CURLING: Push for playoff berths begins at 2008 U.S. Nationals

Feb. 19, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 19, 2008 Disher, Brown lead the pack at 2008 USA Curling National Championships (HIBBING, Minn.) - Two teams have separated from the pack after Tuesday afternoon's men's action at the 2008 USA Curling National Championships at the Hibbing Curling Club. They have the same first name and both scored eight points today but the similarities probably end there. Craig Brown's team from Wisconsin handed Jason Larway's team its third straight loss, 8-4, while Craig Disher's North Dakota rink defeated Greg Romaniuk's Washington team, 8-3. Brown (Madison, Wis.) and teammates Rich Ruohonen (Brooklyn Park, Minn.), John Dunlop (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Pete Annis (Owatonna, Minn.) broke open a tight game with four points in the fifth end but Larway (Lynnwood, Wash.) marched his troops back into battle with a single in the sixth end after making a tight hit and roll and a steal of one in the seventh. The final two ends of action featured almost every stone in play with Brown scoring two in the eighth when he converted a tough double takeout and a steal of one in the ninth to end the game for Larway and teammates Colin Hufman (Seattle), Greg Persinger (Anchorage, Alaska) and Joel Larway (Lynnwood, Wash.). Disher (Rolla, N.D.) made a hit for one in the second end to get on the scoreboard and capitalized on mistakes by Romaniuk's team later in the match. In the eighth end, Romaniuk missed a runback that resulted in a steal of two and the win for Disher and teammates Kevin Kakela (Rolla, N.D.), Zach Jacobson (Langdon, N.D.) and Kurt Disher (Hansboro, N.D.). "There's plenty of room for improvement," Disher said after the win. "Our sweepers held a lot of shots out there." With three games left in the round robin, Disher's team is closing in on a playoff berth. "Our goal is to just make the playoffs...and we're not there yet. We have plenty of good teams left to play," Disher said. Tyler George's Minnesota team improved to 4-2 with their third straight win after sliding past Jeremy Roe's winless team from Wisconsin, 8-3. "We're playing well," George said. "We're on a good roll." Todd Birr's defending champions improved to 2-4 with a short game against Pete Fenson's team from Minnesota. Birr (Mankato, Minn.) and teammates Bill Todhunter (Appleton, Wis.), Greg Johnson (Appleton, Wis.) and Kevin Birr (St. Peter, Minn.) stole the first four ends prompting Fenson to offer the handshake with a final 9-0 score. After giving up four points over the first two ends, Fenson's final stone in the third end wrecked on a guard and spun another Birr stone into scoring position resulting in a steal of three. Fenson would give up two more in the fourth end before shaking their heads in disgust. The win was big for Birr's team as they're trying to creep back into the playoff picture. John Shuster's team also won its third straight with a lopsided 8-1 win over Willie Wilberg in five ends. Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jason Smith (Cape Coral, Fla.), Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.) and Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.) scored an opening-end deuce and proceeded to steal four points over the next two ends. Wilberg's team could only muster a single in the fourth end before Shuster, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist, struck for two more. The men's teams return to action with games at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday. The women hit the ice at 7 tonight. The winning teams at the 2008 Nationals will represent the U.S. at the 2008 World Championships. The women's event is scheduled March 22-30 in Vernon, British Columbia. The 2008 Men's World Championship is slated April 4-13 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. Live scoring from the 2008 Nationals can be found on the USA Curling website at Game scores: George 8, Roe 3; Disher 8, Romaniuk 3; Birr 9, Fenson 0; Brown 8, Larway 4; Brown 8, Larway 4; Shuster 8, Wilberg 1 Men's standings: Brown (Wisconsin) 5-1 Disher (North Dakota) 5-1 Romaniuk (Washington) 4-2 George (Minnesota) 4-2 Fenson (Minnesota) 3-3 Shuster (Minnesota) 3-3 Larway (Washington) 3-3 Birr (Minnesota) 2-4 Wilberg (Wisconsin) 1-5 Roe (Wisconsin) 0-6 Women's standings: McCormick (Wisconsin) 3-0 Sormunen (Minnesota) 3-0 Lank (New York) 2-0 Potter (Minnesota) 1-1 Stuhlman (New York) 0-2 Gervais (North Dakota) 0-3 Lin (Connecticut) 0-3 USA Curling is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics, AmerAust Technologies and Nike as well as by AT,T through a joint marketing program with the U.S. Olympic Committee. (30) For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling,, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell).