CURLING: Massachusetts men bounce back from tough loss at 2008 U.S. Junior Nationals

Feb. 03, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Feb. 3, 2008 Massachusetts men bounce back from tough loss at 2008 Junior Nationals (PORTAGE, Wis.) - The Massachusetts men proved they are worthy of their pre-tournament ranking after posting an 8-5 win over Alaska Sunday morning at the 2008 USA Curling Junior National Championships in Portage, Wis. Stephen Dropkin lead his Massachusetts team to an 8-5 win over Alaska's Matt Birklid team to improve to 1-1 after a tough loss last night. Dropkin (Southborough, Mass.) and teammates Jeff Wadsworth (Wayland, Mass.), Ryan Hallisey (Medfield, Mass.), Nate Clark (Nashua, N.H.) and Alex Leichter (Wayland, Mass.) got off to a great start scoring the game's first six points. "The loss to Washington was kind of demoralizing, and we just need to get over that," Dropkin said. "Any win here is a big deal so it's nice to get that first one." Massachusetts, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed - their highest ranking ever - are hoping to make a return to the playoffs after advancing in 2006. "I think we were surprised we got ranked so high. We think we have a chance to pull off a couple of upsets and play well enough to get into the playoffs," said Dropkin, 17. Birklid and his Fairbanks teammates Atticus Wallace, Oliver Halvarson and Ryan Flippo started a comeback in the seventh end scoring three to close the gap at 7-4 but Massachusetts would score again in the eighth to make the lead too much to overcome. Minnesota 1's Chris Plys rink improved to 2-0 with a 7-3 win over Washington's Matt Thomas team. Plys (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Aanders Brorson (Duluth, Minn.), Matt Perushek (Eveleth, Minn.) and Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) built a 4-0 lead after four ends without the last rock advantage. A double takeout by Plys in the fifth end eliminated Washington's hope for a deuce. Thomas then kept his shooter in the rings trying to blank the end to get on the scoreboard at 4-1. Plys converted a takeout for two in the sixth end to take a 6-1 lead. Washington tried to make a comeback after scoring one in the seventh and stealing a single in the eighth but fell short as the defending champions hung another point in the ninth to seal the victory. Sixteen-year-old Junior Nationals rookie skip Miranda Solem (Cohasset, Minn.) led her Minnesota 2 team past 2007 semifinalist Katherine Stewart's Illinois rink, 6-3. Solem and teammates Grace Gabower (Milton, Wis.), Julie Lilla (Centerville, Wis.) and Chelsea Solem (Cohasset, Minn.) broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth end when Solem made a draw for the deuce. Stewart was forced to draw for one in the sixth end against three Minnesota 2 stones. Minnesota scored one in the following end and stole another to keep Illinois at bay. Veteran Alaskan skip Kaye Hufman picked up the pace in the second half taking down Wisconsin 2's Ashley Schaffer team, 8-3. Hufman and teammates Lacy Birklid (Fairbanks, Alaska), Vicky Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska) and Katy Sharpe (Seattle) cut Wisconsin 2 down to a deuce in the second end and tied the game up in the next end. After exchanging singles in the next two ends, Alaska stole the remaining ends to post the victory. Hufman, 20, is making her fifth Junior Nationals appearance with her best finish so far coming in 2004 when her team made it to the semifinals. This is the first appearance for the Schaffer team from Wisconsin's Madison Curling Club led by their 15-year-old skip. Game scores (women): Alaska 8, Wisconsin II 3; Minnesota II 6, Illinois 3; (men) Massachusetts 8, Alaska 5; Minnesota I 7, Washington 3 Standings: Women: Alaska (Hufman) 1-0 Massachusetts (Walker) 1-0 Minnesota 1 (Carlson) 1-0 Minnesota 2 (Solem) 1-0 Wisconsin 1 (Spatola) 1-0 Illinois (Stewart) 0-1 North Dakota (Tucker) 0-1 Pennsylvania (Anderson) 0-1 Utah (Schieber) 0-1 Wisconsin 2 (Schaffer) 0-1 Men: Minnesota 1 (Plys) 2-0 Minnesota 2 (Wald) 1-0 New York (Corbett) 1-0 North Dakota (Jensen) 1-0 Massachusetts (Dropkin) 1-1 Washington (Thomas) 1-1 Illinois (Rahn) 0-1 Michigan (Smith) 0-1 Wisconsin (Caldwell) 0-1 Alaska (Birklid) 0-2 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).