CURLING: Defending men's champions look to repeat at 2008 U.S. Junior Nationals

Feb. 02, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Feb. 2, 2008 Defending champions make statement at 2008 Junior Nationals (PORTAGE, Wis.) - Chris Plys and his defending champions from Minnesota are looking for a repeat and got off to a great start down the path to their goal with a 9-3 win over Michigan Saturday afternoon at the 2008 USA Curling Junior National Championships in Portage, Wis. "Our goal is to get back to Worlds," said Matt Perushek (Eveleth, Minn.). "I say we're playing a lot better than last year. We played really well at the state championship and at a men's event in Eveleth. And, looking at today's result, I'd say we're playing well." Plys (Duluth, Minn.) and his Minnesota 1 teammates Aanders Brorson (Duluth, Minn.), Perushek and Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) scored the game's first four points to get off to a solid start. "We had a game plan and stuck to it and had control of the game from the start," said Perushek, the team's second. Michigan's offense was limited as Minnesota kept the pressure on each end. Another three points in the fifth end followed by a steal in the sixth pretty much put the game away for Team Plys. The defending champions know they're playing with targets on their backs as every team is here to win the title. "It doesn't affect us," Perushek said. "We know people are going to play their best against us." Minnesota 2, skipped by Aaron Wald (Chisholm, Minn.), kept pace with a 10-0 win over Alaska's Matt Birklid team. Wald and his Hibbing, Minn., teammates Ben Wilson, Jared Zezel and John Muller scored in the first four ends to frustrate the team from Fairbanks. Washington's Matt Thomas rink pulled out a come-from-behind victory over Stephen Dropkin's Massachusetts team, 7-5. Down 5-2 late in the game, Thomas (Everett, Wash.) and teammates Sam Galey (Seattle), Nicholas Pleasants (Seattle) and Justin Shega (Hibbing, Minn.) scored a deuce in the eighth and stole the final two ends after Dropkin's final draw in the 10th end wrecked on a Washington stone just above the house. North Dakota's Erik Jensen team got past Grant Rahn's Illinois rink, 10-6, after scoring three points in three ends to build an insurmountable lead for Illinois to overcome. The women's teams get into action at 7 tonight. The 2008 U.S. junior champions will represent their nation at the 2008 World Junior Championships in March is Ostersund, Sweden. Standings: Men: Minnesota 1 (Plys) 1-0 Minnesota 2 (Wald) 1-0 North Dakota (Jensen) 1-0 Washington (Thomas) 1-0 New York (Corbett) 0-0 Wisconsin (Caldwell) 0-0 Alaska (Birklid) 0-1 Illinois (Rahn) 0-1 Massachusetts (Dropkin) 0-1 Michigan (Smith) 0-1 USA Curling is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics, AmerAust Technologies and Nike as well as by AT,T, General Motors, The Home Depot, and Bank of America through a joint marketing program with the U.S. Olympic Committee. (30) For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling,, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell).