USA advances to playoffs at Olympic qualifier

By Terry Kolesar | Dec. 14, 2013, 12 a.m. (ET)
Dec. 14, 2013

USA advance to playoffs at Olympic Qualification Event 

(FUESSEN, Germany) - The beat goes on for Team USA as they marched into the playoffs with a decisive 7-5 win over Korea in the tiebreaker game tonight at the Olympic Qualification Event at the BLZ Arena.

With the win, John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Hibbing, Minn.), and John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.) will now play at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow (local time) against the losing side of the playoff game taking place tonight between the Czech Republic and Germany. The winner of the Czech-German match earns the first of two Olympic berths available. 

"We started the week very shaky and just made mistake after mistake - rolling out, not controlling shooters, missing draws, things like that," said Isaacson, 30, a science teacher. "As the week's gone on we've gotten a lot better handle with the rocks and ice, and it has definitely helped. We've been facing at least five elimination games that we've had to win and we're responding pretty well to it."

The U.S. had control for most of the 10 ends against Korea's Soo-Hyuk rink and never trailed in the match. 

"[John] Landsteiner set up the ends very well. We were never chasing. Then [Jared] Zezel did his job at second so we it felt like we had control the whole game," Isaacson said. "We only had one end, the fourth that got a little out of control and he made a really nice runback. We got fortunate to get the steal, otherwise they would get two probably three there."

The Americans got off to a productive start once again, putting two points on the scoreboard as Shuster used his final stone to draw into the house for the deuce. A key miss by the U.S. late in the second end opened the door for Korea to score two and tie the game.

In the third end, the U.S. couldn't take advantage of a miss by Korea and were forced to make a takeout for a single point. 

After Shuster made a soft tap on the Korean stone in the four-foot to put the U.S. back in control of the fourth end, Kim missed a double takeout and his stone rolled into the four-foot. However, it was about a half inch shy from scoring and the American men stole a point to go ahead 4-2. Korea was forced to make a takeout for a single point in the fifth end. 

In the sixth end, the U.S. got two stones buried in the top of the four-foot with two Korean rocks above it. However, a poorly-placed rock by the U.S. put Korea back in control of the end as Tae-Hwan Kim made a double takeout and left two Korean rocks in scoring position. As the U.S. got the end back under control, just as quickly, Korea made a triple takeout, forcing Shuster to make a hit for a point.

In the seventh end, the momentum swung back and forth, but the U.S. held on to force Korea into just scoring a single to continue to maintain its slim lead.  

In the eighth end, with two U.S. stones counting in the four-foot, Tae-Hwan Kim's stone over-curled as he tried to bring his stone in. This allowed Team USA to place a guard, but it didn't cover the path to the four-foot. Kim's draw wasn't deep enough and the U.S. still had two counting. Kim's second draw was onto the button but USA was out-counting by a whisker. Shuster's final stone rubbed the guard and the U.S. settled for a point and a two-rock lead.

In the ninth end, the U.S. had two stones in the house to hassle Korea with as skip stones came around. After failing on his freeze attempt with his first stone, Kim was eventually forced to make a takeout for a single point. In the final end, the U.S. kept the path to the four-foot open for Shuster to draw into to secure a point and the win to keep the winning streak going. 

"We came out and played a good game and made some key shots," Shuster said. "I missed that one in the eighth end that would have made it a little easier at the end. Any time you can leave me a draw into the four-foot for the win, I'll be happy."

The playoff games will be featured live on the World Curling Federation's event website 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 201 101 010 1 - 7 
Korea 020 010 101 0 - 5 
*last rock in first end

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