CURLING: Top seed opens with big win at 2008 USA Curling National Championships

Feb. 16, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 16, 2008 Top seed easily posts win to open 2008 USA Curling National Championships (HIBBING, Minn.) - Jason Larway's No. 1 seeded Washington team lived up to its placement with a 10-3 win in the opening draw of the 2008 USA Curling National Championships at the Hibbing Curling Club. Larway (Lynnwood, Wash.) and teammates Colin Hufman (Seattle), Greg Persinger (Anchorage, Alaska) and Joel Larway (Lynnwood, Wash.) introduced Willie Wilberg's rookie team to the Nationals by applying the pressure early and often. After opening with a deuce, Larway's team capitalized on a missed takeout by Wilberg to steal three and go up 5-0. The 2004 national champion skip would steal another point before Wilberg (Green Bay, Wis.) and teammates Charles Taggart (Green Bay, Wis.), Alex Leichter (Wayland, Mass.) and Andrew Quigley (Green Bay, Wis.) got on the scoreboard. Larway's veteran squad scored two more deuces in the second half to seal the win. Greg Romaniuk's Washington team pulled off the first upset of the Nationals with an 8-2 win over the defending champions, led by Todd Birr (Mankato, Minn.). Romaniuk (Snohomish, Wash.) and teammates Doug Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Leon Romaniuk (Kirkland, Wash.) and Mike Calcagno (Kirkland, Wash.) capitalized on key misses and came out ready to play. "We were fired up," Greg Romaniuk said. "The first game's usually very important in a bonspiel. We came out firing and Doug (Pottinger) played really well." Pottinger was recently added to the lineup has only played 10 games with the team. With the game tied at 1-1, Romaniuk struck for four in the fourth end to steal the momentum. "We capitalized on a few shots and kept the pressure on," the 2001 national champion Romaniuk said. "The ice was a little tricky, but we made three really big doubles that were game-changers." Craig Disher's North Dakota squad survived a 5-4 win over Tyler George's team when George came down wide on his draw to the four-foot. George's team played a strong first half putting the pressure on the veteran team that has finished second at the last two Nationals. Disher (Rolla, N.D.) and teammates Kevin Kakela (Rolla, N.D.), Zach Jacobson (Langdon, N.D.) and Carey Kakela (St. John, N.D.) were in a world of trouble in the second end facing four George stones before Disher made a draw to the side of the button for one point to tie the game at 1-1. Disher made another clutch draw in the sixth end, this time for two, to take a 4-2 lead. George (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Kris Perkovich (Chisholm, Minn.), Phill Drobnick (Duluth, Minn.) and Kevin Johnson (Winabego, Minn.) tied the game in the ninth end with a steal of one to set up the last-shot drama for George in the 10th. Craig Brown's team built an early lead against John Shuster's rink en route to a 7-1 lopsided win. Brown (Madison, Wis.) and teammates Rich Ruohonen (Brooklyn Park, Minn.), John Dunlop (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Pete Annis (Owatonna, Minn.) scored three in the second end and stole a single to go up 4-0. Shuster, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist, would only score one point in the fourth end for the team's lone point of the game in his skipping debut at Nationals. Pete Fenson's Minnesota team shook off a sluggish start to defeat Jeremy Roe's Wisconsin team, 9-7. Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) made a double takeout in the seventh end to tie the game at 5-5. Roe (Rio, Wis.) only scored one point in the eighth end and Fenson struck big again to seal the win. It was mostly Fenson stones in the rings in the ninth end before Roe drew down to a stone in the back of the four foot. Fenson was able to scoot past another stone and chip it out to score four. The men's action continues with games at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow. The women's competition, which features seven teams, gets underway Monday morning. The winning teams at the 2008 Nationals will represent the U.S. at the 2008 World Championships. The women's event is scheduled March 22-30 in Vernon, British Columbia. The 2008 Men's World Championship is slated April 4-13 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. Live scoring from the 2008 Nationals can be found on the USA Curling website at Men's standings: Brown (Wisconsin) 1-0 Disher (North Dakota) 1-0 Fenson (Minnesota) 1-0 Larway (Washington) 1-0 Romaniuk (Washington) 1-0 Birr (Minnesota) 0-1 George (Minnesota) 0-1 Roe (Wisconsin) 0-1 Shuster (Minnesota) 0-1 Wilberg (Wisconsin) 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).