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Canada brings its eh game vs. Sweden

Crush defending Olympic champs, gaining experience, confidence

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VANCOUVER -- Ever since she clinched her spot at the Vancouver Olympics, Canadian curler Cheryl Bernard has heard her rink lacks the international experience to thrive on sport's biggest stage.

She doesn't expect to hear that anymore.

Bernard clinched a spot in the women's curling playoff round with a 6-2 pounding of defending Olympic gold medallist Anette Norberg of Sweden. With another round-robin victory today, Bernard can clinch the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

"Our lack of international experience is probably over now," Bernard said. "That for us is a really good thing because that was kind of a monkey on our back coming in here, that we didn't have any."

Bernard's tilt with Norberg was billed as a possible gold medal preview -- the two rinks entered the game with identical 5-1 records, good for first place in the tournament. Canada's only loss was to China on Sunday night.

But while the Calgary skip, third Susan O'Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire and lead Cori Bartel brought a game worthy of sport's biggest prize, the same could not be said of Norberg.

Bernard jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after Norberg left a second-end stone exposed near the button. Bernard easily banged the Swedish rock out of the house with her hammer and stuck in the four-foot circle, good for the deuce.

Norberg had a chance to cut into the lead with a draw to the four-foot marker one end later but her hammer slid to the back of the rings, giving Canada a steal of one and a 3-0 lead.

Bernard's rink picked up another steal in the fourth end when Norberg -- clearly struggling with her feel of the rock -- again sailed a routine draw through the four-foot marker.

Norberg finally got on the board with a single in the fifth, but Canada answered with a single of its own in the seventh to increase the lead to 5-1.

Norberg had a chance to cut into Canada's lead in the eighth frame but her takeout attempt wrecked on a guard, giving Canada a 6-1 edge and sealing Sweden's fate.

In the ninth, with the game out of hand, Canadian alternate Kristie Moore even made it onto the ice. Moore is five-and-a-half months pregnant.

"It was pretty neat," said Moore, who would have received a medal even if she didn't physically compete. "It brings back memories of when I played in the world junior finals way back, and it will be amazing that one day I can tell my baby that I was in the Olympics."

Bernard said she was thrilled to earn a playoff berth and to get Moore in the game, though she was surprised by some of Norberg's misses.

"We haven't seen the last of them, for sure, and that won't be the type of game they play next time," Bernard said.

"We hadn't really honestly thought much about medals. We thought about playoff spots because if you think of both it gets to be so much."

Norberg chalked up her two early failed draws -- she curled only 69 per cent compared to Bernard's 93 per cent -- to bad rocks.

"In the beginning, I had the two stones with different draw weights so that was one of the explanations," she said.

"I played it with the same weight I used to do all the tournament but it was just faster than the other ones I played and it just went too far a couple of times."

Norberg, a two-time world champion, started the Olympics 4-0 but has suffered two losses in her last three games, including a shocker to Russia.

She downplayed the importance of the round-robin match with Canada and obtaining the tournament's No. 1 seed.

"The goal was to be in the playoffs after the round-robin and we still have a very good chance of being that," she said.

Sweden is now 5-2 and sits alone in second place, behind Canada (6-1). Nipping at Sweden's heels is China (5-3), which was upset 7-4 by Russia on Monday.


-- The Canadian Press


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2010 C4

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