CURLING: Men's playoff field remains murky at 2008 U.S. Nationals

Feb. 20, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 20, 2008 Playoff picture remains murky at 2008 USA Curling National Championships (HIBBING, Minn.) - The playoff push at the 2008 USA Curling National Championships intensified Wednesday morning at the Hibbing Curling Club as eight teams are still alive with two games left in the round robin. In tune with Hibbing native Bob Dylan's "Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight," the eighth men's draw could be a huge determining factor in how the playoff picture plays out tonight. Craig Disher (6-1) will meet Jason Larway (4-3), Pete Fenson (3-4) plays Tyler George (5-2), John Shuster (3-4) battles Greg Romaniuk (5-2) and Todd Birr (3-4) takes on Craig Brown (5-2), so nothing is certain. Disher (Rolla, N.D.) and teammates Kevin Kakela (Rolla, N.D.), Zach Jacobson (Langdon, N.D.) and Carey Kakela (St. John, N.D.) lead the pack with six wins after handing Willie Wilberg a 7-1 loss. The back-breaker in that game came in the fourth end when Wilberg missed a takeout attempt and gave up a steal of five. Romaniuk's Washington team improved to 5-2 with a last-rock draw in the 10th end to defeat Brown's team, 9-8. After Brown missed a double takeout with his final stone, Romaniuk had an open draw for two for the win but got a little heavier than he'd like as Brown's vice skip Rich Ruohonen (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) nearly swept it out of the back of the house. Tyler George (5-2), Todd Birr (3-4) and Jason Larway (4-3) all posted wins to keep their hopes alive, as well as making the playoff picture even murkier. Larway took down Pete Fenson's Minnesota team, 7-5, as the Olympic skipper continues to struggle. Trailing 4-3, Larway capitalized with a draw for three and stole a single in the next end when Fenson came up well short on a draw for one. Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) and teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Bemidji, Minn.) and Tom O'Connor (Golden Valley, Minn.) would score one in the ninth end after Fenson made a triple takeout for one. "It definitely was back and forth today but when we got that three in the seventh end it was a big momentum changer for us," Jason Larway said. Larway and teammates Colin Hufman (Seattle), Joel Larway (Lynnwood, Wash.) and Steven Demlow (Bothell, Wash.) ran Fenson out of rocks in the 10th end to halt their three-game losing streak. "We weren't playing so well lately and we felt like we needed to change the chemistry, so we had our alternate (Demlow) play and it seemed to work," Jason Larway said. Birr (Mankato, Minn.) and teammates Bill Todhunter (Appleton, Wis.), Greg Johnson (Appleton, Wis.) and Kevin Birr (St. Peter, Minn.) improved to 3-4 with a 6-3 win over Jeremy Roe after Roe missed a takeout in the 10th end. George (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Kris Perkovich (Chisholm, Minn.), Phill Drobnick (Duluth, Minn.) and Kevin Johnson (Winabego, Minn.) scored two in the 10th end for the win against Shuster's rink in a game that was well-played as the lead changed end by end. The men return to the ice at 4 p.m. and finish out the round robin at 8 a.m. Thursday. 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: Romaniuk 9, Brown 8; Birr 6, Roe 3; Disher 7, Wilberg 1; George 8, Shuster 7; Larway 7, Fenson 5 Men's standings: Disher (North Dakota) 6-1 Romaniuk (Washington) 5-2 George (Minnesota) 5-2 Brown (Wisconsin) 5-2 Larway (Washington) 4-3 Birr (Minnesota) 3-4 Fenson (Minnesota) 3-4 Shuster (Minnesota) 3-4 Wilberg (Wisconsin) 1-6 Roe (Wisconsin) 0-7 Women's standings: McCormick (Wisconsin) 4-0 Sormunen (Minnesota) 3-1 Lank (New York) 2-1 Potter (Minnesota) 2-1 Gervais (North Dakota) 0-3 Lin (Connecticut) 0-3 Stuhlman (New York) 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).