(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) - Sweden put the brakes on USA's win streak at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, as a strategy mistake by USA skip Augusto Perez gave way to a 6-4 loss tonight at the Vancouver Olympic Centre.
Sweden's Jalle Jungnell rink, with Glenn Ikonen throwing last rocks the past three games, handed the Americans their second loss of the nine-game round robin. USA will be back in action Wednesday with games against Norway (3-3) and Japan (2-4).
With the loss, Perez (East Syracuse, N.Y.) and teammates Patrick McDonald (Orangevale, Calif.), James Pierce (North Syracuse, N.Y.) and Jacqui Kapinowski (Point Pleasant, N.J.) drop to 4-2 in the standings - one game back from front-runner Canada (5-1).
"We played a really good game. I think it could have gone either way. They [Sweden] were making all their shots," said McDonald, a U.S. Army veteran who lost his legs while on U.S. military patrol in Korea in 1991.
Down two points with the last rock advantage, the U.S. still had a chance to tie the game with four rocks remaining in the game. The U.S. had one rock in the back of the house that was in first position but missed a takeout of a stone on the far side of the house that allowed Sweden to remove the other stone and earn the win.
"It was a strategy mistake. The right call was the draw. I know that now and hopefully won't make that mistake again," Perez said. Despite the error, the win wasn't guaranteed at that point.
"Sweden didn't miss a shot, but we had our chance still there at the end," Perez said. "If you can't play the game to the last rock, we shouldn't be here."
The U.S. started the game much like so many others here this week - a bit on the shaky side.
Tonight they gave up the opening-end steal when Perez came up short drawing into the house, spotting the Swedes two points.
The U.S. got an opening in the second end when Jungnell missed his last two shots, allowing Perez to draw in for two points and tie the game. In the third end, the last-rock throwers both had perfect first stones but followed up with not-so-perfect second stones, resulting in just a single for the Swedes.
The U.S. was in trouble in the fourth as the Swedes continued to have near-perfect draw weight. Misses by the U.S. - Pierce on the peel attempt and McDonald with the takeout - allowed Sweden to pile granite in the four-foot. With his final stone of the end, Perez converted a side-angle raise for one to tie the game once again.
McDonald drew around the center guard with his second toss of the fifth end to give U.S. the rock that would help the Americans pester the Swedes with for the rest of the end. Ikonen was able to convert a soft tap-back of his stone in the top of the house for a single.
"I'm happy with the way I played. It was so much better," McDonald said and noted that they added pressure to his tires because when he delivered the wheels were coming off the ice. They practiced this morning at a local curling club and the results paid off as he shot 64 percent compared to his 53 percent average coming into today.
Jungnell used his final rock of the sixth to draw behind the center guard to the four-foot to grab shot rock. McDonald followed him down and got enough of it to push it to the back of the eight-foot and switch spots with Sweden. Ikonen would wreck on the guard twice, but the Americans weren't able to turn it into two points.
Kapinowski, like she's done so many times this week, got a stone positioned behind the center guard in the seventh end but it didn't stay in play for long as the U.S. wasn't able to grab control of the end. Perez got past the guard but just slid to the back of the house as he tried to freeze to a Swedish rock. Ikonen had no problem with the come-around draw to put a second stone in scoring position. Perez's final stone didn't curl enough but they'd escape by only giving up two points to Sweden.
The steady Kapinowski faltered in the eighth, failing to get her first stone over the hogline and allowing her second to slip into the house. Pierce drew down to the back of the house but then couldn't get his second stone to stick around. Sweden kept the Americans in the game with misses. Back and forth takeouts but all it took was one miss from Perez and the deuce opportunity to go to an extra end dissipated.
The top four teams at the conclusion of the round robin advance to the semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday. The gold-medal and bronze-medal games are set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday (local time).
The official site of the U.S. Paralympic Team, www.usparalympics.org, will also offer daily video and news highlights of the competition from Vancouver. Also check out www.paralympicsport.tv for on- demand feeds.
USA line score:
*USA 020 101 0x 4
Sweden 201 010 2x 6
*last stone in first end
Game scores: Great Britain 9, Germany 2; Korea 9, Italy 3; Sweden 6, USA 4; Japan 6, Switzerland 5 (extra end)
Great Britain 2-4
Live scoring from the event will be http://www.vancouver2010.com/paralympic-games/wheelchair-curling/schedule-and-results.