USA men creep closer to earning play-off spot at 2009 World Juniors

March 12, 2009, 10:46 a.m. (ET)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (March 10, 2009) - It wasn't pretty, but the USA men pounded out another win to creep closer to earning a play-off berth Tuesday night at the 2009 World Junior Championships at the Vancouver Olympic Centre.

Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.) led his defending world junior champions to a 5-2 record after dispatching Russia's Andrey Drozdov rink, 8-5. With the win, Plys (Duluth) and teammates Aanders Brorson (Duluth), Matt Perushek (Eveleth, Minn.) and Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) are tied for second place with Denmark. Canada clinched the first playoff spot with a win over China tonight to up their record to 7-1.

"We didn't play great, but we hung in there," Perushek said.

The U.S. started the game with a steal when Drozdov attempted a soft tap of the American stone in the back of the four-foot but couldn't move enough of it out, giving up a single.

A few missed shots by the Americans in the second end allowed the Russian men to draw for two. In the third end, Plys couldn't convert an angle raise takeout and sailed through the back of the house, giving up a steal of his own. The Americans played a sloppy fourth end but somehow ended up with a chance to draw for two, but Plys came sliding out like a tsunami was chasing him out of the hack and his stone sailed through the back of the house.

The Americans picked it up in the sixth end and forced Drozdov to draw down to two U.S. stones hanging off the side of the button for a single. The U.S. continued to build momentum by getting a deuce set up in the seventh end to tie the game at 4-4.

"The deuce was big to get us back in the game," Perushek said. "We needed that."

Another sloppy end left Plys staring down three Russian stones that were cartwheeled around the house. He'd nearly make the double takeout and then rolled his shooter to freeze on another U.S. stone for shot rock. The Russian skip came up short of the house and asked for a measure but it was clearly a steal for the Americans.

The U.S. men picked it up a notch in the ninth end forcing Russia to make a takeout to tie the game heading into the 10th end. Hamilton's second stone curled perfectly behind the two Russian center guards rest in the four foot just above his first rock. Those two stones would remain in place throughout the end as the Russians put up guards with the U.S. predictably peeling them. The Russian skip was hoping to draw to the button and force Plys to make a big shot for the win but like Plys did in the fourth end, Drozdov had too much force coming out of the hack and blasted his draw through the back of the house to hand the Americans the win.

The U.S. men return to the ice at 8:30 a.m. Thursday against Canada (7-1) and at 5:30 p.m. to take on China (3-4) to conclude the round robin. The American women enjoyed a day off today but return to action tomorrow morning against Russia (5-2).

"We just need to try and relax," Perushek said. And, the pressure to defend the title? "We don't look at it as defending the title. You can't put pressure on yourself like that. It's a new year, and it's ours to win."

Game scores: USA 8, Russia 5; Canada 7, China 6; Scotland 8, Norway 6; Denmark 8, Sweden 5

Line score:

USA men 100 100 210 3 8
Russia* 021 001 001 0 5
*last stone in first end

Women's standings:
Switzerland 6-1
Scotland 6-2
Russia 5-2
Canada 5-2
USA 4-3
France 3-5
Denmark 2-5
Sweden 2-5
Czech Rep. 2-5
Japan 1-6

Men's standings:
*Canada 7-1
Denmark 5-2
USA 5-2
Sweden 4-3
Norway 4-4
China 3-4
Switzerland 3-4
Scotland 3-4
Russia 2-5
Germany 0-7
*clinched playoff spot

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