Saturday, April 07, 2007

Canada has Hart

EDMONTON – A nice piece by Vicki Hall in most of today’s CanWest Global newspapers, including the National Post, spotlighting Team Canada’s Richard Hart (photo by CurlingZone) and his Olympic experience of nine years ago... not quite 10, Richie!

Hart gets another chance to win a global curling crown tomorrow, as the Canadians take on Germany’s Andy Kapp, a 6-4 semi-final winner over Todd Birr of the United States.

Germany dominated the first half of the game, but held only a 3-2 lead at the midway point.

The second half turned into a tactical battle of wits, as Kapp chose to play a defensive style – also the usual American strategy – in the final three frames.

Kapp declined to chase a deuce in the eight end, settling for one, and paved the way for Birr to blank the ninth and hold last-rock advantage in the 10th, trailing 5-4.

In the final frame, a key miss by U.S. third Bill Todhunter left Germany in command of a crowded house, and Birr’s last-rock double-takeout attempt removed only one German stone, handing Kapp the win.

“It’s fun for us to make the final,” said Kapp.

“Ten years after losing the final, it’s really good for us.”

Kapp lost the 1997 global finale 6-3 to Sweden’s Peja Lindholm, who finished this 2007 shootout in fifth place. Germany eliminated the Swedes in the tiebreakers.

After a 6-5 won/loss record in the round-robin, Kapp has reeled off four straight wins, three of them in one day.

“You get so many games for less entry fee,” Kapp quipped.

For Birr, his two playoff losses brought a solid week to a disappointing close. After dropping their first two games, the United States won seven of their next eight matchups, only to run into roadblocks against Canada and Germany.

“We played better today but we didn’t play as well as we had all week,” said the soft-spoken Birr.

The Americans grabbed 10 qualifying points towards the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, a very strong total from a team quietly dismissed as out of their league by many observers one week ago.

Howard’s Canadian unit has a powerful resume full of championship trophies, but all four team members have also finished second in numerous finals.

“We want to win it all, bad,” declared Howard, the 1987 and 1993 world champion.

“We don’t want to finish any less than first. It’s been 14 years since I was here. I treat this like it’s the last time I’m going to get here.”

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