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Canada's Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden's Hasselborg

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CALGARY — Kerri Einarson kicked off play in the curling bubble with a bang. She's leaving it with a whimper.

Her Manitoba-based team was eliminated from the world women's curling championship on Saturday after dropping an 8-3 decision to Sweden's Anna Hasselborg. 

The qualification game loss capped a mediocre week from the Canadians, who barely made the six-team playoff cut before having their medal hopes dashed.

"We left it all out there," said Canada third Val Sweeting. "We fought hard. It wasn't the game that we wanted. We just kept trying to make shots and figure it out but it just wasn't our morning."

Sweden did not let Canada generate much offence, regularly forcing the Einarson side to settle for singles. The reigning Olympic champions were in top form, setting the early tone by making their deuces and keeping the Canadians in check. 

Hasselborg drew for a pair in the seventh end to make it a four-point game. Her brilliant runback double-takeout in the eighth led to a steal and Canada conceded. 

"I had a really good feeling going into the game," Einarson said. "We just got behind the eight ball a little early and just needed something to bail ourselves out. 

"We just weren't as sharp as we have been."

It was the first time that Canada has been held off the podium at both the women's and men's world championships in the same season. 

Canada did not make it to the semifinals in either event. Brendan Bottcher's Alberta-based team was also eliminated in the qualification game at last month's world men's playdowns.

"This is our very first time on the world stage and we became a tight-knit family in here," Einarson said, her voice cracking at times. "We'll just grow from it and learn from this experience. I'm so excited to see what's next for us."

All four members of the Hasselborg team threw at least 91 per cent. 

"The girls played really, really well today and they judged weight perfectly," Hasselborg said. "We communicated well, so really a solid game. We had lots of fun so it was really amazing."

American Tabitha Peterson drew the button for an 8-7 victory over Denmark's Madeleine Dupont in the other qualification game. 

The U.S. then lost 7-3 to top-seeded Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland in Saturday's first semifinal.

Sweden went on to lose 8-7 to Russia's Alina Kovaleva in the evening semifinal later Saturday.

Medal games were scheduled for Sunday at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre, with the U.S. taking on Sweden for bronze while Switzerland battled Russia in the gold-medal game.

Hasselborg made a hit for a deuce in the third end and kept the pressure on when Canada had hammer. Einarson simply couldn't put ends together the way she wanted and had difficulty seizing control.

"We struggled a bit early and then they just ran away and made everything after that," Sweeting said.

The Canadian side, which includes second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur, struggled mightily over the first half of round-robin play. They dropped five of their first six games before getting back on track and taking the final playoff spot at 7-6. 

Meilleur had the low percentage Saturday at 72 per cent. Her teammates threw in the low 80s.

Einarson won the Canadian women's team title for  a second straight year last February in the first of seven competitions in the curling bubble at Canada Olympic Park. 

The skip also won a Canadian mixed doubles title with Brad Gushue and guided her four-player team to a Grand Slam title last month.

"We've had a lot of great success here and we can't be disappointed," Einarson said. "We fought extremely hard. A lot of teams might not come back from 1-and-5 but we never quit. I'm so very proud of my teammates." 

Sweden earned the third seed with a 10-3 round-robin record.

The top six teams in the 14-team field also earned Olympic berths for their countries at the 2022 Beijing Games. South Korea, Scotland, Germany and Japan were some of the notable teams that didn't make the cut and will have to try again at a last-chance Olympic qualifier in December.

Television and streaming coverage was shut down for five days of round-robin play after seven members of the event's broadcast team tested positive for COVID-19. Coverage resumed Friday after a modified broadcast plan proposal was approved by Alberta Health.

Tirinzoni won the 2019 women's world championship in Silkeborg, Denmark. The 2020 competition in Prince George, B.C., was cancelled at the 11th hour due to the pandemic. 

Canada's last podium appearance at this event came in 2018 at North Bay, Ont., when Jennifer Jones beat Hasselborg in the final. 

Einarson and Gushue will represent Canada at the May 17-23 world mixed doubles championship in Aberdeen, Scotland.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2021.

The Canadian Press