Karlstad, Sweden – The round-robin section of the Le Gruyere European Curling Championships concluded on Thursday morning in Karlstad, Sweden, as the women played their last session, with the stakes high in every game.
Table-toppers Sweden knew they had reached the page play-offs regardless of their result against the Czech Republic, but the Czechs were battling to keep their hopes of grabbing a place in this season's World Championship line-up alive.
The Czechs showed their intent in the fifth end when skip, Linda Klimova, played a draw into the house to score two points to take a 5-2 lead. But Sweden are a formidable team and fourth player Maria Prytz kept them in the game with a draw for two points in the eighth end to close down the Czechs' advantage to one point at 6-5. But the Czechs hung on to win by 7-5 and go into a tie-break with Germany which will decide the last World Championship place.
Afterwards, Klimova said: "It was very important for us because we had two wins and we needed a third. We knew that the Swedish team are one of the best so we knew it would be very difficult and we had to play well. We worked and we managed it, so we are very happy. At the beginning we weren't nervous but when we were up and felt that we could win...we were a little bit nervous at the end."
World champions Switzerland faced Germany in what turned out to be a tight game. In the seventh end, Swiss skip, Mirjam Ott, hit for three points and a 6-4 lead, while in the next end German skip Andrea Schopp played a draw for one point. But the Swiss were too strong and in the ninth end, Ott drew for four points and a 10-5 win. This result sees Switzerland in a tie-breaker against Denmark for the final place in the top four play-offs, while Germany now play the Czech Republic with the winner keeping their World Championship qualification alive.
After this game, Ott said: "We had a little bit of a weak start and Andrea Schopp came out pretty strong, so we were two down after three ends. We had a little worry, but we still knew we had another seven ends to get back into the game." On the tie-breaker she added: “I think we can beat Denmark. The game we played against them in the round-robin was very close so we’re confident we can win."
Denmark faced Finland knowing that they could still reach the medal stages and skip, Lene Nielsen, put them on the way with a hit for three points in the fifth end for a 4-1 lead. The Danes then went on to win what became a one-sided contest by 9-1 to put themselves into a tie-breaker against Switzerland for a place in the final four.
After this win, Nielsen said: "It was a good win. We will be playing Switzerland, so that’s ok - we beat them in the round-robin. We always play well against Mirjam, so we hope we will have a good game."
Defending champions Scotland faced Russia, with the winners having the advantage of going straight to the top Page play-off game. In the fourth end, Scottish skip Eve Muirhead drew nicely for two points to level the game at 4-4 and stayed in control from then on, winning by 6-5 without having to play her last stone in the tenth end. This meant that Scotland finished second in the table behind Sweden.
Afterwards, Muirhead said: "We controlled that. I think even just our body language showed that we wanted it more. Our goal was to get into the 1-2 game, which we've done. The girls are playing great and leaving me simple shots which I like."
The fifth game of the session was between Italy and Hungary. Although Hungary knew they were already destined for next year's B division, Italy were battling for a Worlds qualifying slot.
The Italians started out strong, scoring two points in the first end, but moved ahead with a three points in the seventh end. A steal of four points in the eighth end helped them seal their 10-5 win, which means that Italy secured sixth overall, allowing Diana Gaspari to proudly lead her team onto the ice at the World Women’s Curling Championship in Riga next March.