USA defeats Finland to keep playoff hopes alive at 2009 Ford World Men's Championship(MONCTON, New Brunswick) - John Shuster and Team USA snapped their two-game losing streak with a 6-5 win over Finland's Kalle Kiiskinen rink Wednesday night to stay alive in the playoff hunt at the 2009 Ford World Men's Championship at the Moncton Coliseum.
Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jason Smith (Duluth, Minn.), Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.) and John Benton (St. Michael, Minn.) improve to 5-4 and are currently tied for fourth place with Germany, Denmark and Switzerland. With two games remaining in the round robin, Canada has clinched one of four available playoff spots.
The Finns are fighting for much more than that as this is the final tournament to earn points towards qualifying for the Vancouver Olympic Games. Finland currently is ranked No. 12 in the standings and their 1-8 record this week so far more than likely eliminates their chances for a spot in Vancouver.
The Americans return to the ice at 3 p.m. Thursday to play the Jiri Snitil's Czech Republic team. They'll finish out the round robin against France (4-5).
"We have two 'should-wins' left but the last game was one of those, and we had to work at it," Benton said.
Hard work indeed after a disastrous first two ends in which they fell behind 3-0 but did not crumble. Shuster missed his first four shots - most notably in the second end when both came up well short of the house. Unfortunately for Team USA, he'd carry through those issues into the third end. Trying to earn a deuce, Shuster needed to draw into the top four-foot but came up short once again.
"We switched out the rocks after the first two ends," Benton said about the skip stones. "After we did that, things got much better. We're finding that we need to do a little better job with the rock matching. It's been very difficult to get all four of us playing well together, and I attribute that to the ice and the rocks. We'll have games where one of his will struggle, mostly with the draw weight, while the others play well."
The U.S. picked it up in the fourth end, pressuring Finland by burying a stone on the side of the button. Shuster drew down another stone for second count making Kiiskinen try an up-weight takeout to clear out the mess but he'd end up giving up a steal of one.
Shuster made a runback to put three U.S. rocks in the house in the fifth end. Kiiskinen needed that up-weight again for a double takeout of the American stones in the four-foot but he'd jam one and give up another steal to allow the U.S. to tie the game 3-3.
Shuster used his last rock in the sixth to draw to the back of the button, which made a tough shot for Kiiskinen - an angle raise takeout that he missed. The Finnish men would get on the scoreboard in the eighth end but spoiled their opportunity for two when Kiiskinen rolled out his shooter after making the takeout. With the hammer advantage for the first time since the third end, Isaacson made a double takeout to help the Americans gain control of the end. When Kiiskinen missed an opportunity to remove the U.S. shot rock, Shuster was able to grab the deuce and take a two-point lead into the 10th end.
Needing a deuce of their own to tie the game, Finland needed to remove the two U.S. stones on top of each other in the four-foot but one of them jammed to seal the win for the Americans.
Game scores: USA 6, Finland 5; Denmark 5, Germany 4; Switzerland 5, Czech Republic 2; Scotland 6, Norway 5 (extra end)
Team USA line score:
USA 001 110 102 0 6
Finland* 210 000 010 1 5
*last rock in first end
Czech Republic 2-7
*earned playoff berth
Universal Sports will air 12 hours of TV coverage from Moncton, featuring the following games:
* April 11: USA vs. Germany, 7 p.m. ET (tape-delayed)
* April 11: USA vs. Canada, 11:30 p.m. ET (tape-delayed)
* April 12: Semifinal/bronze, 7 p.m. (tape-delayed)
* April 12: Final, 11:30 p.m. ET (tape-delayed)
* In addition, on-demand webstreaming of several of the U.S. games will be featured on www.universalsports.com.
* Live end-by-end scoring from the Ford World Men's Championship is available online at http://www.usacurl.org/curlingrocks. All times posted are local (1 hour ahead of Eastern Time Zone).