Team USA steals win from New Zealand to get into win column in Germany

By Terry Kolesar | Dec. 11, 2013, 12 a.m. (ET)
Dec. 11, 2013

USA steals win to get into win column at Olympic Qualification Event 

(FUESSEN, Germany) - As the saying goes, a win is a win. John Shuster and the U.S. men will take that analogy and keep trudging along in the Americans' quest to earn a berth for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The U.S. men stole a 7-6 win this morning from Peter de Boer's squad from New Zealand at the BLZ Arena in the second men's draw of the seven-game round robin of the World Curling Federation's Olympic Qualification Event.

"The only thing you can think about is trying to get a win any way possible," Shuster said about the pressure to get in the win column. "You feel pressure because we know we need to win a lot of games here. Regardless of where we are in the competition, every single game you feel the same urgency to win. We're going to have seven or eight games so every loss is going to add up quickly in the loss column here so we need to make sure we keep as many in the win column as possible. It was nice to feel like we stole one today."  

Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Hibbing, Minn.), and John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.) fell behind late in the game and had to steal the final two ends to earn the victory and improve to 1-1.

"Steal, steal. We knew that going in. We knew we could maybe force, but we did a great job," Shuster said about the strategy of the final two ends of play. "John [Landsteiner] threw two good separated guards on the center line and Jared [Zezel] put them on the pin every single time we were going in there. That's the important part, when you have those opportunities to make those [shots] and those guys in front of you do such a good job. Ike [Jeff Isaacson] and I did our best not to screw it up."

USA got a stone buried behind a center guard early in the first end to fluster the New Zealand rink, which finished fifth at the 2012 world championship in Switzerland. It wasn't until de Boer's first skip stone that New Zealand finally removed it with a runback. Shuster used his final stone of the opening end to draw behind his team's center guard once again, forcing de Boer into a tough draw to the button for a single point. New Zealand returned the favor in the following end by forcing the American men to make a takeout through a port to accept one point to tie the game.

The third end was played in similar fashion with the skips drawing behind a center guard with their final stones and pressuring the other to make a shot. Shuster played a perfect freeze to the New Zealand stone in the back of the four-foot with his final rock. The elder skip was a tad heavy with his final stone, resulting in a single steal for the U.S.

The U.S. controlled most of the fourth end until de Boer played a hit and roll to place two New Zealand stones in scoring position. Shuster's double takeout attempt rubbed a corner guard, setting up New Zealand with a draw for three points. Team USA did not get a stone in scoring position until late in the fifth end. The teams then exchanged soft hits on stones around the four-foot. De Boer failed to fully remove the U.S. shot stone with his first attempt, allowing the U.S. to set up a deuce. 

After the sixth end was blanked, New Zealand took advantage of a U.S. miscue late in the end to draw a second counter into the four-foot. Shuster used his final stone of the end to draw down to the pot of stones. New Zealand had a chance for three points with the soft takeout but couldn't push the U.S. stone deep enough to count all three. 

Trailing now by two points, the U.S. men played chase most of the eighth end. With New Zealand already with four stones in play, the U.S. was light on Isaacson's come-around draw and it ended up short of the house. That allowed New Zealand to draw a fifth stone into the house. Shuster tried to draw around the corner guard and freeze to a New Zealand rock but left it open for de Boer to have a chance at it. The New Zealand skip missed the takeout, which turned the end upside down and gave USA a chance at the deuce. Shuster needed to make a thin takeout and keep his shooter in play but it rolled too far and the Americans accepted a single instead.

In the ninth end, the U.S. protected stones in the four-foot behind a center guard for most of the end, pressuring de Boer to attempt a double takeout that resulted in a steal of one point for the Americans to tie the game, 6-6. Feeling the pressure to win, the U.S. played a stellar 10th end, lining up stones perfectly along the centerline to protect Zezel's rock in the top four-foot. Shuster's first stone, however, didn't make it across the hogline as they tried to guard the tap shot. After that de Boer was finally able to get at the U.S. stone. Shuster then drew to the top of the four-foot for shot stone once again. New Zealand's final takeout attempt was wide and the U.S. stole the point for the 7-6 victory.

Shuster said the team continues to work on making broom adjustments as they prepare for the rest of the round robin. "Today was one of those where we survived. Today we did a much better job, I like the way we threw the rocks late in the game. Every curler changes the way they throw it here and there ... On draws, there is no issue at all," said Shuster, 31, a four-time U.S. Nationals and Olympic Team Trials champion.  

The U.S. men return to the ice at 4 p.m. today to take on France (1-1). Follow the action at 

Game score:
*New Zealand 100 300 200 0 - 6 
USA 011 020 011 1 - 7 
*last rock in first end

Other game scores: Korea 8, Germany 7; Japan 8, France 4; Czech Republic 6, Finland 4 

Men's standings:
Czech Republic 2-0
Korea 2-0
France 1-1
Japan 1-1
New Zealand 1-1
USA 1-1
Finland 0-2
Germany 0-2

Women's standings:
China 1-0
Czech Republic 1-0
Latvia 1-0
Japan 0-0
Germany 0-1
Italy 0-1
Norway 0-1

Team USA game schedule:
Wednesday, Dec. 11, 4 p.m. local/10 a.m. ET: USA v. France
Thursday, Dec. 12, 9 a.m. local/3 a.m. ET: USA v. Germany
Thursday, Dec. 12, 7 p.m. local/1 p.m. ET: USA v. Japan
Friday, Dec. 13, 12 p.m. local/6 a.m. ET: USA v. Korea
Friday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m. local/2 p.m. ET: USA v. Finland
Saturday, Dec. 14, Men's 1 v. 2 playoff, 8 p.m. local/2 p.m. ET
Sunday, Dec. 15, Men's second playoff, 12:30 p.m. local/6:30 a.m. ET

NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will produce a three-hour show from the event, which will air at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 19.

USA Curling is sponsored by AtomAmpd, Nike, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, Sitrin, and The RAM Restaurant & Brewery, BalancePlus, and is partnered with Hilton, United Airlines, RJM Licensing Inc., and CurlingZone.

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For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling,, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell).