ECC 2011 Day 4 (Evening) Update

The Swedish women became the first team to qualify for the medal stages of the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2011 in Moscow when they won their seventh round-robin game, comfortably beating Italy by 8-3, retaining their unbeaten record in the process.

Reigning champion Thomas Ulsrud was narrowly defeated by Sweden's Niklas Edin Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

The sixth end was the turning point in this game when the Swedes still counted three points despite a missed tap-up by their fourth player Maria Prytz. And Prytz made up for that earlier error in the ninth end when she hit to score three and seal her team’s qualification win.

Afterwards, Swedish skip Margaretha Sigfridsson said, “We’re in the play-offs and we’re really happy about that. That was our first target, and we now want to play really well in the play-offs. We had a really good feeling on the track today, it’s fairly consistent, but there’s always a little room for improvement and I think we will find that”.

Second-placed Denmark are hot on the Swedes’ heels and they chalked up their sixth win with an easy six-end 11-1 defeat of the Czech Republic who have been forced to bring alternate Pavla Prokšíková into the team because of illness.

Danish skip Lene Nielsen hit and rolled for three in the third end and her team never looked back after that. With two round-robin games left to play, the Danes are one win away from joining the Swedes in the medal play-offs.

Afterwards, a delighted Nielsen said, “That was a nice game. We got a good feel for the ice quickly and we put a lot of pressure on her and she couldn’t finish it off. It’s getting closer now, we still have two more games against tough opponents - especially Germany”.

This loss was in contrast to the Czech Republic’s opening day win against the hosts. Since then, they have not had their troubles to seek, as a reflective Czech skip Linda Klimova explained, “this is the first time for this line-up in the Europeans, it’s the first for me. Our first game against Russia was exciting and the win was just amazing. After our win against Latvia yesterday our second fell ill. Our alternate is great but it is different to play with her and it was a frustrating morning. With our second being ill, our minds were elsewhere and the result reflects that”.

Meanwhile, Switzerland recorded what was just their third win of the week so far, with an 11-4 victory over Latvia. In the sixth end, Swiss fourth player Manuela Siegrist had a gentle tap-back to score three and break the deadlock between the teams. This score broke the Latvian resistance as they failed to score again in the game, while the Swiss amassed a further seven points.

Russia and Scotland produced a high-standard competitive encounter. The Scots took the early lead but the Russians fought back to lead going into the ninth end. That’s when Scottish skip Eve Muirhead drew nicely around some front stones to score two and re-take the lead at 5-4, and she extended that lead in the tenth, to win by 7-4.

Afterwards, Eve Muirhead, Scotland’s four-time world junior champion skip, said, “I’m delighted with that, it was a pretty solid performance. We had a couple of errors when we lost those steals, but, all in all, it was a pretty good performance. I think we’re definitely on the way up and that’s great to know”.

Germany’s Andrea Schöpp - making an incredible 25th appearance in this event - returned to winning ways in the seventh round after two successive losses on Monday. She drew for two points in the fifth end for a 4-2 lead, and then, in the eighth, counted four with a good raised take-out. After Norway could only muster a single in the ninth, they conceded the game with the score at 8-4 against them.

Speaking afterwards, Schöpp seemed to be resigned to not qualifying for the medal stages. “Yes, we’ve hopefully at least avoided eighth to tenth place. We were much more confident than yesterday when we had such a bad start. Of course we still have a chance for the semi-final, but we have to win both games tomorrow otherwise it will be done, so we’ll see how it goes”.

GROUP A WOMEN: Standings after 7 sessions:
Sweden 7-0 (qualified for play-offs)
Denmark 6-1
Scotland 5-2
Germany 4-3
Russia 4-3
Switzerland 3-4
Czech Republic 2-5
Italy 2-5
Latvia 1-6
Norway 1-6

It took all the way to an extra end, but Sweden’s Niklas Edin eventually overcame defending champion Thomas Ulsrud by 8-7 in the seventh session of round-robin play at the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2011 in Moscow.

Afterwards, Swedish skip Edin said, “Every time we play them, it’s one point for them or one point for us, so it was our turn this time! We played good all game, but the key was that we got a couple of easy deuces early on so they had to try for difficult shots. When we got a lead they fought back, but I think we were up the whole game with hammer, just controlling it”.

Asked to explain his run of good form, Edin added, “I think we’re performing at this level because of all the tournaments we’ve played in Canada against really good opponents. So we’ve just increased our lowest level from a year ago. We’ve had the same top level for the last two years, but we don’t do any real bad tournaments any more”.

Denmark joined Sweden in top spot on the rankings, on six wins and just one loss, with a tightly-fought 8-6 win over Germany This game went down to the last stone, and Danish skip Rasmus Stjerne was up to the task, hitting and staying for two and the win.

Afterwards, Stjerne said, “that was a lot tighter than we expected. To be honest, the sheet was playing tricky so even though we were four up we still knew we had to focus, but kudos to the Germans , they kept it really tight all the way to the end”.

Like Edin, Stjerne has also been a lot of work into his performance. “I’ve done some changes to my technique and we have a really good team spirit, so it’s paying off for us now, I feel I can beat anyone. I’m probably playing my best Championships ever, at European or world junior level, so I’m pretty confident. But there’s still a lot of good teams out here”.

These wins assure both Denmark and Sweden of at least places in tie-breakers, Scotland’s David Murdoch is fighting hard to join them there.

After a couple of earlier disappointments for the Scots, a win against Latvia was essential. But the Latvians proved to be stubborn opponents, matching Scotland score for score all the way to the eighth end, when Murdoch had a hit and stay for three and a 7-4 lead. The Latvian resolve seemed to evaporate after this, as they gave up a steal of one in the ninth, and conceded the game by 4-8.

Afterwards, Murdoch said, “That was a big win in many ways - it keeps us in it and also it pushes the bottom end of the field down. That was a great performance from the guys, they were patient early on. Those Latvian boys didn’t do a lot wrong early on and we had to play some really good curling to get ahead”.

At the seventh time of asking, Italy’s Joel Retornaz finally posted a win, coming from behind at halfway to dominate the second half of the game against Switzerland for a 9-4 victory to savour. Italy worked hard for their win, and, after Retornaz gave up a steal of one in the sixth, he made sure that Italy scored in each of the last three ends played, sealing his win after nine ends. Afterwards, he said, “first win – it’s quite late, but what can we do? We’ve tried all week to play good curling, we struggled a little bit but we kept fighting. This win gives us some energy and we’ll play the rest of our games not thinking about rankings or results and we’ll see what happens.”

France also fought hard to beat the Czech Republic, only their second win of the week. In the eighth end, the Czechs missed an attempted double take-out for two and instead handed three points to France, who then went on to celebrate a win by 7-2. A pleased French skip Thomas Dufour said, “we went into the game with no fear, we played quite aggressively and it worked out for us. The Czech team played some really good stones, especially their skip. We know we are not as good as some of the stronger teams in the championships but we have the belief that we can beat some of them”.

GROUP A MEN: Standings after 7 sessions:
Denmark 6-1
Sweden 6-1
Germany 4-3
Norway 4-3
Scotland 4-3
Czech Republic 3-4
Switzerland 3-4
France 2-5
Latvia 2-5
Italy 1-6

Extensive televised coverage of the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2011 can be seen by viewers in Europe on Eurosport.

Additional live and on demand coverage will be available via the internet on the Eurosport Player. www.worldcurling.org/ecc2011-tv-and-web-coverage

Highlights of televised games can be seen here: www.youtube.com/user/WorldCurlingTV

Results: www.ecc.curlit.com

All results will be mirrored on the World Curling Federation (WCF) results database: http://results.worldcurling.org/default.aspx

Information about the event can be viewed here www.ecc2011.curlingrussia.com