Olympic bronze medalists lead the pack

By Terry Kolesar | Nov. 12, 2013, 12 a.m. (ET)
(FARGO, N.D.) - At the halfway mark for the men's teams, 2006 Olympic bronze medallists Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) and John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) have their teams in a tie for first place at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling.

Fenson and teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Duluth, Minn.), and Ryan Brunt (Portage, Wis.) picked up an 8-5 victory over Shuster's rink this afternoon at Scheels Arena. Both teams are now 3-1. 

"We're in a good place, but there's plenty of games left," said Fenson, who in 2006 led Team USA to its only Olympic medal in curling.

The lead was exchanged multiple times throughout the match but the critical moment came in the ninth end when Team Fenson stole a single after Shuster's final runback attempt failed, which extended the lead to three points for the Bemidji-based rink. 

"Ice is a very critical part of the game and often the first team to figure it out does better," Fenson said. 

Brady Clark's Washington-based team earned its first victory of the tournament with a last-rock double takeout to defeat Heath McCormick (Sarnia, Ontario), 6-5. 

"The skip showed up in the second half," Clark said. "The team played really well in front of me and I'm really thankful that we were able to pull that one out."

Clark (Lynnwood, Wash.) and teammates Sean Beighton (Seattle), Philip Tilker (Seattle), and Darren Lehto (Seattle) missed a takeout with Clark's first throw of the 10th end but McCormick's final stone landed in a position to set up the double takeout for Clark. 

"The draw looked really tough with the way it got flat in the middle, it looked like it was moving sideways. I could have played a heavy draw and chopped off of theirs and spun down into the four-foot. So do you play that or do you or do you play a really thin slash and play for the win? The slash is probably close to as high of a percentage and if Heater has the hammer in the extra end, he's got that button anytime. So I felt like we had to take a chance and go for it," Clark said about the final shot for the win.

In the women's competition, 2010 Olympian Allison Pottinger helped her team steal a win over Erika Brown's team. With her final stone of the game, Pottinger played a tapback to move her stone in the top of the rings into scoring position. Brown, who played on the 1998 Olympic team, tried to convert an angle tap on the opposite side with the hammer but it came up a few inches short.

Courtney George's team bounced back from last night's loss to defeat 2006 Olympian Cassie Potter, 10-6. George (St. Paul, Minn.) and teammates Aileen Sormunen (Duluth, Minn.), Amanda McLean (St. Paul, Minn.), and Monica Walker (Brighton, Mass.) held the lead for most of the game, controlling the game's momentum. A four-ender in the sixth catapulted them to the eventual four-point margin of victory.

The teams return to the ice at 7 tonight as the second round robin gets underway for the men. Matchups include Fenson (3-1) taking on Tyler George (2-2) and John Shuster (3-1) playing Brady Clark (1-3) with McCormick's team having the bye. The remaining men's draw schedule is posted at www.usacurl.org. The women's teams will play their third and final game of the first round robin. Matchups for the second round robin for the ladies will be determined after tonight's results.

Game scores:
*Heath McCormick 011 110 010 0 - 5
Brady Clark 100 000 300 2 - 6 

*John Shuster 200 100 200 x - 5
Pete Fenson 001 030 031 x - 8

Allison Pottinger 012 000 102 1 - 7
*Erika Brown 300 101 010 0 - 6 

Courtney George 020 104 003 x - 10
*Cassie Potter 101 020 110 x - 6 
*last rock in first end

Allison Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.) 2-0
Erika Brown (Oakville, Ont.) 1-1
Courtney George (St. Paul, Minn.) 1-1
Cassie Potter (St. Paul, Minn.) 0-2

Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) 3-1
John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) 3-1
Tyler George (Duluth, Minn.) 2-2
Brady Clark (Seattle, Wash.) 1-3
Heath McCormick (Sarnia, Ont.) 1-3

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, terry.kolesar@usacurl.org, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell)