Hot shooting from Shuster keeps American men in Olympic playoff conversation

By Terry L. Davis | Feb. 20, 2018, 9:32 a.m. (ET)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Feb. 20, 2018

American men still in Olympic playoff conversation

(GANGNEUNG, South Korea) – John Shuster shot 97 percent tonight in improving Team USA’s odds of reaching the semifinals with a key win over Switzerland in round robin play at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

With one more round robin game to play at the Gangneung Curling Centre, Shuster (Superior, Wis.) and teammates Tyler George (Duluth, Minn.), Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.), and John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.) control their own destiny. A win tomorrow against Great Britain (5-3) will put them into a tiebreaker game for a chance to reach the playoffs for the first time since they won bronze in 2006 in Torino.

“We all went out there and battled. I’ve got a great team,” said Shuster, who is competing in his fourth Olympic Winter Games.

Sweden (7-1) leads the men’s division and has already locked in a semifinal berth. Canada and Great Britain are tied for second place with 5-3 records. The Swiss team finished its round robin at 5-4 and will wait to see the results of tomorrow’s final round robin session at 2:05 p.m. KT.

“They are playing pretty good. I think John’s found his game. If he can keep that up, I like our chances,” said Joe Polo, alternate, who was on the bronze-medal winning team with Shuster in 2006. “We need one more game to go our way and we’re in at least a tiebreaker.”

The U.S. is tied for fifth place with Japan, which also is hoping to get into a tiebreaker game. The Japanese men defeated Denmark on the last stone tonight to even the team record to 4-4. Japan will finish the round robin against host Korea (3-5).

“We knew where we were coming into the Canada game – we had to win out. We had a hot skip tonight – so we’ve got to keep him hot, get a good sleep and be ready for tomorrow,” said Coach Phill Drobnick.

The U.S. team kept pressure on Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz rink to limit their opponents’ offense and control the scoreboard in the 8-4 victory.

“I think it turned in the second end. In the third we were chasing a little bit to get out of trouble. Obviously, any time you put three points up it’s a big momentum swing. I think it was building from the second end,” George said. “They cracked a little bit before we even got to the fifth.”

After the opening end was blank, back-to-back fantastic shots from Shuster and Swiss last-rock thrower Benoit Schwarz still gave the Swiss a chance at three points. The final Swiss takeout attempt wasn’t successful, however, and the Americans escaped with only giving up a point. In the following end, the American men were then forced to draw the four-foot to even the scoreboard.

Two fantastic draws with George’s vice skip stones in the fourth end, coupled with a missed takeout attempt by the Swiss, gave the U.S. men a chance to really turn the pressure up. Switzerland was eventually forced into playing a raise to promote a stone to score one.

A nice hit and roll with George’s second stone left two American rocks nicely positioned in the four-foot in the fifth end. Switzerland was never able to get rid of them and the U.S. drew in for three points – and control of the game. The U.S. continued to apply pressure and in the sixth end, Schwarz was forced into a takeout for another single.

A really nice hit-and-roll from George helped set up a deuce for the U.S. in the seventh. Shuster played a precise runback to keep the deuce alive with his first skip stone after Schwarz had drawn his stone behind the corner guard. Schwarz was short of the rings with his last draw attempt, giving the U.S. an opportunity to score three more. A fantastic double takeout from Shuster in the eighth end thwarted the Swiss opportunity to score more than a single. When the U.S. made a takeout in the ninth end to add one more point to their total, the Swiss conceded.

“We started off pretty well with the hammer in the first end so that was big. We didn’t capitalize on the opportunities that we had,” said de Cruz, who defeated Shuster’s team in the bronze-medal game at last year’s World Men’s Championship in Edmonton. “I think that from the third end on they played a lot better than us and made a lot more shots than us.”

If needed, tiebreaker games will be played on Thursday morning, and potentially into the afternoon if a second round is needed to determine the four playoff teams.

“I think we positioned rocks well. One through three – we weren’t quite as sharp as we were against Canada last night – but when your skip walks on water it doesn’t matter a whole lot,” George said. “That’s fun to watch out there. John works so hard to get himself here and his team here and he’s earned the right to enjoy this – like he did today. When he’s going out there making everything and walking around like he owns the sheet. That’s fun to watch. If you get a skip that plays like that the rest of us could go out and play left-handed if we want and he’s probably still going to win the game!”

For a complete photo gallery from each game, go to https://www.facebook.com/teamusacurl.

Line score:

*Switzerland     010 101 010 x – 4

USA                     001 030 301 x – 8

*last rock in first end

Other game scores: Italy 6, Norway 4; Japan 6, Denmark 4

Men’s standings:

Sweden              7-1Q

Canada               5-3

Great Britain      5-3

Switzerland        5-4

Japan                  4-4

USA                     4-4

Korea                  3-5

Norway               3-5

Italy                     3-6

Denmark            2-6

Q=Qualified for semifinals

Women’s standings:

Korea                  6-1Q

Sweden              5-2

Great Britain      5-3

Japan                  5-3

China                  4-4

USA                     4-4

Canada               3-4

OAR                     2-5

Switzerland        2-5

Denmark            1-6

Q=qualified for semifinals

USA men’s round robin results:

USA 11, Korea 7

Italy 10, USA 9

Sweden 10, USA 4

USA 9, Denmark 5

Japan 8, USA 2

Norway 8, USA 5

USA 9, Canada 7

USA 8, Switzerland 4

USA women’s round robin results:

Japan 10, USA 5

USA 7, Great Britain 4

Switzerland 6, USA 5

USA 7, OAR 6 (extra end)

Canada 11, USA 3

USA 7, Denmark 6

USA 10, China 4

Korea 9, USA 6

Round robin schedule:

Wednesday:

USA men vs. Great Britain (Kyle Smith), 2:05 p.m.

USA women vs. Sweden (Anna Hasselborg), 8:05 p.m.

Playoff schedule:

Thursday:

Tiebreaker games, if needed, 9:05 a.m.

Men’s semifinals, 8:05 p.m.

Friday:

Men’s bronze-medal game, 3:35 p.m.

Women’s semifinals, 8:05 p.m.

Saturday:

Men’s gold-medal game, 3:35 p.m.

Women’s bronze-medal game, 8:05 p.m.

Sunday:

Women’s gold-medal game, 9:05 a.m.

All games are streaming live at www.nbcolympics.com and on the NBC Sports app with TV coverage live or on tape delay on NBCSN, USA Network and CNBC. A complete schedule is posted at http://www.nbcolympics.com/live-stream-schedule#/.

For more information on the U.S. teams, go to https://www.teamusa.org/usa-curling/2018-us-olympic-curling-team.

To follow along, go to https://www.pyeongchang2018.com/en/game-time/results/OWG2018/en/curling/daily-schedule.htm

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For more information: Terry Davis, Director of Communications, terry.davis@usacurl.org, 608-338-9900 (mobile) or 0-104-364-8015 (Korean mobile).