ON THE ROCKS: Canada wins second straight as it tries to claw back into world women’s championship playoff race

The margin for error remains razor thin but at least Team Canada is starting to get its mojo back at the world women’s curling championship.

Canada, skipped by Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., won its second straight game Tuesday morning — crushing Italy’s Stefania Constantini 10-4 — to improve to 3-5 and keep its playoff hopes alive.

Canada was due back on the ice at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary late Tuesday night for a crucial game against 2013 world champion and 2014 Olympic bronze medallist Eve Muirhead of Scotland (4-2).

“We’re definitely not giving up,” Einarson said. “We’re just out there being us and enjoying the moment. It’s a very special moment and we’ve got to embrace it and just go out there and continue to be us.”

Canada needs to keep winning in order to make the six-team playoffs and qualify the country for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. If Einarson and her teammates — including second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur — can win their five remaining games, they’ll have a decent shot of getting into the playoffs. One loss would not make it impossible but it would make getting into the top six a real long shot.

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“We’re gonna keep fighting and doing everything we can and just keep trying to win the next one,” Team Canada third Val Sweeting said.

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“I think we’ve pivoted really well. We told ourselves after the third loss that now is the time and it’s still the time. But all we can do from here is stick together and try to get as many wins as we can and keep wearing the Maple Leaf with pride and just keep fighting out there.”

The good news for Canada is that plenty of playoff spots are still up for grabs.

Although 7-0 Russia (Alina Kovaleva), 6-1 Switzerland (Alina Paetz) and 6-1 Sweden (Anna Hasselborg) are clearly establishing themselves as the class of the field so far, China (Yu Han), Scotland and the United States (Tabitha Peterson) are all currently occupying playoff spots with just four wins. If things go right for Canada, they could find themselves not far off come Wednesday morning.

“We’ve definitely been in this situation before where our backs are against the wall.” Einarson said. “We know that pressure and we know what it takes to win. We need to focus on ourselves, us four, stay as a unit, and just embrace it out there.

“We definitely want to keep this momentum going forward and keep doing all the good things that we’re doing out there and then see what it brings at the end.”

Of Canada’s five remaining games, two are against teams ahead of them in the standings (Scotland and China) and three are against teams with poorer records — 2-4 Japan, 2-4 Denmark and 1-6 Estonia.

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“We’re feeling confident and that’s all we can do right now,” Sweeting said. “Just focus on ourselves, focus on the shots and take it one game at a time. It may sound cliché but that’s really all we can do that is within our control right now. We’re just gonna keep fighting for as many wins as we can get and see where we land.”

ESTONIA’S HISTORIC WIN

It has already been a memorable world championship, with no fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic, games not being televised because of positive tests for coronavirus among broadcast staff and Switzerland scoring the first eight-ender in the history of the event.

And there was a little more history made Monday night, when Estonia earned its first-ever win at the world level, 11-9 over Germany’s Daniela Jentsch.

“The fact that we’re not going home with a zero on the scoreboard is already a good thing for us,” said Marie Turmann, the Estonian skip.

“Us being here is a big thing and getting that win is just an extra bonus.”

Estonia, competing in the world championship for the first time after five appearances at the Europeans, now has a 1-6 record and sits 13th out of 14 teams.

But Turmann and her teammates from the Tallinn Curling Club have not looked out of place.

“The last games have been so close and we are really in the games with all the big guns here, so it’s a really good feeling to come out with at least one win,” said Erika Tuvike, the Estonian lead.

Estonia has only about 40 curlers and only three competitive women’s teams. Turmann hopes her teams performance here will help to change that.

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“I hope this motivates all the curlers we have in Estonia, the ones who are just playing for fun, the ones that are trying to maybe be THE team some day. I hope it just makes it more popular in Estonia.”

Sweden’s Hasselborg, who has played against Turmann many times at the European Championship and at the mixed doubles level, said Estonia’s win is good for curling in general.

“It’s so fun to see,” she said. “I knew they would win some games at this championship. They played really well against us at the Europeans last year. Also, Marie is no stranger to the mixed doubles game, a really great curler. So no surprises there.”

STILL NO BROADCASTS

Of course, no one in Estonia — nor anywhere else for that matter — can see the games on TV.

Tuesday was Day 3 of a COVID-19 outbreak among broadcast staff, which has forced the cancellation of televised games on TSN in Canada and on World Curling TV internationally.

The World Curling Federation announced Tuesday that no games will be televised until at least Thursday afternoon. Any decision to return will depend on another round of testing and approval from Alberta Health.

A total of seven people on the broadcast staff have tested positive for COVID-19, but many others have tested negative repeatedly and they could conceivably be allowed to return to work before the end of the tournament in the Calgary bubble.

UPDATE, UPDATE

The lack of television is making it tough for family, friends and fans of the teams to follow along. The WCF website provides updates but has often been overwhelmed by the volume of traffic, so the best bet for many is shot-by-shot live tweeting coming from the Curling Canada feed.

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“I think they’re just trying to keep up by hitting update, update, and also keeping contact with us,” Hasselborg said after her team picked up a big win over previously unbeaten Switzerland Tuesday morning. “We all have family chats so we can keep them updated and that’s a lot of fun.”

It’s the same for the Canadians, who normally have their family and friends around them for these events. Now those people can’t even watch the games.

With no fans. no cameras and no booming voices coming from the broadcasters in the Markin MacPhail Arena, the whole place seems stranger than ever.

“It’s even more quiet now,” Einarson said.

“You don’t have the extra people around and we miss them. We hope they come back.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

WOMEN’S WORLD CURLING CHAMPIONSHIP

At Markin MacPhail Centre, Calgary, April 30-May 9

STANDINGS

Russian Federation (Alina Kovaleva) 7-0

Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni) 6-1

Sweden (Anna Hasselborg) 6-1

China (Yu Han) 4-2

Scotland (Eve Muirhead) 4-2

United States (Tabitha Peterson) 4-3

Germany (Daniela Jentsch) 3-4

Canada (Kerri Einarson) 3-5

South Korea (Eun-Jung Kim) 3-5

Czech Republic (Anna Kubeskova) 2-4

Japan (Sayaka Yoshimura) 2-4

Denmark (Madeleine Dupont) 2-4

Estonia (Marie Turmann) 1-6

Italy (Stefania Constantini) 1-7

TUESDAY RESULTS

DRAW 13

Canada 10, Italy 4

RCF 6, Japan 5

South Korea 8, Estonia 6

Sweden 8, Switzerland 3

DRAW 14

Denmark vs. Germany

Japan vs. United States

Scotland vs. Czech Republic

RCF vs. China

DRAW 15

Canada vs. Scotland

Czech Republic vs. Switzerland

China vs. United States

Estonia vs. Italy

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