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United States Curling Association - American men eliminated from playoff contention

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American men eliminated from playoff contention
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 22, 2010

American men eliminated from medal contention at 2010 Olympic Games

(VANCOUVER, British Columbia)  - For at least five ends the Americans had the mighty Kevin Martin scratching his head, but the end result was Canada's eighth straight win as they defeated the U.S. 7-2 Monday morning.

"They're a good team. You know you have to come out and play your best if you're going to have a chance against them," said Jason Smith, who threw last stones again today.

The loss officially eliminates John Shuster's American men from playoff contention at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games as they drop to 2-6 in the round robin standings.

"We're disappointed, obviously. It seemed like a week of narrowly missed opportunities," said Shuster, who threw vice skip stones for the third straight match.

Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Jason Smith (Cape Coral, Fla.), Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.), John Benton (St. Michael, Minn.) and Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.) will complete their appearance at the Olympic Games tonight against China (1-6) at 7 p.m.

"It was a very, very difficult situation for all of us given the way John was shooting. We were trying to make decisions to improve things and came up with an action plan," Benton said of the round robin so far. "The decision was going to be difficult for the team no matter what happened. But it was nice to see all of that work, with the team, the coaches, and the support staff all working together. We're not going to be happy with our performance, of course, but there are some good things to take away from here."

Comparing curling in the U.S. versus Canada, which has dominated international play for decades, is much like a mountain and a mole hill based on membership size. Canada boasts around 1.3 million of the world's 1.5 million curlers while the U.S. registers about 16,000. Curling's Olympic exposure on NBC's networks has proven in past years to be a boon for the curling world, bringing in record numbers for CNBC, MSNBC and USA network.

Canada already clinched the No. 1 playoff seed yesterday. Norway (6-2) earned a semifinal berth after today's win as well.

Martin shrugged off an uncharacteristically poor start when he and vice skip John Morris were both shooting less than 25 percent after the first end, which resulted in a steal of one for the U.S. It was only the second time this week that Canada had fallen behind to start a game.

The U.S. continued to pressure Martin, the 2009 world silver medalist, as Smith made a perfect draw to the button to force Martin to draw the button for one.

USA got into a bit of trouble in third end but Smith bailed the Americans out with a draw to the four-foot for a single.

In the fourth, the U.S. gave Canada a chance to set up the deuce when Smith's freeze attempt to the Canadian rock in the back eight-foot sunk too deep. Martin uncharacteristically came up short with his draw giving Smith a tapback to put the U.S. rock in the four-foot. Martin had a runback of his own available, though, and eagerly picked up the deuce.

It was uphill for the Americans after that as the Canadians play improved steadily, which halted the scoring opportunities for Shuster and company.

"They're very high percentage shooters. When they miss, they miss the right way," Benton said. "The word I would use is 'polished.' They don't make too many critical errors."

Smith was eyeing up two red Canadian rocks in the four-foot when he went to throw his last rock of the sixth end. He attempted an angle raise but gave up the steal of one to fall behind 4-2.

The Americans got in trouble again in the seventh by missing their final four shots of the end to give Canada one more point off of a steal. The next two ends followed suit with the Canadians out-shooting the U.S. and getting their rocks positioned better to earn the win as Smith was left with hero-type shots that he couldn't convert to bail the team out.

"Yeah, I was kind of like a miracle worker out there today," Smith said.

Live coverage of the curling action from Vancouver can be found on NBC's networks - USA, CNBC and MSNBC. Check your local listings to view the schedule. Live web-streaming of the action also can be found at www.nbcolympics.com.

Game scores:  Norway 9, France 2; Germany 7, China 6; Canada 7, USA 2

USA line score:
*Canada    010 201 102 x    7
USA        101 000 000 x    2
*last rock in first end

Men's standings
*Canada     8-0
*Norway     6-2
Great Britain     4-3
Sweden     4-3
Switzerland     4-3
Germany     4-4
France         2-5
Denmark     2-5
USA         2-6
China         1-6

Women's standings:
Canada         5-1
Sweden     5-1
China         5-2
Japan         3-3
Switzerland     3-3
Great Britain     3-4
Germany     3-4
USA         2-5
Russia         2-5
Denmark     1-5
*clinched semifinal berth

USA Curling is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics, Nike, bitRail, Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky and is partnered with CurlingZone and Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC.

(30)

For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , 608-338-9900 (cell), 715-344-1199, Ext. 202 (office)
 
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