U.S. wheelchair keeping playoffs in sight at Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games

By Terry Kolesar | March 12, 2014, 11 a.m. (ET)
U.S. wheelchair curling team
Jimmy Joseph celebrates against Sweden on March 12 at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

SOCHI, Russia –

Team USA pushed its win streak to three as they continue to move up the standings in hopes of advancing to this weekend's playoffs at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

With one round robin game left at the Ice Cube Curling Center, Patrick McDonald and the Americans are now 4-4 after earning an 8-3 victory over Sweden's Jalle Jungnell rink, winners of the past two Paralympic bronze medals.

"We just got into a groove and we've been in it. We're just going to ride this out," McDonald said.

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.) made several big shots when they needed them in earning the fourth victory to even their record.

"It was beautiful. We really needed both of these victories today," said Joseph, who has quickly become a crowd and media favorite at these Games for his dynamic personality. "Now we need to win tomorrow in order to play for a medal. These two were huge."

The Americans will play Great Britain (4-3) in their round robin finale tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. MSK - another team fighting to keep its playoff hopes alive.

"The team from GB, we play them all the time. We're friends. But when the game starts, we curl," McDonald said about tomorrow's match-up. "So we're just going to keep doing what we're doing and do our best."

The U.S. continues to steadily improve as the round robin nears its completion.

"I'm very, very proud of my team. They stepped it up. We didn't start out very strong at the beginning of the week, but we are back. We're in the groove again," Joseph said.

Tonight's game with Sweden, another team the Americans have played many times in international competition, featured swings in momentum with the U.S. finally taking control of the game midway through.

The two sides began the game by exchanging hits and testing out the ice. A well-placed hit-and-roll with McDonald's first stone of the opening end set up the U.S. for a point. When Jungnell placed the final Swedish stone in the top of the four-foot, McDonald could not better that for a second point as his draw shot slid through the rings.

In the second end, Sweden positioned stones around the top of the eight foot. With two in scoring position and poised for more, McDonald used the final American stone to remove one of the counters. Sweden secured the deuce by promoting a stone in the top of the house into the four-foot to take a 2-1 lead.

USA struggled with its draw weight in the third end and needed McDonald to bail them out with a clutch draw into the four-foot for a single point to avoid a big steal from Sweden. 

USA played the fourth end aggressively without the hammer and it paid off. After opting not to take out the Swedish shot stone in the back of the house early on, USA placed a stone behind the corner guard and forced the Swedes to chase them. A miss on a takeout gave the U.S. a chance to place a second stone in the rings. When Jungnell was heavy with his first draw, McDonald again drew into the house and placed his stone on the button to put three in scoring position. Sweden's final stone rubbed on an American rock in the top of the rings and the U.S. had a three-point steal.

In the fifth end, the U.S. tucked a stone behind a corner guard in the top of the eight-foot that sat as shot rock for several stones. Joseph then drew into the four-foot with this first vice skip stone to put two in play for the Americans. When Swedish vice skip Patrik Kallin missed the takeout, Joseph guarded his stone. Kallin then got enough of the U.S. stone in the four-foot to move it into the back of the house. McDonald again put the pressure on Sweden as he played a tap to push Joseph's guard forward. Jungnell made the takeout but his shooter stone rolled out. The Americans used their final stone to guard the path to the four-foot. Sweden was forced to draw through a port to the four-foot, but the stone had too much weight and slid through the house.

With the double steal, the Americans now had a 7-2 cushion for the final three ends of play. The U.S. played the sixth end content to allow Sweden to score a single after a perfect hit and roll placed a Swedish rock behind cover in the four-foot. Desperate to score more than one, Sweden used Jungnell's first stone for a raise attempt that went awry.  McDonald used his final stone to attempt a raise as well to put the American stone into scoring position. That didn't happen, but Sweden still could not score two as Jungnell's final stone stopped well short of the rings.

The U.S. would score a single in the seventh end to put the game out of reach for the Swedes as they ran out of rocks in the eighth.

After securing a semifinal berth earlier today, Russia rallied to steal the final two ends to defeat Norway, 6-5, and improve to 7-1. China kept its playoff hopes in sight with an 8-2 win over Finland to keep pace with the Americans with a 4-4 record. China closes out the round robin against Great Britain tomorrow afternoon.

At the conclusion of the round robin, the top four teams will advance to Saturday's semifinals. If needed, tiebreaker games to determine the playoff field will be played on Friday. The semifinals are set to begin at 9:30 a.m. MSK on Saturday followed by the gold- and bronze-medal games at 3:30 p.m.

Live scores and standings can be found at http://sochi2014.curlingevents.com/paralympics

USA line score

Sweden 020 001 0x - 3
*USA 101 320 1x - 8
*last stone in first end