United States takes dramatic curling victory over Canada
By RACHEL BLOUNT | Star Tribune (Minneapolis) | Published: February 19, 2018
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Tribune News Service) — Curling is often called a game of inches. In John Shuster’s case, all he needed Monday was a millimeter or two.
The U.S. men needed to beat Canada to have any realistic hope of moving on to the Olympic medal round. Shuster delivered a dramatic 9-7 victory, scoring the winning points with a whisker-thin margin in an extra end at Gangneung Curling Centre. A day after shooting woes doomed the Americans in two losses, their accuracy tightened up markedly — and never more so than on Shuster’s last rock.
The Minnesota skip needed that final shot to knock out a Canadian stone and come to rest nearest the button. First, it had to get past a guard, a rock that Canada placed to block the path. Shuster’s shot barely sneaked past the guard, then bumped out Canada’s scoring stone and stopped on cue to seal the Americans’ first-ever victory over Canada in Olympic men’s curling.
Team Shuster still has a fight on its hands to get to the playoffs. At 3-4, it is in seventh place in the 10-team field with two games left in the round robin. It will likely have to win both games and then a tiebreaker to advance.
But rallies have to start somewhere, which was all Shuster was thinking of Monday.
“I knew (the last shot) was a tiny bit tighter line than I initially wanted it to be out of my hand,” Shuster said. “I gave a scream for Matt (Hamilton) to sweep, and it got by half an inch.
“It was good to bounce back. Let’s just hope it’s not too late. We kept ourselves in the mix and got a big win over an extremely good curling team. I’m extremely proud of the way the team came together and played.”
The U.S. entered the game as the least-accurate shooting team in the tournament, and Shuster’s 73 percent shooting was last among the Olympic skips. Monday, he tied his best shooting performance of the round robin, making 82 percent of his attempts.
Canada has won the past three Olympic gold medals in men’s curling. Its Olympic team, skipped by Kevin Koe, is ranked fourth in the world and was 4-2 heading into Monday’s game. It went back and forth with Team Shuster all day, with neither team leading by more than two.
A well-placed shot by Shuster and a miss by Koe allowed the U.S. to steal a point in the sixth end to move ahead 5-3. Canada tied it twice, in the eighth and 10th ends, but never led after the second end.
“We had a great feel from the time we got out onto the ice,” Shuster said. “One of the main goals we had today was to come out here and really enjoy curling and enjoy each other and just focus on being the best versions of ourselves, because that’s who we know we are.”
Vice-skip Tyler George echoed that thought.
“If we can come back from (Sunday’s two losses) and play a game like we did against four hall-of-fame caliber players, that can give you a whole lot of momentum moving forward,” the Duluth, Minn., native said.
“We just felt like we had nothing to lose. Let’s go out and relax, let it fly and whatever happens, happens.
“We know what we’re capable of doing. That’s the team we are. It’s unfortunate we haven’t been able to put all that together until now. I’m happy that no matter what happens the rest of the week that we got to showcase that for the world, so people can see the team we are.”