Canada’s Kerri Einarson into world women’s curling championship playoffs

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PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — 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 (2-9).

“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 abruptly completed the playoff field, although rankings were still to be determined in the final draw.

Switzerland (11-0), Sweden (9-3), Canada and South Korea (8-3), Denmark and the United States (7-4) were the top six countries continuing to play for a world title.

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

Seeds three through six will play off Saturday afternoon to get into the semifinals at night.

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 four team members tested positive.

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

They opened 1-5 in Calgary last year and scrambled to squeak into the final playoff berth. Einarson lost her first playoff game there to fall short of the semifinals.

The Canadians went 2-2 on opening weekend in Prince George before winning six of seven, 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 Thursday’s 8-7 loss in an extra end to South Korea. Einarson gave up a steal of one in the 10th and the 11th to EunJung Kim.

Einarson had kiboshed post-game analysis of that loss 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.”

The Canadians posted 92 per cent in shooting accuracy to Germany’s 84 in front of a tournament-high 1,728 spectators Friday morning in the CN Centre.

Einarson and Sweeting were on form at 92 and 98 per cent respectively. Einarson’s relentless takeouts didn’t let the Germans set up for a big end.

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

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

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

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

If that didn’t resolve the deadlock, the average distance of all pre-game draws which determine which team gets hammer was 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.

South Korea finished the preliminary round against Turkey (1-9) on Friday night.

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