U.S. wheelchair curling picks up second win at Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games
Sochi, Russia — With their backs up against the wall trying to stay alive in the round robin, Team USA held on for a 7-6 win over Finland tonight at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
The victory over Finland's Markku Karjalainen rink improves Patrick McDonald (Madison, Wis.) and teammates Jimmy Joseph (New Hartford, N.Y.), Penny Greely (Green Bay, Wis.), David Palmer (Mashpee, Mass.), and Meghan Lino (East Falmouth, Mass.) to 2-4 in the round robin with three games left as they attempt to advance to this weekend's semifinals at the Ice Cube Curling Center.
"It's a big boost for us. We knew we had to win and have to win the rest of them," Palmer said. "I think our confidence coming into the game ... we all knew we had the ability to do it. We just had to go out there and prove it. I think we all pretty much executed good today - much better than in our previous games."
The U.S. had its most productive shooting output for the tournament in earning its second win.
"It was a good game," McDonald said. "We had a couple of key misses and they hit us with a four. It was all right. There was still plenty of time to keep playing and we did. We executed really well."
The current record for the Americans has them sitting in a three-way tie for seventh place as they look to move up the ladder.
"I think we weren't having as much fun as we wanted. It's the Paralympics and we were happy-go-lucky and training hard," McDonald said. "When we had a couple of losses, which is something we've never experienced before (early in a tournament), it was kind of like 'Whoa, ok.' So we had to dig deep and we did. We weren't having fun before ... today we had fun and played hard."
Team USA started the game without the last-rock advantage for the first time and had Finland chasing right from their second stone thrown. After Karjalainen missed a takeout with his first skip stone, McDonald drew into the eight foot to put two U.S. stones in scoring position near one another. Finland could not convert the double takeout and the Americans stole a point to get on the scoreboard first.
The teams exchanged hits throughout the second end. After McDonald's stone rolled out after the takeout, the house was empty. Finland opted to draw for a single point instead of blanking the end and the game was tied, 1-1.
It wasn't until the ninth rock was thrown that one landed in the rings as both sides struggled with draw weight in the third end. Joseph made a hit-and-stick to leave his first vice skip stone in the back of the house. After Finland missed the takeout, Joseph tried to place a second counter in the top of the rings but it sank down on top of the other U.S. stone. Finland jumped at the opportunity to freeze a stone to the U.S. rock. McDonald, however, made a double takeout and the U.S. was in business. Karjalainen removed one and the U.S. had a draw opportunity for two points. McDonald's final stone was hot and bumped out the U.S. stone in the back of the house and the Americans had to settle for a single instead.
The game's momentum turned in USA's direction in the fourth end. The Americans used Joseph's first vice skip stone to draw around a series of corner guards to grab shot rock position. Finland tried to counter but left their stone at the top of the house for the U.S to remove. Finland opted to remove that U.S. stone in the top of the house, leaving theirs sitting above the rings. McDonald made the takeout on it and split his shooter into the rings behind the guards to have three stones in play. When Finland's last shot came up short of the house, the Americans stole those three points to take a 5-1 lead into the second half of the game.
A couple of key misses by the U.S. out of the break, coupled with a gutsy freeze call with the final American stone that came up short, gave Finland a draw opportunity for four points to tie the game. The sixth end featured the teams exchanging hits. The U.S. was forced to make the final one to score a point and take back the lead.
The turning point for the U.S. came in the seventh end. The U.S. was playing to hold their opponent to a single point but Finland ended up with a chance for two after taking advantage of a U.S. miss. Karjalainen missed the final takeout and the Americans instead stole a point to carry a two-point lead into the final end.
A double peel by Greely followed up with a takeout from Joseph put three U.S. stones in the house halfway through the eighth. Finnish vice skip Sari Karjalainen then played a perfect draw around the corner guard to place a Finnish stone in the top of the 12-foot as they tried to set up an end to score multiple points. Joseph tried the runback but didn't make contact so Finland went after an American stone on the other side of the house. The takeout wasn't firm enough and Finland's stone also didn't stay in play. The U.S. wanted to draw into the house with McDonald's first stone, but it caromed off track, possibly picking up some debris along the way, and left a port open for Karjalainen. Finland needed a double takeout to score three points for the win. They only removed one and after a measure for second count went in the U.S.'s favor, the second win was in the books for the Americans.
"We had a couple little blips that let them back in. We thought we had them on the ropes and just like that things changed," Palmer said. "But, we knew we could come back. We just wanted to play clean and we won it on the last one on a measure. We're just going to try to keep playing that way and keep it going."
The U.S. has two games on tap Wednesday with China (3-3) in the morning session and Sweden (2-4) in the nightcap. Team USA wraps up preliminary play on Thursday against Great Britain (4-2). At the conclusion of the round robin, the top four teams advance to Saturday's semifinals. If teams are tied for a playoff spot, tiebreaker games will be played on Friday.
Live scores and standings can be found at http://sochi2014.curlingevents.com/paralympics. Follow the action at Twitter as well and use hashtag #2014Paralympics.
USA line score
USA 101 301 10 - 7
*Finland 010 040 01 - 6
*last stone in first end