Ruohonen Joins Shuster in Top Page Game

By USA Curling | Feb. 12, 2020, 11:30 p.m. (ET)

Rich Ruohonen Delivery
Rich Ruohonen (photo by Rich Harmer, USA Curling) won 8-4 over Todd Birr to clinch a spot in Page 1v2 game

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Rich Ruohonen let out a sigh of relief following the conclusion of Wednesday’s evening draw in the USA Curling National Championships. 

Ruohonen (6-2; Brooklyn Park, Minn.) qualified with his 8-4 victory over Todd Birr (3-5; Ham Lake, Minn.) and also locked down the No. 2 seed for the Page playoffs after Steven Birklid (4-4; Mountlake Terrace, Wash.) was able to edge out Scott Dunnam (4-4; Philadelphia) 7-5. 

The team of Ruohonen, third Greg Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska), second Colin Hufman (Minneapolis), lead Phil Tilker (Seattle) and alternate Kroy Nernberger (Madison, Wis.) went into the day knowing six was the magic number and mission accomplished. 

“It feels great,” said Ruohonen, who won nationals in 2018 and finished runner-up last year. “We knew we had to come out and play well tonight. We knew Todd would put on a good show for us because he always plays well against me and he’s still got it. We’re really happy. … 

“We know we’ve got to come out and we’ve got to find a way to beat (John) Shuster. We had a really good game with him earlier in the week and had one bad break. If we can just keep playing like we’re playing we’re going to be hanging around here. Even if you drop that one, you still get another shot. That’s why the 1-2 game is so huge. You can lose that first one and you’re still fine but hopefully, we can come out, give a good game and put on a good show for the crowd.” 

Team Ruohonen still want to play well in their final round-robin game Thursday to avoid any letdowns although they may shuffle the lineup. 

“We’ll probably rest up maybe one of our players and probably Colin,” Ruohonen said. “He’s been sweeping his butt off. He was working hard out there today and he saved us again on a few of my shots. Just swept the crap out of them and we made it.” 

The final two playoff spots are still up for grabs. Chase Sinnett (5-3; Medfield, Mass.) keeps on trucking and rolled past Kyle Kakela (2-5; Rolla, N.D.) 10-4 to stay in control of his own destiny currently sitting in third place in the standings.

Dominik Maerki (4-4; Chaska, Minn.) joined the logjam at 4-4 with Birklid and Dunnam after clipping Korey Dropkin (3-5; Chaska, Minn.) 5-4. With Eastern Washington University’s Recreation Center in Cheney located on Elm Street, it’s been a Nightmare on Elm Street for Dropkin as his top-ranked team has now lost five consecutive games after a strong start. 

“It’s bittersweet playing your brother,” Team Maerki second Stephen Dropkin said. “As much as you want him to do well, you want to do well yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pumped that we won.” 

Shuster (8-0; Superior, Wis.) defeated Jed Brundidge (1-7; West St. Paul, Minn.) by forfeit due to an illegal substitution. With Brundidge sitting out due to a shoulder injury, third Evan Workin (Fargo, N.D.) and second Jarl Timothy Wagner (Eagan, Minn.) moved up in the order, Sean Murray (Long Lake, Minn.) subbed at second while Cameron Rittenour (Sioux Falls, S.D.) remained at lead. Shuster was up 6-1 at the fifth-end break when the game was called once it was confirmed Murray had not registered to compete. 

The reigning Olympic gold medallist and defending champion Shuster qualified for the playoffs and secured the No. 1 seed with an 8-3 win over Sinnett in the morning draw. 

The nationals will help determine Team USA for the world women’s curling championship, March 14-22 in Prince George, British Columbia, and the world men’s curling championship, March 28 to April 5, in Glasgow, Scotland. Winners also receive berths to the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup. 

Any men’s or women’s team that wins the 2020 National Championships and is ranked 70th or higher in the WCF World Team Ranking System or has earned 60 points year to date as of Jan. 31, 2020, will be named Team USA for the Men’s/Women’s World Championships. 

The USA Curling National Championships resumes Thursday with the final round-robin draws starting at 9 a.m. PT. The Page playoffs and semifinals are set for Friday with both finals scheduled Saturday.