Brown advances to gold medal game at Nationals

By Rick Patzke | March 07, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)
March 7, 2014

Brown advances to finals at USA Curling Nationals; Fenson, McCormick in semifinal

(PHILADELPHIA) – Craig Brown’s team made the two shots that counted most in the 10th end at IceWorks Arena this afternoon to overcome Heath McCormick’s foursome and advance to the gold medal game at the 2014 USA Curling National Championships presented by Labatt.

Under the Page playoff format in use, the McCormick team has another chance to reach Saturday’s final, meeting Pete Fenson’s rink in the semifinal at 8 o’clock tonight. Fenson’s team knocked off the defending champion Brady Clark rink in the Page 3 vs. 4 game this afternoon to stay in the medals.

The 10th was going the McCormick team’s way until the last few rocks, when Brown made a perfect freeze to an opposing stone on the button. McCormick tried to take away the hit for two by putting his last stone on the center line just biting the house, but instead it slipped into the rings. The lineup gave Brown an opportunity to play a runback for two, which he made perfectly to win the game, 7-6.

“It was a well-played game,” said McCormick, who skipped his team to the gold medals at the 2012 running of the Nationals in this same arena. “I was just two feet too deep on my last shot.”

“In the 10th end, nothing went well in the beginning of the end but that is the reason you want the hammer,” said Brown. “You only need a half of a mistake, and we got it on Heath’s last rock.”

The Fenson vs. Clark game also turned on a stone that kept going beyond its intended target. With the score 5-4 in the ninth, Clark’s team had first count and was in perfect position to either steal or force Fenson to take one. The call was for Clark’s last stone to settle into the top four-foot, guarding shot rock and likely causing Fenson to try to draw the button from the other side. The shot slid into the back rings and third count, however, leaving Clark’s other stone naked in the four-foot and easy pickings for Fenson, who popped it out cleanly to score two for a commanding 7-4 lead playing the last frame.

“We had opportunities but were not able to finish them off today,” said Clark (Lynnwood, Wash.).  “Lots of ends were set up, but we had one key miss and Pete’s team would capitalize.”

Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) and teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Duluth, Minn.) and Ryan Brunt (Portage, Wis.) capitalized on a mistake in the first end to score two, and forced Clark to draw for one against four counters in the third.  After Fenson hit for one in the fourth, Clark and fellow players Sean Beighton (Seattle), Greg Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska) and Philip Tilker (Seattle) had a chance to tie in the fifth. 

Clark used a couple of opposing rocks in the top half of the house as corner guards to draw behind with his first rock, but he slid into second count, giving Fenson an opportunity to set up either a force or potential steal. Fenson inadvertently set up a double for two when his last rock stopped short of the intended target. Clark went for the double but hit it too thinly and rolled out, giving up a steal of one to fall behind 4-1, amounting to a three-point swing.

Clark’s side worked hard for a deuce in the sixth, however, and left their skip with a wide-open draw to the 12-foot with the hammer, which he made with ease to make it a one-point game again, 4-3. Singles were traded over the next two ends, setting the up the fateful ninth.

In the 10th end, Polo made a double peel with his second shot to evaporate the guards. After Beighton missed a freeze with his first stone, Fenson picked the lonely opposing stone out to leave Clark’s team with only two rocks left and three points behind, ending the game at 7-4.

“It felt good to play better today,” said Fenson. “I finally recognized myself out there. I finally showed up, and gave the guys some help.”

“It was a good week,” concluded Clark. “We will take a few weeks off to rest and talk about if we want to put together another run.”

The McCormick vs. Brown game was also very tactical, with McCormick drawing for a deuce in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead, but Brown getting those two back in the fifth to lead 4-3 at the midway point. In the sixth, McCormick (Sarnia, Ontario) and his team of Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Rich Ruohonen (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Colin Hufman (Seattle) made a soft tap for one against three opposing counters, and then his team stole one in the seventh to lead 5-4. 

Brown (Madison, Wis.) and teammates Kroy Nernberger (Madison, Wis.), Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) and Jon Brunt (Portage, Wis.) were forced to take one in the eighth, and looked to be in big trouble early in the ninth, with McCormick’s side sitting three. But by the last rock, Brown’s team was counting two and forced McCormick to draw for one and a 6-5 lead. 

Up next at IceWorks is the women’s semifinal between the Nina Spatola and Cassie Potter rinks, at 4 p.m. today, followed by the men’s semifinal at 8 p.m. Both gold-medal games will be contested on Saturday, with the women 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. 

The official Twitter hashtags for the event will be #2014Nats or #curling. USA Curling will post updates and photos to its Facebook page as well at 

Media credentials can be picked up at the main entrance at IceWorks. If you have not requested a credential yet, go to 

USA Curling is sponsored by AtomAmpd, Nike, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, Sitrin, and The RAM Restaurant & Brewery and is partnered with Hilton, United Airlines, Ludus Tours, CurlingZone, and RJM Licensing, Inc. 

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For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling,, 715?344?1199, Ext. 202, or 608?338?9900 (cell).