Zang surprises Simmons at Continental Cup

Canada's Pat Simmons shouts down the ice during the world men's curling championship. (Michael Burns/CP)

LAS VEGAS — Team World finds itself in an unusual position at the 2016 Continental Cup after taking the lead against Team North America on the opening day of competition.

The World squad is riding a three-year losing streak, but hold a 5-4 edge in points after picking up two victories on Thursday evening.

China’s Jialiang Zang put together a flawless fourth end to steal four points en route to a surprising 7-6 win over two-time defending Brier champion Pat Simmons of Calgary in traditional play. That padded a 7-5 win by Sweden’s Niklas Edin over John Shuster of the United States.

"Very happy with our first day," said Team World coach Pal Trulsen. "Having the lead after the first day is nice, and we talked about the importance of having a good start to the weekend, and we certainly had that tonight. The Chinese boys beating Simmons is a surprise, of course."

The lone North American point (each traditional team game is worth a point) Thursday night was provided by Jennifer Jones, whose Winnipeg team cruised past Ayumi Ogasawara of Japan 8-3.

The World team and Team North America each took 1.5 points from the afternoon mixed doubles draw. Also, Kevin Koe of Calgary defeated Thomas Ulsrud of Norway 9-5 in the lone men’s game at the Orleans Arena. Alina Paetz of Switzerland dumped Erika Brown of the U.S. 8-2 and Eve Muirhead of Scotland played Rachel Homan of Ottawa to an 8-8 tie in morning play.

A year ago in Calgary, Team World trailed 7-2 after the first day and two years ago in Las Vegas Team North America held a 6-3 lead after the Day 1.

"We’re pretty much always going in as underdogs — the top teams here (in North America) are so good, and the last few years, we haven’t won any of the Continental Cups we’ve played," said Edin. "So we’re really happy, keeping it close the first day and having the lead."

A total of 60 points are up for grabs, so the first team to 30.5 points will win the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup.

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