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McCormick surprises Shuster in Playoff Opener

(OMAHA, Nebraska) – Heath McCormick took his hot shooting from this morning’s sudden death match into tonight’s game against three-time Olympian John Shuster as the sides battled in the first of three potential playoff games at the 2018 US Olympic Team Trials for Curling.

McCormick (Sarnia, Ontario) and his team of Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Korey Dropkin (Duluth, Minn.), and Tom Howell (Milwaukee, Wis.) defeated Shuster’s team, 5-3, to take the advantage in the series.

The shooting percentages of the skips was the significant factor in the scoreboard as McCormick out-shot Shuster, 91 to 71 percent.

“I felt comfortable out there. Dave and his crew make amazing ice and just like all the championships we play in. The guys are playing good in front of me, and that’s obviously very important,” said McCormick, who finished third in the 2014 Olympic Trials.

It was the second loss in a row for the top-seeded Shuster (Superior, Wis.) and teammates Tyler George (Duluth, Minn.), Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.), and John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.), who lost last night as the round robin concluded.

“We play in tournaments all the time when it’s win or go home. Our team has been extremely resilient in those times when we’ve been down and rattled off plenty of wins with our backs against the wall,” said Shuster, who skipped Team USA at the 2014 and 2010 Olympic Games and played lead in 2006 when the Americans won Olympic bronze.

The two sides will return to the ice at 6:30 p.m. CT p.m. Friday for the second game in the best-of-three series.

“Every now and then you run into a skip that just comes out and makes everything. We’ve just got to do a little better job applying pressure next game,” Shuster said.

Despite entering the game with the last-rock advantage, Shuster’s team didn’t get on the scoreboard until the third end when they scored one. McCormick’s team stole points in the second and fifth ends and used the hammer to take a single for a 3-1 lead at the halfway mark. Two great double takeouts from both skips in the sixth end resulted in Shuster’s team being forced to draw for a single point. A nice double takeout from Shuster in the seventh end then forced McCormick to draw the button for a point. Keeping in the theme, McCormick converted a dandy double takeout in the eighth end to force Shuster to make a takeout to score a point.

McCormick drew for a point in the ninth to take a two-point lead into the final end of the game. Shuster’s team tried to set up a deuce but McCormick sealed the victory with yet another double takeout.

The Jamie Sinclair and Nina Roth rinks return to the ice at 1 p.m. Friday for playoff No. 2. Watch live on www.NBCSports.com. A complete schedule is below.

Line score, men’s playoff #1:
*John Shuster 001 001 010 x – 3
Heath McCormick 010 110 101 x – 5
*last rock in first end

Remaining schedule:
Friday:
1 p.m., women’s playoff #2 (Sinclair v. Roth), live via webstream at www.NBCSports.com
6:30 p.m., men’s playoff #2 (Shuster v. McCormick), live on NBCSN & live online
10:30 p.m., women’s playoff #2 replay, NBCSN

Saturday:
10 a.m., women’s playoff #3 (Sinclair v. Roth), if needed, live via webstream at www.NBCSports.com
6:30 p.m., men’s playoff #3 (Shuster v. McCormick), if needed, live on NBCSN & live online
Please note that if only one playoff game is needed on Saturday it will be in the 6:30 time slot.

USA Curling is hosting the event with Baxter Arena and the Omaha Sports Commission, in partnership with the Aksarben Curling Club and the United States Olympic Committee. The men’s and women’s teams that win the Trials will be named to the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team, pending approval by the United States Olympic Committee.

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