USA's Greg Persinger (Photo by Steve Seixeiro, World Curling Federation) drew for the 6-5 win over Canada in World Men's draw 17.
By Price Atkinson
LAS VEGAS - What an atmosphere Thursday night in the desert. And what another result for the United States over their Canadian friends.
Team Canada and Team USA fans turned out for the "Battle of the Fans." But it was the Americans led by skip Rich Ruohonen and vice Greg Persinger that stole the show, defeating Team Gushue 6-5 before thousands of Canadian fans packing Orleans Arena.
"To beat the reigning world champion at the world championship at the world championship is unbelievable," Ruohonen said afterward. "That was probably the biggest win I've had - ever."
Team Persinger is now on a roll, winning their last three games after enduring a rough six-game losing streak. Coming into the game with a 3-6 record, the Americans had played far better than their record showed losing four games on steals in the last end.
"They played really good," Gushue said. "You have to give them credit and we will give them credit. It certainly feels like everybody we play against is playing better than they have thru the week."
Pride was on the line for Curling Canada after the Team USA sweep at the recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. But the
"We might have caught them off guard a little bit seeing a 3-6 team," lead Phil Tilker said. "You never know you can lose to anyone. I think we've proven we can compete on the World stage. I don't think there's any doubt about that. This week there might have been some with our record."
Playing on sheet A, fans from both teams jammed into sections 101-110 of Orleans Arena, wrapping around to the other side of the building in hopes of being as close to the action as possible. No matter what section they sat, the pro-Canada crowd drowned out the home team overtime a U-S-A chant began from the small pockets around the arena.
Brett Gallant echoed the lively crowd and the atmosphere inside the Arena before, during and after the game.
"It was awesome. It was loud for both teams. The USA fans came in full force tonight and our Canadian fans were even louder I think," Gallant said. "It's just amazing to see that many people north of the border come down and support us.
"And it's really cool to see all the USA fans for their team too because obviously the sport is growing down here and it's just cool to see that support for them."
Ruohonen thrives off crowds and the attention was basking in not only the win afterward but also the opportunity to play in front of that many people, something atypical at events here in the States.
"Just to play in front of that crowd and that it was on TV," Ruohonen said. "The people here were going nuts both sides. It was fantastic and so much fun. I thrive on that stuff. I love to play in front of people and to hear it.
"To look around between every end, I just took it in. Playing in front of thousands of people and they're going crazy. That alone is so much fun. To be on a good show for them and actually have a good game was fantastic."
The fantastic part came in the win for Team. Gushue missed a shot for two in the eighth and Canada ended up blanking the end. The Canadians got their deuce in the ninth to tie the game but playing with hammer in the tenth, Persinger successfully threw a draw for the win.
"Colin and I said 'we're gonna make this last shot for Greg,'" Tilker said. "Greg has to be feeling good. He's a world-class fourth stone thrower."
Round-robin play will run through to Friday with the top six teams making the playoffs; no tiebreakers will be played, so ties for playoff spots will be broken based on head-to-head results, and if that doesn't resolve the tie, then the pre-game Last-Shot Draw distances.
The top two teams from round-robin play will be seeded directly into the semifinals, while third will play sixth and fourth will play fifth in the quarter-finals on Saturday morning.
The winners will advance to the semifinals later on Saturday. The semifinal winners will play for gold on Sunday at 8 p.m., with the semifinal losers battling for bronze Sunday at 3 p.m.
In other Thursday night games, Scotland downed Russia's Alexey Timofeev (5-5) 7-2; Norway's Steffen Walstad (7-4) clinched a playoff spot with a 7-6 win over the Netherlands' Jaap Van Dorp (3-7); and Switzerland's Marc Pfister (6-4) stole one in the 11th end for a 10-9 win over Japan's Masaki Iwai.