Playoff teams set as men conclude round robin

By Rick Patzke | March 06, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)
March 6, 2014

Men’s playoff teams set for 2014 USA Curling Nationals

(PHILADELPHIA) – With several teams jockeying for playoff positions or trying to stave off elimination, the final men’s round robin games in the 2014 USA Curling Nationals presented by Labatt were full of drama this morning at IceWorks Arena.

By the time the last stones came to rest, however, the multiple tiebreak scenarios had vanished and four teams stood ready for the playoffs. Playing in the Page 1 vs. 2 game will be the Craig Brown and Heath McCormick teams, and meeting in the Page 3 vs. 4 game will be the Pete Fenson and Brady Clark teams.

In the Page playoff format, the winner of the 1 vs. 2 game advances directly to Saturday’s final, while the loser will play the winner of the 3 vs. 4 game in a semifinal to determine the last finalist.

The McCormick and Clark teams had a championship-worthy battle today. After trading several big shots in the fifth, Clark (Lynnwood, Wash.), and fellow players Sean Beighton (Seattle), Greg Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska) and Philip Tilker (Seattle) had to make a precise draw to the four-foot against two opposing counters to score one and pull within 4-3.

McCormick (Sarnia, Ontario) and his team of Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Rich Ruohonen (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Colin Hufman (Seattle) blanked the next three ends before earning an open draw for two in the ninth to take a 6-3 lead into the 10th end. McCormick’s side was able to keep out of major trouble in the final end and ran Clark’s crew out of rocks to make the final score 6-3.

2014 Olympians John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Hibbing, Minn.) and John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.) were also trying to stave off elimination in their game against Brown’s team. With effective sweeping by Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) and Jon Brunt (Portage, Wis.), and the line call by Kroy Nernberger (Madison, Wis.), Brown made a raise takeout with the hammer in the sixth to score two for a 4-3 lead. Shuster was held to one in the seventh, and then Brown (Madison, Wis.) took control of the game with two points in the eighth and a steal of one in the ninth to lead 7-4 heading home.

“The rollout in the ninth means we had no chance in the 10th,” said Shuster. “We played pretty good but they were better. We were not as precise as we needed to be. We made Craig throw tough shots but he played fantastic.”

Brown’s team finished off the game 7-5, leaving Shuster’s fate in the hands of the Stolt-Fenson game still underway.

Fenson’s team of Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Duluth, Minn.) and Ryan Brunt (Portage, Wis.). was also in a tight context against the Peter Stolt (Plymouth, Minn.) rink, with Brad Caldwell (Andover, Minn.), Erik Ordway (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Clayton Orvik (Minneapolis, Minn.). Stolt’s side took a 2-0 lead after three, but Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) knotted the game with a deuce in the fourth and took the lead with a steal of one in the fifth. 

The teams traded deuces over the next two ends, and then Fenson stole one in the ninth for a 6-4 lead when Stolt missed a double takeout. Stolt kept the game interesting through the end, burying his first shot behind a long center guard. But the distance was enough that Fenson was able to curl around and pick it out to end the threat of an extra end, winning 6-4.

“A few days ago we needed to put ourselves on a winning streak,” said Fenson. “We needed to be better, to be more precise. In this game, everyone was playing a bit better. We made the right shots, got a break or two, and got ourselves into a position to win.”

Heading into the playoffs, Fenson said: “We know how to prepare, rest, relax, talk about curling, and get ourselves ready to play. We are trying to find another gear.”

Elsewhere, with slim tiebreaker hopes still in sight, the Tyler George (Duluth, Minn.) team played things close to the vest against Alex Leichter’s squad, leading 3-2 at the midway point. The George team—with Bill Stopera (Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.), Dean Gemmell (Short Hills, N.J.) and Martin Sather (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.)—scored a key three in the eighth for a 6-3 lead.

Alex Leichter (Wayland, Mass.) and his squad of Brandon Corbett (Rochester, N.Y.), Derek Corbett (Rochester, N.Y.) and Jeff Pulli (Rochester, N.Y.) fought back to within 6-5, and managed to junk up the 10th enough to leave George looking at three counters with the hammer. He attempted a double takeout to force an extra end, but wasn’t able to convert and Leichter’s team won 7-6.

Paul Pustovar (Hibbing, Minn.) and teammates Joey Bonfoey (Duluth, Minn.) Paul Lyttle (Bothell, Wash.), Harold Rutan (Olympia, Wash.) and alternate Ted Trolson (Superior, Wis.) jumped out to a 6-0 lead over the Eric Fenson team in their tournament finale. A pickup of three and steal of one closed the score to 6-4 for Fenson and teammates Josh Bahr, Jon Chandler, Mark Haluptzok, and fifth Riley Fenson (all of Bemidji, Minn.), but Pustovar’s team cruised to a 9-4 victory.

There is a women’s tiebreaker game at noon today between the Courtney George and Alex Carlson teams. The women’s playoffs start at 8 o’clock tonight.  The men’s first playoff rounds are at noon Friday. The women’s semifinal is set for 4 p.m. Friday followed by the men’s semifinal game at 8 p.m. Both gold-medal games will be contested on Saturday with the ladies taking the ice at 10 a.m., followed by the men at 3 p.m.

The live webstream is available throughout the championship courtesy of USA Curling’s partnership with the 12th End Sports Network. All the action from Sheet C/3 is being streamed live. A complete game schedule is available at In addition, live scores, stats and standings from USA Curling partner CurlingZone. 

Game scores, 8 a.m. (men): Pustovar 9, E. Fenson 4; McCormick 6, Clark 3; Leichter 7, George 6; P. Fenson 6, Stolt 4; Brown 7, Shuster 5.

Men’s Standings:
Craig Brown (Madison, Wis.) 7-2*
Heath McCormick (Sarnia, Ontario) 7-2*
Brady Clark (Lynnwood, Wash.) 6-3*
Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) 6-3*
John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) 5-4
Tyler George (Duluth, Minn.) 4-5
Alex Leichter (Wayland, Mass.) 3-6
Peter Stolt (Plymouth, Minn.) 3-6
Eric Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) 2-8
Paul Pustovar (Hibbing, Minn.) 2-8

*Qualified for playoffs.
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