USA Curling Features Playoff hunt intensi...

Playoff hunt intensifies at 2019 National Championships

By Terry L. Davis | Feb. 13, 2019, 12:50 p.m. (ET)


Feb. 13, 2019


Playoff hunt intensifies at 2019 National Championships


(KALAMAZOO, Mich.) – The intensity of the playoff hunt was on full display this morning at the 2019 USA Curling National Championships at Wings Event Center.


John Shuster’s team fell from the unbeaten ranks as Mark Fenner’s squad continues to dig themselves out from a three-game losing skid mid round robin. Fenner (St. Anthony, Minn.) and teammates Tom Howell (Milwaukee, Wis.), Korey Dropkin (Duluth, Minn.) and Alex Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) defeated Shuster, 9-4, this morning to improve to 4-3 with two games left in the round robin.


I think it means more because it gets us back on track,” Howell said about the win. “Obviously we have to win out, we’re on track to get into the playoffs, and if we don’t we’re probably in a tiebreaker. So it means a lot for us to get the ball rolling.”


The top four men’s teams will advance to Friday’s Page playoffs. “We didn’t play well at the start of the week, but we knew we were never out of it,” Howell said. “So as long as we take it one game at a time we can come back. We just want to prove people wrong.”


Todd Birr and Rich Ruohonen are now tied for first place with Shuster’s team at 6-1. Birr and his team of Greg Johnson (Appleton, Wis.), Hunter Clawson (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Tom O’Connor (Robbinsdale, Minn.) won their sixth straight game when they defeated Jed Brundidge’s squad, 11-7. 


Even though we’re in a playoff position, we want to be in the (Page) 1-2 game,” said Johnson, who won the world bronze medal with Birr in 2007. “So we have to at least win one of the next two, and if we win out we’re definitely in the 1-2 game.”


Rich Ruohonen’s defending champions went to an extra end and benefitted when Scott Dunnam’s final draw for the win was heavy.


Steven Birklid’s team kept its playoff hopes alive with a 9-4 triumph over Brandon Corbett’s rink. Birklid and his Seattle team of Sam Galey, Matt Birklid and Nick Connolly scored in the first four ends to build a commanding lead.


We wanted to play a little more aggressive,” said Galey, who won the junior national title in 2010. “They scratched the rocks last night so we knew they’d curl more, be a little slower. We didn’t want to go crazy just put some pressure on the other team. Everybody is kind of unfamiliar with the rocks, so we just wanted to put some pressure on them and force them to make some tough shots.”


Chase Sinnett’s team also stayed in the hunt as they rallied to defeat Sam Strouse, 7-6.


In women’s competition last night, Jamie Sinclair and her team of Sarah Anderson (Minneapolis, Minn.), Taylor Anderson (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Monica Walker (St. Paul, Minn.) earned an 11-3 win over Ann Podoll’s team to improve to 5-0 with two games left in the round robin. Nina Roth’s rink is a game back after defeating Cory Christensen, 10-3, last night. Roth (McFarland, Wis.) and her team of Tabitha Peterson (St. Paul, Minn.), Becca Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) and Tara Peterson (Eagan, Minn.) took the lead in the third end and countered with a game-changing steal of three in the fourth end when Christensen’s final draw was light.


“We did come out strong this game. We had better rock placement than some previous games. We’re honing in on draw weight, and we actually got a little bit lucky with a few misses from them where we capitalized,” Tabitha Peterson said. “The goal is to always put your rocks in good position and to capitalize.” Team Roth is now sitting in second place with a 4-1 record.


“It was tough not playing this team all year. Individually we know all the players. But we didn’t really know what their game plan was going to be like,” Peterson said.


Stephanie Senneker’s squad stole the winning points to defeat Annmarie Dubberstein’s rink, 8-6, and move into a tie with Team Christensen for third place with 3-2 records. “We knew going into today that we were going to have to win both games but winning one was definitely required,” said Rebecca Andrew, vice skip for Team Senneker.


“We just wanted to play our own game. We’re a pretty aggressive team in general and we knew if we did play aggressive, they’re [Dubberstein] a younger team so maybe we could catch them a little on a couple shots. They’re a young team. They’re a solid team and they played really well tonight. Especially the first half of the game they definitely out-played us so we rallied late and came back and win.”


Ariel Traxler’s foursome had a good day at the office on Tuesday as they secured a second win when they swept past Kim Rhyme’s team, 8-6.


Men’s 9 a.m. results: Fenner 9, Shuster 4; Birr 11, Brundidge 7; Birklid 9, Corbett 4; Sinnett 7, Strouse 6; Ruohonen 7, Dunnam 6


Women’s 7 p.m. results: Traxler 8, Rhyme 9; Roth 10, Christensen 3; Sinclair 11, Podoll 3; Senneker 8, Dubberstein 6


Women’s standings:

Jamie Sinclair (Manotick, Ontario)           5-0

Nina Roth (McFarland, Wis.)                     4-1

Cory Christensen (Duluth, Minn.)             3-2

Stephanie Senneker (Port Huron, Mich.) 3-2

Annmarie Dubberstein (Portage, Wis.)   2-3

Ariel Traxler (Fairbanks, Alaska)               2-3

Ann Podoll (Fargo, N.D.)                             1-4

Kim Rhyme (Minneapolis, Minn.)             0-5


Men’s standings:

Todd Birr (Ham Lake, Minn.)                     6-1

Rich Ruohonen (Brooklyn Park, Minn.)   6-1

John Shuster (Superior, Wis.)                    6-1

Steven Birklid (Seattle)                               4-3

Mark Fenner (Bemidji, Minn.)                   4-3

Chase Sinnett (Medfield, Mass.)               3-4

Brandon Corbett (Rochester, N.Y.)           2-5

Scott Dunnam (Dresher, Pa.)                     2-5

Jed Brundidge (West St. Paul, Minn.)      1-6

Sam Strouse (Midland, Mich.)                  1-6


How to watch: Live action from each draw is featured at in partnership with the 12th End Sports Network and the United States Olympic Committee.


Live scores & social media: Live scores are posted at in partnership with CurlingZone. The official event hashtag is #2019Nats.


USA Curling is sponsored by AtomOS, Toyota, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, Carhartt, CryoMAX 8-Hour Cold Pack, Sitrin, The RAM Restaurant & Brewery, Thorne, ISS (Ice, Sports & Solar), and Twin Cities Orthopedics, and is partnered with Brakebush, Laurie Artiss Ltd. – The Pin People, United Airlines, 12th End Sports Network, IHG, and CurlingZone.




For more information: Terry Davis, Director of Communications,, 608-338-9900 (mobile).