Team Shuster (Photo by Rich Harmer, USA Curling) booked their ticket into the Final with a 8-2 win over Ruohonen
SPOKANE, Wash. -- John Shuster has won 10 consecutive games in the USA Curling National Championships and is now one more victory away from successfully defending the title.
Shuster’s team from Duluth, Minn., kept their undefeated streak intact with a decisive 8-2 victory over Rich Ruohonen’s Minneapolis squad during the men’s Page 1-2 playoff game Friday at Eastern Washington University’s Recreation Center in Cheney to advance to Saturday’s final.
The reigning Olympic gold medallist Shuster is closing in on a ninth national title and fifth as a skip.
“It feels good,” Team Shuster third Chris Plys said. “We’re playing really well and everyone is super confident. Just feeling easy out there right now, so we’ve just got to keep in that mindset and keep going.”
A strong effort in the Page 1v2 game gets us the 8-2 win over Team Ruohonen and puts us into tomorrow's final. We get a few words from skipper following the game. #curlingNats2020— Team Shuster (@TeamShuster) February 14, 2020
Playoff Bracket:https://t.co/p8nPgfMKcg pic.twitter.com/nvVYvxCwH6
Plys is primed to keep the engine running with everything on the line in the championship game.
“Ten wins don’t mean anything if we don’t win tomorrow,” Plys said. “We’ll go get a good meal, get some good sleep and probably have one beer here with the fans and then be ready to go here tomorrow.”
Shuster was forced to a single in the first and added another point in the third off of a steal. The 2018 national champion Ruohonen, who finished runner-up last year, was limited to one in the fourth and Shuster went to work pulling away by scoring a deuce in five. After Ruohonen was held to another single in six, the handshakes came out early when Shuster put a four on the board in seven.
“We’re putting pressure on them at every position, and we’re taking advantage of every miss that we get,” Plys said. “It’s just not making it easy for anybody.”
Shuster and Plys are supported by second Matt Hamilton and lead John Landsteiner while Ruohonen’s team consists of third Greg Persinger, second Collin Hufman, lead Phil Tilker and alternate Kroy Nernberger.
Ruohonen has a second chance to advance dropping into the semifinal against Chase Sinnett of Medfield, Mass., who ousted Dominik Maerki’s club from Chaska, Minn., 6-2 in the Page 3-4 playoff game.
“I’m feeling great,” said the 21-year-old Sinnett, who earned bronze in his final junior nationals last month. “It’s a big accomplishment for us, especially as a junior team to play in this field of amazing players and be able to make it this far in the event. We’re really grateful for it.”
“We’re also hungry,” he added. “At this point, we've secured a medal, so we’re going to be playing our best to try and see if we can get to the final.”
Sinnett said it’s hard to believe how well they've performed in the men’s tournament so far but knew his team consisting of third Sam Strouse, second Eli Clawson, lead Ethan Sampson and alternate Trevor Marquardt could compete with the best.
“It means the world, especially after the juniors not going totally our way,” Sinnett said. “To come here and just enjoy our time, play great and have fun, we’re really happy.”
Maerki got the edge during their round-robin meeting Thursday night winning in an extra end after Sinnett misfired a hit for the win in the 10th. Sinnett got the jump on Maerki here stealing single points in the first couple of ends. Maerki, who won Olympic bronze with Switzerland in 2014, mirrored the scoreboard with a point in three and a steal in four, however, it was all Sinnett from there getting the go-ahead point in five followed by steals in six, eight and nine.
Sinnett credited “keeping positive and having fun” as the reason his team was able to come out on top in the rematch.
“Our main goal in this event was to have fun on the ice and we knew that if we do that we could keep our positive energy up and play to our best ability even if things don’t go our way,” Sinnett said. “I think that really helped us there.”
Meanwhile, Tabitha Peterson topped Jamie Sinclair 9-4 in the women’s Page 1-2 playoff game to reach the final.
“This is what we’ve been working for all year,” Team Peterson third Becca Hamilton said. “Our main goal when we came here was to be in this game, so we’re going to leave it all out there.”
Both teams finished at the top of the table with matching 6-1 round-robin records, however, Sinclair’s extra-end victory over Peterson ensured her the hammer to start. Peterson came out firing though forcing Sinclair to a single in the first and scoring a huge count of five in the second that had the triple defending champion chasing from there.
“Five-enders are always a nice kick-off to a game,” Hamilton said with a smile. “They started to put a lot of pressure on us during the middle. We kind of leaned on each other and made sure we were able to put rocks in good positions and be able to come out with the win.”
Peterson usually throws third for the St. Paul, Minn., team, but has moved up with skip Nina Roth away on maternity leave. Tara Peterson is in at second while Aileen Geving tosses lead stones and handles the vice skip duties.
Sinclair, who is from Osgoode, Ontario, is joined by third Cory Christensen, second Vicky Persinger, lead Taylor Anderson and alternate Sarah Anderson.
Team Sinclair will take on Ariel Traxler (Fairbanks, Alaska) in the women’s semifinal. The junior team of Traxler, fourth Elizabeth Cousins, third Katherine Gourianova and second Elizabeth Janiak lost their first three round-robin games then made an incredible turnaround winning four in a row to finish third in the standings and clinch the final women’s playoff spot.
Both semifinals go down at 7 p.m. PT. The women’s final is scheduled for Saturday at Noon PT followed by the men’s final at 5 p.m. PT.
Live online streaming coverage is available via 12th End Sports Network, visit https://www.teamusa.org/USA-