After losing to Team Heath McCormick in the first game of the best-of-three playoff series at the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling, skip John Shuster wasn’t in a very good place. But if he wanted to turn his team’s fortunes and keep their Olympic dream alive, he had to be. So how does a three-time Olympian bounce back for a must-win game?
A team trip to the zoo, Netflix and a pot roast.
“I went and watched an hour of Netflix with my wife just to have more of a regular day,” Shuster said. “We didn’t watch too much curling. We just checked to see what the ice was doing during the ladies’ game.”
That combination of activities seemed to work its magic, as Shuster reeled off a gem of a game, defeating McCormick 9-4 and forcing a deciding third game.
Team McCormick struck first, scoring only one in the first end, but Shuster capitalized on some mistakes in the second end to take a huge 3-1 lead.
“I think we knew it was important,” Shuster said of starting strong out of the gate. “I thought a lot about last night, making sure we came out here and got a force with everything we had. In the first end we got that force and the first opportunity we got today we needed to make sure we capitalized on it.”
Download the Team USA app today for breaking news, Olympic and Paralympic team bios, videos and more.
McCormick chipped away in the third to inch closer, 3-2, but Shuster earned that point back in the fourth to regain the two-point lead. McCormick blanked the fifth end to retain the hammer and scored one in the sixth to once again reduce the lead to one.
The teams traded points in the seventh and eighth ends, but in the ninth, Shuster blew it open. McCormick’s final shot missed badly after hitting some sort of defect in the ice and Shuster took advantage, scoring four points. McCormick conceded the 10th end, and Shuster walked away with the 9-4 win.
“It’s a bit brutal,” McCormick said. “That’s a game shot. I’m not saying it was going to be made perfectly – it was halfway down when it hit so we don’t know what the outcome would’ve been. I’m sure those guys feel bad about it too. They don’t like to win like that. I’m sure they’re alright with it, but it was just one of those things.”
Shuster echoed that statement, saying that the problem could’ve been as simple as somebody’s footprint on the ice.
“That’s the worst part about our sport,” he said. “We hate seeing that as players. It’s a real bummer of a way to win a curling game. But we’ve all been on both sides of that. It’s just that common in our game.”
The final score was a far cry from that of the night before, a much tighter 5-3 win for McCormick. Shuster said his team thrives when they’re putting up lopsided numbers, and game two was a return to their normal form.
“Yesterday they held us to one in every single end, so to come out here and get a three – two would’ve been great, three was a bonus,” Shuster said. “It was actually our first three of the week, which is funny because we’re usually a high-scoring team. Good time for it.”
The win gives Team Shuster new life and puts the teams back on an even playing field. The final game of the series will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18 and can be seen live at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Team Shuster will try to ride the momentum of a big win into a win-or-go-home situation, but they also might have a secret weapon up their sleeves.
Second Matt Hamilton cooked a pot roast for his teammates before game two, and Shuster thinks he might be on to something.
“Both times this week that we had meals in the late afternoon or early evening, we’ve come out and played awesome,” Shuster said. “So we’re going to have to figure out what’s on the menu for tomorrow afternoon.”
If it’s the right choice for dinner, they could be enjoying an Olympic berth for dessert.