SOCHI, Russia — Led by a fantastic shooting output by Patrick McDonald, Team USA was back to its old ways and got in the win column this morning at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
McDonald and teammates David Palmer (Mashpee, Mass.), Jimmy Joseph (New Hartford, N.Y.), Penny Greely (Green Bay, Wis.), and alternate Meghan Lino (East Falmouth, Mass.) earned an 8-5 victory over Norway's Rune Lorentsen to improve to 1-2 in the round robin standings at the Ice Cube Curling Center.
"I think we really talked and focused on the weights. Yesterday we just couldn't get that one step ahead of it," said Greely, who won a bronze medal in sitting volleyball at the 2004 Paralympic Games for Team USA. "Today with the ice being a little bit better, we got a handle on it right from the get-go. Once we knew it, we got to the point where we could play like we used to play and communicate like we used to."
McDonald shot 72 percent in today's game and made some key shots to score multiple points in three ends to earn the win.
Today's victory was a weight off the shoulders for Team USA after two losses yesterday in games where they battled the ice more than their opponents.
"It's a round robin so it's a long week. It doesn't matter how you play as long as you play your best. There's nothing wrong with being a wild card going to the Super Bowl, right?" McDonald said. "In the last few years we've come out and been 5-0 and 6-0 and then mentally or physically don't finish the week. Coming out 0-2 obviously was not what we wanted, but I think it didn't get to us. We played really good today. We talked last night and it wasn't that we got out-played; we just weren't executing our shots. It wasn't me reading the ice wrong; we just weren't executing our shots. That's on all four of us."
The Americans started with the last rock advantage in all three games and capitalized this morning to take a lead that they never gave up.
"We need to keep it going. We now know that we're the Team USA that we've been practicing and trying to get to. I think we got the kinks out in the first couple of games and we can get there," Greely said.
In the first end, McDonald proved his draw weight was on target with a perfect draw into the four-foot to secure two points for the Americans. Norway had a chance to score three points with a takeout in the following end, but could not fully remove the American stone in the back eight-foot area and settled instead for a single point.
Back with the last-rock advantage, Team USA patiently tried to draw around the center guards into the four-foot to grab control of the end after Norway got a stone buried in there early on. McDonald got the job done with his first stone and grabbed shot rock position. When Lorentsen missed the takeout with his final shot, McDonald followed up with another perfect draw into the four-foot to score two more points.
In the fourth end, Team USA had Norway chasing stones as they placed three at the top of the rings to form a formidable barrier. It wasn't until vice skip stones that Norway finally removed one of the U.S. counters. Palmer tried to follow suit but his takeout attempt rubbed on a guard and spun fortuitously into the four-foot, fully buried behind guards. Norwegian vice skip Jostein Stordahl then played a perfect angle raise to remove the stone and leave a rock tucked into the side of the four-foot that would never be removed. Norway was able to use the final stone to draw into the side of the eight foot for two points to put the score at 4-3.
The U.S. spent much of the fifth end chasing after a well-placed Norwegian stone covering half of the button. After several half shots left their stones scattered around the rings, McDonald finally found the right broom placement with the final stone to remove the rock and score three points to put the game fully in USA's control.
The Americans put two stones in the rings early in the sixth end but the end turned in favor of Norway with the first skip stones as Lorentsen converted a raise to place a stone in the four-foot. The path to the other side of the four-foot, however, was still left open. Norway opted to try another raise and could not convert it for the deuce.
USA swapped out leads in the seventh end with Lino coming into the game for Greely. Lorentsen used his first skip stone of the end to draw behind stones and place it perfectly on the button. With the final stone, McDonald narrowly missed the takeout and Norway stole a point. In the final end, the U.S. placed a stone in the back of the eight foot early in the end and guarded it throughout. Lorentsen played a raise with his first stone and placed a rock in the back eight-foot in second position. McDonald played another guard to take away another raise opportunity. After missing his second raise attempt, Norway conceded the loss.
"I think we were more relaxed. We got a good night's sleep last night," Lino said about the team's performance. "I got in the game and basically just thought of it as a game back home. I blocked out the noise and if I did happen to hear the noise I knew they were cheering, sometimes for us. I got the tunnel vision going and just kept focused on each shot."
The U.S. returns to the ice Monday with two big games. In the morning session they'll face Canada (2-0) and meet host Russia (2-1) in the afternoon. "Getting a win today, everybody is starting to feel that two losses isn't that bad. Now we have to run off a couple of good wins," said McDonald, who is playing in his second Paralympics. "We got a tough day tomorrow with Canada and Russia, but we're all playing the same ice. It's just a matter of who is on and who is not."
Teams are playing nine round robin games with the top four advancing to Saturday's playoffs.
Slovakia's Radoslav Duris rink improved to 2-0 with an 8-3 win over China to keep pace with Canada at the top of the leader board. Around 1,500 fans at the Ice Cube got to see Russia's Andrey Smirnov rink improve to 2-1 with a 7-4 victory over Finland (0-2). Great Britain got into the win column by stealing a point in the eighth end to defeat Sweden, 6-4.
USA line score
*USA 202 030 01 - 8
Norway 010 201 10 - 5
*last stone in first end