Team Persinger skipped by Rich Ruohonen with Greg Persinger (photo by Steve Seixeiro) throwing fourth stones bests McCormick again to advance to the 2018 USA Curling Nationals championship game.
FARGO, N.D. - Team Persinger rolled thru round robin play and now rolls into the championship game of the 2018 USA Curling Nationals with an 8-3 win over Team McCormick tonight at Scheels Arena.
Persinger defeated McCormick by the same score from earlier on in round robin play, resulting in a critical hammer advantage tonight in the 1v2 page playoff game. And skip Rich Ruohonen echoed how critical it was starting with the hammer tonight after finishing round robin play 8-1.
“Having the hammer is a big deal. We have played great when we start with the hammer,” Ruohonen said. “To get that two in the first when we were frankly in a little trouble that was big.”
Persinger grabbed a deuce in the first after facing their only trouble in the game. After McCormick got a single in the third, Persinger grabbed one in the fourth and stole two in the fifth for a 5-2 lead at the break.
A deuce in the ninth sealed the victory and handshakes for Persinger.
Ruohonen, who played with McCormick as their fifth leading up to the Olympic Trials, joined the Persinger rink shortly after Brady Clark was exiled in late November. But he said that didn’t give his team any advantage tonight against one of USA Curling’s elite teams.
“They’re good curlers,” Ruohonen said. “There are some teams here we’d play to their in turn or their out turn. That wasn’t the case with these guys. I know them well but at the same time, we knew we had to keep control and put the pressure on.”
In the 3v4 page playoff game, Team Birr eliminated Team Nernberger with a narrow 7-6 victory and will play McCormick tomorrow for a spot in Saturday’s championship game.
Down 3-2 playing the sixth with hammer, fourth Sean Beighton had a double for two but the stone sailed found a narrow path directly between the two Nernberger rocks. It went right thru the house giving Birr a steal of two and full control of the game.
“It was a grind. Even the game we had against Heat the other night, we did manage to win it early but it just seems like it’s a grind all the way you know,” Birr said. “We just stuck with it. They made a couple of mistakes and we made a couple off mistakes. You just have to keep throwing.”
Beighton made a beautiful runback double that tied the game and fired up his team in the ninth end. But Birr’s hit for one in the 10th sealed the win and a date with McCormick tomorrow night for a spot in the finals, a team they lost in a tiebreaker at the U.S. Olympic Trials last fall.
“We’ve played them a couple of times and at the Trials,” Birr added. “I think we know very well what he wants to do against us and he knows what we want to do against him. It’s just gonna be an issue of executing and as cliche as that sounds, that’s exactly what it’s going to be.”
Nerberger defeated the local Team Brundidge 6-3 earlier in the day to advance to the 3v4 game. Skip Jed Brundidge and his crew were making their first appearance at Nationals after advancing from the Challenge Round but scrapped and clawed their way into tiebreaker.
In only his third season in the sport, lead Cameron Rittenhour is an example for other new or young curlers in the United States coming so far in such a short period of time.
“It’s just been unbelievable,” Rittenhour said afterwards today. “Just the experience being new to curling it’s been a dream come true. Just to make it to Nationals for us was awesome for us and then to end up in the top half is spectacular.
“I think the next step for me is just practicing even more. I practice but just getting out there and working even harder. Realizing it’s possible, it’s about taking that next step (with my game).”
Second Evan Workin echoed Rittenhour in the experienced gained in Fargo is only fuel for their fire to keep improving and aim higher next season.
“There’s some things you learn out here that you can’t do by playing other competition,” Workin said. “When you’re at a National event like this, you see what some of the top teams are doing and the consistency level they’re at.”