(FARGO, N.D.) - As quickly as the game began, it was over and Team Shuster is on their way to try to earn the United States its berth for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games after defeating Pete Fenson, 11-1, in four ends in the final game of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling.
"It was like a funeral in here. Believe me, I'd much rather win that way than an extra end," Shuster said about the stunned silence when Fenson's team conceded the match after four ends. "It was pretty sweet. It hasn't sunk in yet, but we have more work ahead of us."
Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Duluth, Minn.), and John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.) will now represent the U.S. at the Olympic Qualification Event Dec. 10-15 in Fuessen, Germany, where they'll compete with seven other countries for the final two berths for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in February.
"We won in Denver four years ago and to have the opportunity to play in the Trials final once is incredible and to win it is even better," said Isaacson, 30, who works as a science teacher. "To come back, there are so many teams that want this so bad and we made it to the finals again. To win is just incredible. I don't know how else you can say it. I'm very honored to have the chance to play and certainly with this team the guys have worked so hard. It's an incredible experience and I'm very happy."
Fenson and teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Duluth, Minn.), and Ryan Brunt (Portage, Wis.) struggled to read the ice and quickly fell into a hole that kept sinking deeper.
"First off, we weren't real sharp in the beginning of the game," said Fenson, who skipped Team USA in 2006 to its only Olympic medal in curling. "We got caught by a change in the third end out on the wing and we just missed too many draws over there. They got a couple of rocks in good spots toward the end of the end and we really didn't have anywhere to go. We got caught and mine sailed a little bit on the last one [fourth end]. That's pretty much the game."
In the first end, Fenson missed a runback in an effort to remove the Shuster stone in the top of the four-foot. Shuster answered with a takeout to put two stones in scoring position. Fenson converted the runback on his second attempt but couldn't remove both and Shuster was left with a takeout for two to get things started offensively.
With the last rock advantage in the second end, Fenson was forced to hit for one. A couple of half shots in the third end left Shuster sitting with three rocks in scoring position when Rojeski threw his second stone. Rojeski, however, was heavy with his draw and Shuster swept it out the back of the house. Fenson's team struggled to read the ice properly throughout the third end as they worked with a track of ice on the far side of the sheet. Shuster was able to find the right weight with his first stone and drew in a fourth rock. Fenson was heavy again with his second stone and Shuster made a takeout for five points.
The fourth end didn't shape up any better for Team Fenson as Shuster made a takeout and had four stones in the house compared to zero for the Bemidji skip. Even worse, the path to the four-foot was well blocked. Fenson tried to draw through a port into the four-foot but the rock was heavy and Shuster stole four points.Trailing by six points, the door was slammed on Team Fenson when the 45-year-old skip's final stone was heavy as he tried to draw into the four-foot. The result was a steal of four points and Team Fenson offered the handshakes to end the match.
"That's curling and that happens," Shuster said about the scoreboard. "When you get behind in curling or start pressing it a little bit, that is something that can absolutely happen," Shuster said about the lopsided score today. It's unfortunate for those guys and for TV that today was one of those but that seriously is the sport."
The Olympic Qualifier gets underway Dec. 10 at the BLZ Arena in Fuessen, Germany. Team USA will compete against the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Korea, Japan, and New Zealand for the final two berths to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The teams will compete in a single round robin with the top three teams moving on to the playoffs. The top two teams will meet in the first playoff game with the winner qualifying for Sochi. The losing side will play the third seeded playoff team with the winner advancing to the Olympic Games.
Curling was first a medal sport at the Olympic Winter Games in 1924 but was not again until 1998. The U.S. has won just one medal in curling at the Olympic Games - bronze in 2006. This will be the third Olympic experience for Shuster (2010, 2006), second for Isaacson, who was on the 2010 team; and first appearance for both Zezel and Landsteiner.
Pete Fenson 010 0xx xxx x - 1
*John Shuster 205 4xx xxx x - 11
*last rock in first end
John Shuster, 94%
Jeff Isaacson, 93%
Jared Zezel, 90%
John Landsteiner, 100%
Pete Fenson, 40%
Shawn Rojeski, 58%
Joe Polo, 61%
Ryan Brunt, 100%
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)