BROOMFIELD, Colo. (Feb. 21, 2009) -
Edmonton resident Mark Johnson made his U.S. debut by knocking off the reigning world junior champions in the men's first round of action Saturday night at the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the Broomfield Event Center.
Johnson and teammates Brady Clark (Lynnwood, Wash.), Derrick McLean (Bothell, Wash.) and Ken Trask (Seattle) shrugged off a slow start to defeat the Chris Plys rink, 8-4. Plys's team just won the junior title one week ago in North Dakota and will travel to Vancouver next month to try to defend their world title.
"It was a tough game," Johnson said. "They played very well. They definitely outplayed us the first three ends."
In those ends, Plys and teammates Aanders Brorson (Duluth, Minn.), Matt Perushek (Eveleth, Minn.) and Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) scored in the first two for a modest 2-0 lead. They then forced the seasoned veteran Johnson to draw for one in the third end. The momentum swung in favor of the Seattle-based team in the fourth end, with Johnson's team getting near perfect rock placement that led to a steal of two points.
Plys would make a hit for two in the fifth end to take a 4-3 lead but Johnson's team would score the games remaining points over the next three ends to prompt the handshake from the youngest skip in the Olympic Trials field.
"After the third end, it was a battle," said Johnson, who works as a police officer in Alberta, but was born in Washington. "The ice was great, and I was impressed with the people watching tonight."
The defending national champions didn't fare as well. Craig Brown's team got into a bit of trouble in the 10th end and over-swept their final stone allowing Kevin Deeren's rink to steal another point leading to a 9-6 win. They needed to sweep the stone to keep it from crashing on a stone in the top of the house.
2007 world bronze medalist Todd Birr (Mankato, Minn.) picked up an 8-6 win over Tyler George's rink. Tied 6-6 in the 10th end, Birr made a raise double takeout with his first stone and prevented George from picking up the win.
Craig Disher's North Dakota-based team took an early lead over Minnesota's Mike Farbelow and never relinquished the lead thereafter. A key steal of three points in the third end proved to be the difference maker for Disher's team, which has finished runner-up for the past three years.
2006 Olympic bronze medalist John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) only scored in three ends but made the most of his last-rock opportunities to take down Greg Romaniuk's team. Shuster and teammates Jason Smith (Cape Coral, Fla.), Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.) and John Benton (St. Michael, Minn.) scored four points in the second end but then fell behind in the fifth end. Shuster tried to triple out three stones and ended up giving Romaniuk two instead. However, the Seattle skip wouldn't score again as the match ended in Shuster's favor, 8-5.
Action continues with draws tomorrow at 8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Live scoring from the event will be available at www.usacurl.org/curlingrocks
in the scoreboard.
Photos can be found at: http://www.curlingrocks.net/photo-gallery.php
Disher 8, Farbelow 4; Birr 8, George 6; Shuster 8, Romaniuk 5; Deeren 9, Brown 6; Johnson 8, Plys 4 STANDINGS Men
Romaniuk 0-1 Women
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