USA Curling Features Sinclair, Ruohonen s...

Sinclair, Ruohonen secure spots in national finals

By USA Curling | Feb. 15, 2020, 1:53 a.m. (ET)

Team Sinclair sweeping shot into house
Team Sinclair (photo by Rich Harmer, USA Curling) held off a strong effort from Traxler in semifinals

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Jamie Sinclair has set up a rubber match against Tabitha Peterson for the women’s title in the USA Curling National Championships. 


The three-time defending champion Sinclair bounced back to beat Ariel Traxler 11-5 during the semifinal in front of a capacity crowd Friday night at Eastern Washington University’s Recreation Center. 


Sinclair topped Peterson in an extra end during round-robin play while Peterson was victorious 9-4 over Sinclair during the Page 1-2 playoff game earlier Friday to book her squad’s spot in the final. 


“It feels really good,” Sinclair said. “This is what we were hoping for, to be in this game and it all comes down to just who shows up tomorrow, so we’re excited to bring our best.” 


Trailing by two, Sinclair hit for a critical five count in the seventh to grab a 7-4 lead. After forcing Traxler to a single in eight, Sinclair added four more points in nine to put the match on ice. 


“We felt pretty confident going into the game but we came out pretty flat right at the beginning,” Sinclair said. “Hats off to them, they played really well. We just had to stay patient and we capitalized when we had the opportunity.  


“That five-ender really helped us get some momentum and some confidence and then we cruised from there on out.” 


In the tale of the tape: Sinclair (Osgoode, Ontario) is supported by third Cory Christensen (Duluth, Minn.), second Vicky Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska), lead Taylor Anderson (Minneapolis) and alternate Sarah Anderson (Minneapolis). Peterson, from St. Paul, Minn., plays with third Becca Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.), second Tara Peterson (Eagan, Minn.) and lead Aileen Geving (Duluth, Minn.). Skip Nina Roth is away on maternity leave and Tabitha Peterson has taken the reins and thrived in the role.


“It’s going to take our best game, for sure,” Sinclair said. “It’s going to be a close game but we’re definitely going to have to come out firing like we haven’t yet this week. It should be a good one.” 

Meanwhile, Rich Ruohonen (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) also survived a scare against a junior squad fending off Chase Sinnett (Medfield, Mass.) 9-5. 


That also set up a Page 1-2 playoff rematch (plus a rematch of last year's final) for the men’s title with Ruohonen set to face reigning Olympic gold medalist and defending champion John Shuster. 


“It obviously feels great but we’ve got to play a lot better than that to have a chance tomorrow or Shuster is going to make quick work of us,” Ruohonen said. “We just threw some really terrible ones. We made some good ones too and we just hung in and it was kind of a grinder victory.


"They finally missed a few. They actually played pretty well until the ninth then they kind of let a couple get away from them and we made a couple of good ones and they were in deep trouble. We’ve got to play better than that. That was not our A-game by any stretch. You know what? You’ve just got to win and win ugly sometimes. That’s what that was.” 


The game was like a see-saw with Sinnett stealing a single in the first before Ruohonen went ahead with a deuce in the second and getting his steal back in the third to lead 3-1. Sinnett matched Ruohonen’s run taking two back in four and swiping another point in five to go ahead 4-3 heading into the break. The teams alternated singles in six and eight and Ruohonen drew for the game-breaking four-ender in the ninth. The national junior bronze medallist Sinnett took it down to the final rock of the game but was unable to push the extra as Ruohonen tacked another steal on the scoreboard. 

“They actually played pretty well and they probably should have beat us,” Ruohonen said. “They had one bad end and maybe shouldn’t have beat us but we were not in control of the game a lot. They were in control of it a lot more than we were. They’re a good team. We’ve had several games with them but that was something. They played good and they probably could have beat us if they make a couple more in the ninth but who knows.


"You’ve just got to stay in there and that’s what we’ve done all year. We’ve been down and when we’ve had to we’ve come back. We’re kind of resilient in that way but tomorrow we’ve got to play better. No doubt.” 


Ruohonen’s team consists of third Greg Persinger, second Collin Hufman, lead Phil Tilker and alternate Kroy Nernberger. Shuster, from Superior, Wis., is joined by third Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), second Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) and lead John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.). 


Earlier, Shuster downed Ruohonen 8-2 in the Page 1-2 playoff game while Sinnett eliminated Dominik Maerki’s Chaska, Minn., club 6-2 in the 3-4 match. 


The national finals will 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. Sinclair, Peterson, Shuster and Ruohonen all meet the criteria. 


The women’s final gets underway first 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-Curling/webstream to watch.