The first rocks of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling have been thrown at Scheels Arena with 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) and 2012 national champion Heath McCormick (Sarnia, Ontario) prevailing in the opening round.
The five men's and four women's teams are playing a double round robin to determine the four playoff teams (two men's teams and two women's teams).
"It's great to get off to a good start and play well and manage the ice properly in the first game ... it feels good," Fenson said about the team's win.
Fenson and teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Duluth, Minn.), and Ryan Brunt (Portage, Wis.) scored two points in the final end to defeat Brady Clark's Washington-based rink, 8-6. McCormick led his team of Bill Stopera (Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.), Dean Gemmell (Short Hills, N.J.), and Martin Sather (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.) to an 8-5 victory over Tyler George's Minnesota rink.
The Fenson-Clark match was back-and-forth with Clark's team taking an early 3-1 advantage with a single steal in the third end. Fenson's rink countered by setting up a productive fourth end to even the score. "I had a shot for four, we were making sure we'd get three ... and between the three [points] and Brady beaking the blank, that was kind of the difference," Fenson said.
Clark and teammates Sean Beighton (Seattle), Philip Tilker (Seattle), and Darren Lehto (Seattle) regained the lead in the sixth end but gave up a critical steal in the eighth that swung the momentum in favor of Team Fenson.
"The ice is great. It's just what we expected coming here," Fenson said. "We played the Nationals here a couple years ago and it was fantastic. It's a little straighter than what it was yesterday, but that's what we expect. The ice is real good and we're happy with it."
McCormick's team scored first and never trailed as they maintained control over their game against George and teammates Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Rich Ruohonen (Minneapolis, Minn.), and Colin Hufman (Seattle). Team McCormick took the early 2-0 lead and expanded the lead to 4-2 after a single steal in the fourth end. After holding Team George to a single in the sixth end, the teams exchanged deuces. The turning point came in the ninth end when McCormick helped his team gain a three-point advantage. After running Team George out of rocks in the 10th, the McCormick rink was in the win column to start the tournament.
"Heath's shot in the ninth when he made the runback for two pretty much put us in good shape playing the 10th," said Stopera , 45, who works as an insurance broker in New York City. "It's always good to start out in the win column, for sure. That's right where we need to be."
The second draw of the men's first round robin continues tonight at 7. The women's competition gets underway at 7 p.m. Monday.
Brady Clark 021 002 001 0 - 6
*Pete Fenson 100 300 110 2 - 8
*Heath McCormick 020 110 202 x - 8
Tyler George 002 001 020 x - 5
*last rock in first end
Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) 1-0
Heath McCormick (Sarnia, Ont.) 1-0
John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) 0-0
Brady Clark (Seattle, Wash.) 0-1
Tyler George (Duluth, Minn.) 0-1
The women's competition gets underway at 7 p.m. Monday. USA Curling is webstreaming the round robin action live leading up to the playoffs at www.usacurl.org. NBC Sports Network is slated to air up to 15 hours of live playoff action from Trials.
The women's berth for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games has been secured, whereas the men's berth will need to be earned in December at the final Olympic Qualification Event, Dec. 10-15, in Füssen, Germany. The winner of the men's side of the Olympic Trials will represent the U.S. at the Olympic qualifier.
A complete game schedule, news access guidelines as well as the media accreditation form can be downloaded at www.usacurl.org (click on the Olympic Trials logo).
Winning teams will be nominated to the U.S. Olympic Team pending approval by the United States Olympic Committee.
Visit the USA Curling website at www.usacurl.org and connect with USA Curling on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare.
For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling, firstname.lastname@example.org, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell)