SOCHI, Russia —After strong starts at past international competitions, Team USA's 0-2 beginning to the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at the Ice Cube Curling Center comes as a surprise to Patrick McDonald and the U.S. wheelchair curling team.
McDonald and teammates Jimmy Joseph (New Hartford, N.Y.), Penny Greely (Green Bay, Wis.), Meghan Lino (East Falmouth, Mass.), and alternate David Palmer (Mashpee, Mass.) lost this afternoon to Korea's Myung-Jin Kim rink, 9-5, to slip to an early 0-2 hole in the round robin.
"It wasn't a really great day for us," said three-time Paralympian Joseph. "I'd rather be 2-0 instead of 0-2, but that's the way the stone turns. We're not out of it yet. I've seen teams come back from 0-4. Everyone's not going to win every game. We're going to have a great, great rest of the week."
The U.S. team is competing in a nine-game round robin with hopes of advancing to the semifinals next Saturday. Team USA played in the bronze-medal game in Vancouver four years ago.
"We're going stay after school here and practice and work on our issues right now and come back tomorrow much sharper," said Joseph, 51. The U.S. will face Norway (1-1) at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.
This afternoon's game featured lots of offense for the Koreans, who twice score three-enders to build an early lead that the U.S. team could not overcome.
"We need to work on weight control. We had a lot of issues with the weight. You have to read the ice in order to put the stone where you want it and more ice is better with this type of ice," Joseph said. "We did see a little bit of improvement from game one."
After being shut out earlier in the day, Korea (1-1) started its game against USA by stealing three points when the final U.S. stone came up short of the rings. The Americans were again chasing in the second end and by the time McDonald threw the final stone, seven rocks were above the house and one Korean rock was sitting in the back of the eight-foot. McDonald drew through the port into the house to put a point on the scoreboard for USA.
The U.S. continued to struggle with draw weight in the third end and the Koreans were able to make a hit and stick for three points to add to their lead. The U.S. got the offense going in the fourth end when Joseph's second vice skip stone split a U.S. rock into scoring position in the eight-foot behind a Korean stone in the top of the house. After Korea missed the takeout, McDonald tried a soft tapback on the U.S. stone in the top of the rings but it ended up as a freeze instead. Kim then missed a takeout with his final stone and the U.S. scored three points as McDonald squeezed his stone through the port to place a third counter in the rings.
The U.S. had shot rock for most of the fifth end until a well-placed stone by Korean vice skip Jong-Pan Kim put Korea back in control. Joseph missed the takeout and Korea was able to place a stone into the four-foot. McDonald used his first shot to draw around the centerline guard to the button. Kim removed that stone but it jammed in the back of the eight-foot and remained in play. USA used its final stone of the fifth to attempt a double takeout that ending up going into the worst possible spot - right through the middle of the stones and out the back of the house. That left Korea with an open draw for three more points. Korea ended up getting just two points for an 8-4 advantage, but the momentum that the Americans had tried to build coming into the second half of the game quickly dissipated.
Needing to score multiple points to stay in the game, the U.S. fell behind the rock count in the sixth end. McDonald tried to draw around the center guards into the rings with his first rock but it came to rest just above the house, lightly tapping an American stone into potentially second scoring position. The Americans were eventually forced to play a difficult tap for one point with the final stone.
The U.S. couldn't take advantage of opportunities in the seventh end to put the pressure on Korea and another point was scored for their opponent. After not being able to set up a big scoring end in the eighth, the U.S. conceded.
In other round robin games this afternoon, Canada's Jim Armstrong rink moved to 2-0 with a 5-4 win over host Russia despite the best efforts of the nice turnout of fans at the Ice Cube cheering them on. Two-time Paralympic bronze medalist Jalle Jungnell of Sweden led his team to a 7-6 victory over Finland as both teams took the ice for the first time. China's Haitao Wang rink, bronze medalists in 2013 at the world wheelchair championship, evened their record to 1-1 with a 7-3 win over Norway.
The round robin continues on Sunday with games at 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (MSK).
USA line score
*USA 010 301 0x - 5
Korea 303 020 1x - 9
*last stone in first end