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(KALAMAZOO, Mich.) – It was only fitting that the fate of seven teams hung on the outcome of an extra end as the men’s round robin of the 2010 USA Curling Nationals concluded this morning at Wings Stadium.
Three teams with 5-4 records and slim playoff hopes were scattered around the arena silently pulling for the Matt Hames rink (6-2) to overcome Mike Farbelow’s team (5-3). Meanwhile the Pete Fenson and Matt Stevens teams (6-3) were sitting with their playoff spots secured but waiting to see who and when they would next play.
Farbelow (Minneapolis), who missed a game-winning shot in the 10th end by about an inch, essentially decided everyone’s fate with a terrific hit-and-roll to cover the button on his first stone in the extra end. The only thing Hames (Buffalo, N.Y.) could do with his team’s final throw was to try to tap Farbelow’s shot back enough and hang around for first count, a near impossibility given the clutter out front.
“There wasn’t much he could do,” said Farbelow. “He had a very slight chance.”
When Hames’ stone slid harmlessly by, Team Farbelow claimed a 5-3 win and the three 5-4 teams headed for the exits. One round of tiebreakers is still needed to determine who gets the coveted 1-2 seeds in the Page Playoff system, however, as all four men’s qualifiers have identical 6-3 records. The tiebreaker games are set for 8 o’clock tonight, with Farbelow and Hames in a rematch, and Fenson and Stevens pairing up. The winners of these games will become the #1 and #2 seeds in the playoffs, set for noon Friday. In the Page system, the winner of the 1-2 game advances to the final, while the loser plays the winner of the 3-4 game, with that victor going to the final and the loser taking home the bronze medal.
“It was a battle,” Farbelow said in summing up the first faceoff with Hames today. “They were all over us the first four or five ends.” The game was tied 1-1 after five ends, with three of those ends blanked.
“That’s not usually my type of game,” said Farbelow. “I usually like to have a lot of rocks around. But we just didn’t have good control of our draw weight, so we decided to be patient and wait for our opportunities.”
Hames tried to get something going behind a single corner guard in the sixth. Farbelow made a perfect freeze to a pocket of stones with his last shot, however, forcing Hames to draw the button for one. He came up short, and Farbelow stole one.
Hames gave up another steal in the eighth, and was held to a draw for one in the ninth end. But in the 10th, Hames made a long runback to remove an opposing stone from the button and sit counting two on top of the four-foot. Farbelow needed to draw a piece of the button to win, but his stone just nicked one of the red rocks in the house and was relegated to second count by about an inch.
“It would have been nice to win there, but the key was to cut him down from two,” said Farbelow.
Elsewhere, Matt Stevens and his teammates from Bemidji, Minn., preserved some energy for the rounds to come with a 10-2 win in six ends over the team led by Blake Morton (McFarland, Wis.). The Bemidji crew had a 5-2 lead after four ends and broke the game open with a steal of four in the fifth.
The Pete Fenson and Kevin Kakela teams were in a tight game for most of the way, too, with Fenson up 3-1 after three frames and Kakela leading 4-3 after five, after Fenson rolled out on a hit-and-stick to give up a steal of one. In the seventh, though, Kakela’s draw to the button was slightly over-swept and ended up in the back of the house. Fenson had a chance to pop it out for five, but didn’t move it quite enough and settled for three. When Kakela came up short of the house on a draw against two in the eighth, his team conceded, making the final score 8-4.
The Craig Brown team from Madison, Wis., did its part to keep playoff fires burning by taking down the Wes Johnson team, 9-3. Johnson (Snohomish, Wash.) was under pressure several times, having to draw for one against four counters in the seventh, to make the score 5-3. But Brown easily picked out a lonely opposing stone in the eighth to score four, at which point Johnson’s team shook hands.
The game between teams skipped by Todd Birr (Mankato, Minn.) and Bryan Wight (Canandaigua, N.Y.) lasted only to the fifth-end break, with Birr walking off with a 3-2 victory in a contest that had no bearing on the playoffs. Birr finished the championships at 4-5, while Wight was 1-8.
Game scores, men, 8 a.m.: Stevens 10, Morton 2; Birr 2, Wight 2; Fenson 8, Kakela 4; Brown 9, Johnson 3;
Pete Fenson 6-3
Matt Hames 6-3
Mike Farbelow 6-3
Matt Stevens 6-3
Craig Brown 5-4
Wes Johnson 5-4
Todd Birr 4-5
Kevin Kakela 3-6
Blake Morton 3-6
Bryan Wight 1-8
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,
, 608-338-9900 (cell), 715-344-1199, Ext. 202 (office)