Centre.

Einarson had kiboshed post-game analysis of the loss to EunJung Kim the previous night.

“I said ‘we don’t need to talk about that game. We know what happened and we can park it,'” the skip said. “And then (we) had a drink and played a game of marbles.”

Both Einarson and Sweeting were back on form at 92 and 98 per cent, respectively, against Germany’s Daniela Jentsch.

Einarson’s relentless takeouts didn’t let the Germans set up for a big end.

Instead of a safe draw against two German stones in the seventh end for a single point, Einarson opted for a tricky double hit to score two for a 7-3 lead.

“I felt very confident throwing that shot,” she said.

Canadian championships feature tiebreaker games if teams are deadlocked for the final playoff berth, but world championships do not.

If two countries are tied Friday, the winner of their round-robin matchup ranks higher. If three or more teams are tied, their record of the games between them provides seedings.

If that doesn’t resolve the deadlock, the average distance of all pre-game draws which determine which team gets hammer are used for ranking.

Canada defeated the Swedes in the preliminary round, but the extra-end loss to South Korea was costly to Canada’s semifinal bye hopes.

Sweden’s last game of the round robin was against Norway (5-6) on Friday afternoon.

South Korea finished against Turkey (1-9) at night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2022.

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