Playoff field still murky
March 10, 2010

Last undefeated team falls, tiebreakers on the horizon at 2010 Nationals

(KALAMAZOO, Mich.) - The lone undefeated team was knocked from its perch Wednesday afternoon as the two youngest skips in the field staged upsets at the 2010 USA Curling National Championships at Wings Stadium. Eighty games have been played between the two divisions and still one lone playoff spot has been awarded.

Patti Lank's win streak was halted at seven straight as Becca Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) played spoiler with an 8-5 win. Misses by Sormunen and Lank in the seventh end gave Hamilton a draw for three that became the game-changer. After forcing Lank to draw for one in the eighth, a missed peel in the ninth gave Lank an opening to pile rocks in the four foot. Hamilton still managed a single to go up by three points and eventually ran Lank out of rocks.

At 6-2, Hamilton's team is in a three-way tie for second place with Amy Wright and Erika Brown. Those two teams battled this afternoon as well with Wright bettering Brown, 9-6. Wright (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Courtney George (Duluth, Minn.), Amanda McLean (Duluth, Minn.) and Jordan Moulton (Minneapolis) got off to a fast start. After scoring three points in the opening end, Wright's team stole two when Brown sailed through the house with her final toss.

Kimberly Wapola kept pace with the leaders with a five-end game against Matina Heisler's team, who were without their skip for the second straight game due to injury. Wapola (Mahtomedi, Minn.) and teammates Brigid Ellig (Minnetonka, Minn.), Carol Strojny (St. Paul, Minn.) and Connie Kupferschmidt (St. Paul, Minn.) need to win their final match tonight against Gabrielle Coleman (2-6) to force a tiebreaker game for a playoff spot. Wright (6-2) and Hamilton (6-2) will play in the round robin finale tonight as well, which means one team will have a third loss. Lank and Brown also play tonight. A win by Lank would ensure her a spot in the 1-2 page playoff game. A loss would drop her into a tiebreaker to determine playoff seeding.

Debra Horn's team earned its third win of the week with a 10-6 victory over Coleman. Monica Walker evened her record to 4-4 with an 11-6 win over Lysa Hambley.

In men's action this afternoon, Craig Brown's team improved to 4-4 in hopes of making the playoffs with a 10-1 lopsided win over Kevin Kakela's team. Brown (Madison, Wis.) and teammates Rich Ruohonen (Brooklyn Park, Minn.), Zach Jacobson (Langdon, N.D.) and John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) scored in five of the six ends played against the North Dakota team, including a steal of five in the sixth end when Brown's team scattered five stones above the tee-line to form a fortress for Kakela to draw around. When he came up short, he conceded the match. The loss drops Kakela's team to 3-5 and eliminates them from playoff contention.

"We have to play like we did today if we hope to make the playoffs," said Brown, who most recently won the national title in 2008. "We've played enough bad games this week so hopefully we have them out of our system."

In the second upset of the day, Blake Morton's team earned its third win, taking down Matt Hames, 7-4. Morton and teammates (McFarland, Wis.), Marcus Fonger (Cottage Grove, Wis.), Tommy Juszczyk (McFarland, Wis.) and Calvin Weber (McFarland, Wis.) fell behind early but took the lead for good in the eighth end after scoring three points. Hames gave up a steal in the next end and ran out of rocks in the 10th to suffer a second loss.

Mike Farbelow's team fought to the final rock to stay in the playoff hunt, defeating Bryan Wight, 6-5, in an extra end. Farbelow did everything he needed to in the 10th end to force the extra end. Farbelow's rink then stole the win from Wight when he slid a few inches too deep with his last rock. With the win, Farbelow, Eric Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.), Jeff Puleo (Forest Lake, Minn.) and Mark Willmert (Minneapolis) improve to 5-3 for a four-way tie for second place with Matt Stevens, Pete Fenson and Wes Johnson.

With their backs against the wall, Todd Birr's team fell short against Stevens, 6-5, in an extra end to be eliminated from playoff contention. Birr used his final stone to draw down into a pile of rocks to find the button but Stevens, who was celebrating his 34th birthday today, was able to push it out for the win.

Johnson led his team to an 8-5 win over Fenson. Johnson (Snohomish, Wash.) and teammates Leon Romaniuk (Kirkland, Wash.), Paul Lyttle (Bothell, Wash.) and Richard Maskel (Green Bay, Wis.) fell behind in the early ends as Fenson drew for three points in the third after Johnson missed a takeout. Fenson missed a tap-back in the sixth, giving Johnson's team a point and came up short on his draws in the sixth and seventh ends to give Johnson three more points. After posting just a deuce in the ninth end, Fenson's team conceded, falling to 5-3 in the standings.

The men's round robin wraps up tomorrow morning. Featured games include Stevens (5-3) v. Morton (3-5), Kakela (3-5) v. Fenson (5-3), Johnson (5-3) v. Brown (4-4), Wight (1-7) v. Birr (4-5) and Hames (6-2) v. Farbelow (5-3).

The women's page playoffs get underway Thursday night with the No. 1 seed playing No. 2 with the winner advancing straight to the gold-medal game while the losing team plays the winner of the No. 3 versus No. 4 seed in the semifinal. The women's final is set for 10 a.m. Saturday followed by the men's game at 3 p.m.

The winning teams represent the USA at the 2010 World Curling Championships. The 2010 Women's Worlds will be played March 21-28 in Swift Current, Saskatchewan while the Men's Worlds will be staged in Cortina, Italy, April 3-11.

Game scores, women, 12 p.m.: Wapola 9, Heisler 2; Wright 9, Brown 6; Hamilton 8, Lank 5; Walker 11, Hambley 6; Horn 10, Coleman 6

Game scores, men, 4 p.m.: Brown 10, Kakela 1; Morton 7, Hames 4; Johnson 8, Fenson 5; Stevens 6, Birr 5 (extra end); Farbelow 6, Wight 5 (extra end)

*Patti Lank        7-1
Amy Wright        6-2
Erika Brown        6-2
Becca Hamilton        6-2
Kimberly Wapola    5-3
Monica Walker        4-4
Debra Horn        3-5
Gabrielle Coleman    2-6
Matina Heisler        1-7
Lysa Hambley        0-8
*clinched a playoff berth

Men's standings:
Matt Hames        6-2
Wes Johnson        5-3
Pete Fenson        5-3
Mike Farbelow        5-3
Matt Stevens        5-3
Craig Brown        4-4
Todd Birr        3-5
Kevin Kakela        3-5
Blake Morton        3-5
Bryan Wight        1-7

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.


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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