Team Shuster rides early momentum to beat Team McCormick 9-4 in Game 2 of men’s U.S. Olympic curling trials

November 18, 2017 GMT

OMAHA It could have been a handprint. Maybe it was a tiny bit of lint, or a thread from a hem.

Heath McCormick didnt bother to go back and look at what might have knocked his final shot off line. It didnt matter what caused the rock and Game 2 of the mens playoffs at the U.S. Olympic trials for curling to abruptly change course. Whatever it was, it set up four points for John Shuster in the ninth end, causing McCormick to concede a 9-4 loss Friday at Baxter Arena.

The errant rock blew open a game that Shuster led 5-4 with two ends to go. The three-time Olympian, who lost a tight Game 1 on Thursday, will face McCormick in Game 3 on Saturday to determine which team will represent the U.S. at the Winter Olympics in February.

Curling ice is so delicate that the smallest thing can alter the course of a 42-pound granite slab gliding along its surface. Shusters Duluth-based team which also includes Tyler George, John Landsteiner and Joe Polo of Duluth, plus Matt Hamilton of Wisconsin scored three in the second end and held sway through most of the game. But the premature ending wasnt what he was expecting.

We hate seeing that as players, Shuster said. Its a bummer of a way to win a curling game. Weve all been on both sides.

It can happen to any team. He still had to make a shot that had to get to a tiny, tiny area, and had he not made it perfectly, we would still have something for two or three [points] that would have essentially ended the game, too.

McCormick acknowledged his team was in a difficult position before his rock took a sharp turn. Neither team scored more than one point in any end during Game 1, won 5-3 by McCormick on the strength of his precise shooting.

Shuster ended that trend by taking three points in Fridays second end, giving him a 3-1 lead that McCormick chased the rest of the night. It was the first three-point end for Shusters high-scoring team during the entire week of the trials.

Through nine games in the round robin and playoffs, McCormicks team had not been victimized by a pick, the term used when a rock changes course. In the ninth end, he was trailing 5-4, and Shuster was in strong position with three rocks in the house when McCormick threw his last.

When McCormicks shot veered left, he knew he was done for the night but not for the tournament.

Its a bit brutal, he said. What can I say about it? Its awful.

Well be fine. Thats just a part of curling. This team has fought adversity from Day 1, so well be ready to go [Saturday].