FARGO, ND - The men’s side of the field at the 2018 USA Curling Nationals has been a two-headed monster.
Team Persinger skipped by Rich Ruohonen posted an 8-1 mark during round robin play, tying with Team McCormick for the top spot. However, an 8-3 win over McCormick early in the tournament gives Persinger hammer advantage in the one-two page playoff tomorrow night at 8:00 pm (CST).
“We’ve played well all week,” Ruohonen said. “This was our number one goal to make the one-two game and it’s really big to have hammer. Playing Heater is gonna be a tough game, so any advantage you get and having the hammer is huge.”
McCormick posted an 8-3 win over gritty U.S. junior high performance squad led by Skip Nick Connolly to end round robin play. Connolly won four games in his first U.S. Nationals and impressed all week with his aggressive calls.
But now McCormick will face Ruohonen who played the first half of this season as their alternate through the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha.
“We’re excited and things are going pretty well,” McCormick said. “They’re playing well and they’re a great team. We’ve gotta keep doing what we’re doing and be focused and ready for sure.”
Team Birr began the tournament with a two-game winning streak, then lost three straight before finishing with four consecutive wins to finish 6-3 and earn the No. 3 seed. Todd Birr and crew will take on the tiebreaker winner between Team Nernberger and Team Brundidge.
Birr advanced to the finals of last year’s USA Curling Nationals, losing to Team Shuster. Despite their rollercoaster week, they’re in position for another shot at the finals starting tomorrow night.
“I actually just commented that I think this is one of the easier weeks,” Birr said. “That’s just the way it goes for us. I’ve been through this so many times and it’s never been simple. It’s always a dogfight and you just have to keep your head up.
“We talked midweek because we played a game that we all felt we kind of lost our cool a bit and got away from what we usually do. We just needed an attitude adjustment and (coach) Wayne (Anderson) has been really good about talking about those types of things with us.
A local team playing in their first USA Curling Nationals, the Brundidge rink ignited their hometown fans and many of the sheets all week with their emotional play. Led by skip Jed Brundidge, the team was last in shooting percentages among the 10-team field but came up with a lot of big shots at key moments this week.
Brundidge defeated Nernbeger in the challenge round but dropped a 9-4 decision to them this morning. Fiery vice skip Jordan Brown couldn’t be more excited with how things have panned out this week, now having a one-game chance at the playoffs.
“We’re absolutely elated. We’ve played really well to get to this point against a lot of tough teams,” Brown said. “We get a shot now to payback Nerberger who is a great team. We’re going to bring everything we’ve got to the table tomorrow and hopefully it works out.”