USA moves up the leader board

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

USA improves to 2-1 at Olympic Qualification Event 

(FUESSEN, Germany) - Team USA took a commanding lead over France this afternoon and didn't look back as John Shuster and the American men improved to 2-1 in the round robin of the Olympic Qualification Event at the BLZ Arena.
The 10-4 victory over France's Thomas Dufour rink puts Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Hibbing, Minn.), and John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.) in a three-way tie for second place behind Korea (3-0).

"It's very important," Isaacson said about this afternoon's win. "We still have a chance. After the first two games it was looking 0-2. To be 2-1 is perfect. It's fully in our hands so we love that." 

The Americans have four games left in the round robin. The top three teams will advance to this weekend's playoffs when the two final berths for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be decided. 

"Slowly we're getting better picking up on things," said Isaacson, 30, who played second for Team USA at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. "We struggled in the first two games really badly making shots ... and we made a lot more shots in that game. We made more draws and controlled shooters better. We need to keep building off of each game and getting better and better. It seems to be going that way now."

The first end started out productive for Team USA but the end result was Shuster having to draw for a single against two French stones. His final rock would come up a few inches short and instead of getting on the scoreboard first, the Americans spotted France, with Tony Angiboust throwing final stones, two points to begin the game.

The U.S. team was chasing France for most of the second end trying to get stones in better position, but not shooting as precisely as they needed. The end result was an opportunity for a deuce but the final skip's stone came up short and the U.S. scored only a point. Shortly after, the team swapped out Shuster's eighth stone for one of the lead rocks. 

"We got rid of that and it seemed to go better after that as [John] Landsteiner managed them well," Isaacson said about switching out the stones. "We got a few different tracks [of ice] that first end that were real slow and then it got, depending on the track, picked up really fast, and it caught us a few times." 

In the third end, the U.S. got a stone positioned in the back of the four-foot behind a center guard. Shuster played a freeze to it with his final stone, forcing Angiboust to draw through a port for a single. His stone rubbed on a center guard, however, and the U.S. stole a pair to take a 3-2 advantage. 

France struggled with the ice in the fourth end, allowing the U.S. to place multiple stones around the rings. After Shuster drew into the four-foot with his final rock, Angiboust tried to play a soft hit but couldn't convert and the U.S. stole another point. The American men continued to apply pressure to France in the fifth end, getting stones in the four-foot early to fluster the Frenchmen. A string of misses didn't help France's cause either as the U.S. was able to guard their two stones throughout the end and steal two more points.

France's situation did not improve much statistically in the sixth end. As the end developed, France had a chance to bow out and blank the end when there was no chance for the deuce. Instead, Angiboust's final takeout to clear the house resulted in a hit-and-stick and France scored a single point. However, France took that point back in the seventh end. The U.S. had a stone in the back of the house behind a corner guard. Angiboust tried to freeze to it but left it for the U.S. to go after. Hoping for two points as a result, the U.S. tried to play a soft hit on the France stone but the rock rubbed on the center guard and spun into the top of the house, just out of count.

The U.S. padded its lead in the eighth end as Shuster made a routine takeout for two points. The game would conclude in the ninth end as Angiboust's final stone - a draw for one point - sailed through the rings to give the Americans another steal. 

Team USA has two games on tap on Thursday. In the morning, they face Germany (1-2) and finish the day with the 7 p.m. draw against Japan (1-2), which will be the feature game on the World Curling Federation's live webstream. Follow all the action at 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.

Game score:
 *USA 012 120 022 x - 10 
France 200 001 100 x - 4 
*last rock in first end

Other game scores: Korea 9, Finland 1; Germany 7, Czech Republic 6; New Zealand 8, Japan 3

Men's standings:
Korea 3-0
Czech Republic 2-1
New Zealand 2-1
USA 2-1
France 1-2
Germany 1-2
Japan 1-2
Finland 0-3

Women's standings:
China 1-0
Japan 1-0
Czech Republic 1-1
Germany 1-1
Latvia 1-1
Norway 1-1
Italy 0-2

Team USA game schedule:
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

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