FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2018
USA’s playoff run comes to an end at 361° World Men’s Championship
(LAS VEGAS) – Team USA went all in today in hopes of pushing the win streak they were riding deeper into the playoffs but fell to Canada, 6-4, at the 361° World Men’s Curling Championship.
“All in all, it was a solid week. We missed a few games by an inch here, an inch there. I wish we could have finished that one off,” said Greg Persinger. “If we clean my rock in the eighth we’re going to bury it around and steal instead of giving up two and it’s a way different game.”
Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska) and teammates Rich Ruohonen (Brooklyn Park, Minn.), Colin Hufman (St. Paul, Minn.), Phil Tilker (Seattle), Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), and Coaches Phill Drobnick (Eveleth, Minn.) and Scott Baird (Bemidji, Minn.) battled with grit and heart to reach today’s playoffs at the Orleans Arena but the journey concluded with a last-stone draw for the win by Canada’s Brad Gushue.
“We played every team that’s in the playoffs to the end. I mean you got your money’s worth with us. I think every game but against Edin, we went to the last rock,” Ruohonen said. “We proved we can play but, unfortunately, if we’d won a few earlier in the week we could have been in a position to have the hammer. It’s hard to turn the hammer around on a team like Gushue. We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of and everyone knows we can play with the best in the world.”
The U.S. team had opportunities in several ends, including a key shot in the eighth that allowed Canada to score two and take the game’s momentum.
“It was a game of two halves. We came out a hair flat maybe in the first five and gave up that steal of one in the second. We went into the fifth end break and Phill (Drobnick) came out and said ‘You guys need to bring everything in the second half,’” Hufman said. “We came out and threw double centers in the sixth and forced one immediately, scored two in seven and they did not look comfortable. If we get that steal in the eighth, we win that game 100 percent of the time, in my opinion.”
The final ranking for the American men is sixth. Canada advances to take on Scotland in tonight’s semifinal at 6:30 p.m. PDT. Korea defeated Norway, 7-5, in the other qualification playoff and will now battle Sweden in this afternoon’s semifinal. That game will take place at 1:30 p.m. Both semifinal matches will be televised live on the Olympic Channel.
“It was a rollercoaster. We got off to a good first game and ran into a few speed bumps along the way,” Tilker said about the week. “We played some great games, got way down and almost out of it. Then came back, thrilled to be here and now another heartbreaker.”
After a rocky 1-6 start to the round robin, the U.S. men won its final five games to earn the No. 6 playoff seed. The team, which had only played just over 20 games together as a unit before coming into the World Championship, shot 84 percent in the two-point loss to the defending world champions.
“That was awesome. Even when the Canadian fans cheered when we missed, it was an awesome feeling. It’s great for the sport,” Tilker said. “I have played in two World Championships, one in Victoria and one in Vegas, I can’t think of a better place to go where your friends and family can come watch.”
The U.S. had a productive start to today’s playoff match as they forced Canada to make a hit for one against three U.S. counters in the opening end. A roll out on Persinger’s first shot of the second end allowed Canada to draw behind the center guard and put pressure on the U.S. The final draws by both skips were heavier than intended but Canada grabbed the point when Persinger’s stone slipped past Gushue’s in the back of the eight-foot.
A missed runback from Canada early in the third end allowed the U.S. to get a deuce set up. But the opportunity was short-lived as Canada made a double takeout and Ruohonen’s stone rolled out on the takeout to allow Canada to go after the other U.S. stone as the end was blanked. The Americans were then forced to make a hit against three in the fourth end to secure a point. After the fifth end was blanked, the U.S. played a nice sixth and forced Canada once again into a single as the Americans had three stones in the rings.
The U.S. was in trouble for parts of the seventh end but made a fantastic double takeout to score two and tie the game. The U.S. gambled in the eighth end and it didn’t pay off, unfortunately. They forced Gushue to draw the side of the house that was frostier but then couldn’t out-draw him with Persinger’s freeze attempt, which gave Canada a tap to score two.
“We had all the momentum and that was the turning point,” Ruohonen said about the eighth end.
A mistake-riddled ninth end thwarted all U.S. opportunities to score a deuce as the Americans were forced to draw for a point while staring down three Canadian stones. Canada would secure its spot in tonight’s semifinals with a draw for the single point in the 10th.
“We were just a shot away that game. Greg had that freeze in eight and got off it a little bit. With the different ice conditions, I think we needed to clean it and it caught and grabbed. Greg threw it too well not to make that shot. We get in there and steal, we’re up one and that’s a big difference,” Tilker said.
During tonight’s semifinal game, one of the most notable influencers in U.S. and world curling history will be inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame as Elmer Freytag (Lake Forest, Ill.) is honored posthumously with the highest international curling honor. Freytag, was one of the founding members of the International Curling Federation and drafted its original Constitution. He also founded the Chicago Curling Club and was on the advisory board for the Scotch Cup and Air Canada Silver Broom - now the World Men's Curling Championship.
Freytag served as a representative to the International Curling Federation for the U.S. Men's Curling Association, which is now the United States Curling Association, from 1966 up until his death in 1976. The Elmer Freytag Award was introduced after his death in 1978 and is now known as the World Curling Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place at 6:30 p.m. prior to the start of the second semifinal game.
Line scores, qualification playoffs:
*Canada 110 001 020 1 – 6
USA 000 100 201 0 – 4
*Korea 201 001 020 1 – 7
Norway 010 200 101 0 – 5
*last stone in first end (hammer)
1:30 p.m., Semifinal #1 – Sweden vs. Korea – Live on the Olympic Channel
5 p.m., Autograph session with 2018 Olympic Gold Medalists (John Shuster, Tyler George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner, Joe Polo, Coach Phill Drobnick)
6:25 p.m., World Curling Hall of Fame induction, USA’s Elmer Freytag
6:30 p.m., Semifinal #2, Scotland vs. Canada – Live on the Olympic Channel
12 p.m., Bronze-medal game – Live on the Olympic Channel
5 p.m., Gold-medal game – Live on NBCSN
USA Curling is sponsored by AtomOS, Nike, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, Cheetos, CryoMAX 8-Hour Cold Pack, Sitrin, The RAM Restaurant & Brewery, Thorne, BalancePlus, ISS Ice, Sports & Solar, IHG, and Brakebush, and is partnered with Laurie Artiss Ltd. – The Pin People, United Airlines, 12th End Sports Network, IHG, and CurlingZone.
For more information: Terry Davis, Director of Communications, email@example.com, 608-338-9900 (mobile).