Newly promoted Czech Republic and Finland secure opening wins

© WCF / Cèline Stucki

Saturday (20 November) afternoon’s opening session of the men’s A-Division round robin at the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2021, in Lillehammer, Norway, saw victories for Czech Republic and Finland.

Both teams have returned to the A-Division after promotion from the previous edition of the Championship’s B-Division.

Finland faced Germany and raced into an early lead. A score of one point in the first end, then carving out single-point steals in both the second and third ends gave them a 3-0 lead.

Germany got onto the scoreboard with one point in the fourth end, but Finland scored a single point again to go into the fifth-end break ahead, by 4-1.

Germany mounted a brief comeback at the start of the second end, but four more points for the Finns in the eighth end, through a double take-out, gave them an 8-3 lead that finished off the game.

After this win, Finnish skip Kalle Kiiskinen said, “It’s always nice to start with a win. We are pretty comfortable with the ice, and we played quite a solid game.”

Looking forward to the rest of the week, he added, “We have a great hall, great ice and the top teams of Europe, so we have to play really well to compete here. I think the field is quite even in the middle, maybe the top teams are a little bit ahead. But of course, when we start every game it’s no points on the scoreboard, so it’s going to be interesting.”

© WCF / Céline Stucki

Not to be outdone, Czech Republic faced Netherlands and took a 3-2 lead into the break.

Netherlands responded with a score of three points in the sixth end to retake the lead, 5-3.

Then, with the score level at 5-5 after seven ends, Czech Republic stole a single point in the eighth end, and forced a blanked ninth end. Then in the tenth end, Czech Republic stole a single point for the 7-5 win.

After this opening win, Czech Republic skip Lukas Klima said, “Right now we are glad and kind of relieved, because we were struggling with the ice. The ice is good, but we were looking for how to play on it, and we were getting better and better during the game, and in the end, we won which is a great start. But we also learned a lot about the ice, so I’m really happy right now.”

He added, “It’s a really tough field, it’s very even, so we can pretty much win almost any game or lose any game. So, our goal is to try to get into the first half, which is like fifth position, but right now we are looking for just match to match and hoping for the best.”

Scotland defeat defending champions in seven ends

This session also saw defending champions Sweden face Scotland, the bronze medallists last time around.

Scotland started with last-stone advantage, and after blanking the first end, scored two points in the second end.

The Scots then had a single-point steal in the third end and a further score of two points in the fifth end through a delicate play by skip Bruce Mouat which gave them a 5-1 lead at the break.

The teams then swapped single points in the next two ends, before Sweden conceded defeat with a final score of 6-2 to Scotland.

Following this win, Scotland skip Bruce Mouat said, “We were very keen on getting hammer in a game like that… the first game out. We wanted to control the game and that’s exactly what we did with a score of two in the second end. It’s a long week, so to get a short game like that is going to benefit us hopefully and we’ll come out tomorrow and be well rested.”

Italy win in six

© WCF /Céline Stucki

Italy opened their campaign against Denmark. After blanking the first end, Italy scored three points in the second end, stole two more points in the third and stole a further two points in the fourth to build an early 7-0 lead.

A score of two points in the sixth end for Italy was enough to persuade Denmark to concede, with the final score 9-1 in Italy’s favour.

After the game, a pleased Italy skip Joel Retornaz said, “That was a nice way to start. It’s always good to win the first game. It’s never easy to play the first game, you don’t know the ice and you don’t know how the stones are swinging. But we were able to perform very well there — we put pressure on the Danish team, and we got an early win.”

Hosts get first win

In the fifth game of this session hosts Norway, in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, defeated Switzerland in a tight back-and-forward game.

Norway went into the tenth end trailing, by 5-6, when skip Steffen Walstad played a hit-and-stay with the final shot of the game to score two points for a 7-6 victory.

Watch all broadcast games from the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2021 online, exclusively on The Curling Channel.

Men’s session one results: Finland 8-3 Germany; Norway 7-6 Switzerland; Italy 9-1 Denmark; Czech Republic 7-5 Netherlands; Scotland 6-2 Sweden.

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Lillehammer, Norway

20 November 2021