(FARGO, N.D.) - The field of nine teams is starting to separate at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials at Scheels Arena as the push for the coveted playoff berths continues at Scheels Arena.
Two women's teams are tied for first place with Allison Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and Erika Brown (Oakville, Ontario) putting their teams in the win column this afternoon. Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and teammates Nicole Joraanstad (Verona, Wis.), Natalie Nicholson (Bemidji, Minn.), and Tabitha Peterson (Eagan, Minn.) slid past 2006 Olympian Cassie Potter, 8-4, to improve to 3-1.
"Obviously we're pleased with where we are in the standings. Our goal is to come out first after the round robin and get that advantage of hammer when it comes down to that final best-of-three situation [playoffs]. That's our goal so we just have to keep plugging away," said Pottinger, 40, who works in marketing for General Mills. "We have another tough game tonight against [Courtney] George, and of course, we want to go back and get a win there."
Erika Brown's team defeated the Courtney George rink, 10-4, to get to 3-1 as well to put them in a first-place tie with the Pottinger rink. Brown (Oakville, Ontario) and teammates Debbie McCormick (Rio, Wis.), Jessica Schultz (Minneapolis, Minn.), and Ann Swisshelm (Chicago) took a commanding 7-0 lead that kept the George rink scrambling to generate offense the rest of the game.
"In terms of the standings, the only thing we can control is what we do so if we win two more we're off into the finals in the weekend. I think that's all we really have to worry about," said Swisshelm, 45, who is playing in her final Olympic Trials competition. "Looking ahead, looking around, is a little dangerous. We're trying to stay in the moment the best we can. It is hard out there because you can feel the emotions from the other sheets. So, it is definitely hard. You can feel people who aren't playing well ... their Olympic dreams are slipping away and that's hard. We try to stay focused with the four of us and our eight rocks."
In the men's division, Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) and Tyler George (Duluth, Minn.) both picked up wins to improve their teams to 4-2, which puts them in a tie for second place behind the John Shuster rink (4-1). The top two men's and women's teams after the round robin will move on to Friday's playoffs. A best two-out-of-three competition format will be played to determine the Trials winners.
Fenson and teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Duluth, Minn.), and Ryan Brunt (Portage, Wis.) built a 6-0 lead through three ends against Heath McCormick's team and held on for a 9-6 victory. The loss drops McCormick's team to 1-4.
George and teammates Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Rich Ruohonen (Minneapolis, Minn.), and Colin Hufman (Seattle) were in a 4-4 tie with Brady Clark's Washington-based rink through seven ends but kept the Clark rink off the scoreboard en route to an 8-4 win.
The playoffs get underway at 2:30 p.m. Friday with the first game for men's and women's finalists.
The second playoff game for the men will take place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday followed by the second women's game at 7 p.m. If needed, the final men's game will be played at 11 a.m. Sunday with the women's competition potentially concluding at 2 p.m.
*Erika Brown 322 020 01x x - 10
Courtney George 000 201 01x x - 4
*Pete Fenson 312 010 200 x - 9
Heath McCormick 000 202 011 x - 6
*Brady Clark 102 000 100 0 - 4
Tyler George 010 210 002 2 - 8
Cassie Potter 001 000 21x x - 4
*Allison Pottinger 310 112 00x x - 8
*last rock in first end
Erika Brown (Oakville, Ont.) 3-1
Allison Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.) 3-1
Courtney George (St. Paul, Minn.) 2-2
Cassie Potter (St. Paul, Minn.) 0-4
John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) 4-1
Tyler George (Duluth, Minn.) 4-2
Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) 4-2
Heath McCormick (Sarnia, Ont.) 1-4
Brady Clark (Seattle, Wash.) 1-5
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, email@example.com, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell)