Pete Fenson told his teammates to just leave the four-foot open for him in the 10th end during Friday afternoon's National Curling Championship playoff game against Tyler George.
And that's what they did as the defending champions marched into today's 3 p.m. gold-medal match after stopping George 11-7 in the Page 1-2 playoff game at Scheels Arena in Fargo.
Fenson owned an 8-7 lead heading into the 10th end and iced the victory by taking advantage of the open four-foot and scoring three in the final end.
In today's 10 a.m. women's championship, the Allison Pottinger rink, which includes Bemidji curler Natalie Nicholson, will have a rematch with Patti Lank. Friday evening Pottinger edged Cassie Potter 8-5 in the women's semifinals and that victory vaulted Pottinger into today's title game.
Thursday evening Lank downed Pottinger 6-5 in the 1-2 Page playoff round. Pottinger led 4-2 after seven ends but Lank rallied with three in the eighth and posted the winning point in the 10th end.
Fenson, who lives in Bemidji, and teammates Shawn Rojeski of Chisholm, Joe Polo of Duluth and Ryan Brunt of Bemidji are now riding a 10-game win streak.
The George rink will have another shot at Fenson as it defeated Todd Birr's team 8-7 in Friday's late semifinal after Birr led his team to a 9-5 win over Heath McCormick in Friday's Page 3-4 game. Fenson will battle George this afternoon for the title.
"If Pete has his draw weight down, we'll leave the four-foot open for him every time," said Rojeski, who has played with Fenson for nearly 20 years.
After giving up steals in the first two ends, Fenson's team got a more productive end set up in the third to grab a deuce.
"We weren't in our comfort zone at the start," Rojeski said. "The ice changed a bit from practice so we struggled with that early on. We were talking about whether it was the ice or the rocks but once we switched the rocks around, we got more comfortable."
In the fifth end George, who played lead for Fenson last year, wrecked on a guard that led to Fenson drawing for four points as they were trying to cut the defending champions down from scoring a big end.
In the following frame, George tried to draw around the right side of the sheet to the button but left it wide to give Fenson one more point.
Fenson's team continued to control the match, getting three stones in the house behind the tee-line halfway through the seventh. George had a tough shot for two but had to settle for just one to cut the lead to 7-5. After holding Fenson to a single in the eighth end, George earned his deuce but wasn't able to steal the 10th.
Birr advanced to the semifinal game for the second time in three years after winning the title in 2007.
In the women's semifinals Pottinger bolted to a 5-2 lead after six ends but the Potter rink, which includes Bemidji natives Cassie Potter and her sister Jamie Haskell, tied the game with three in the seventh.
Pottinger regained the lead with two in the eighth and, after blanking the ninth end, Pottinger claimed the win with a steal of one in the ninth.
U.S. Curling Championships
Friday's Playoff Results
Fenson over George 11-7 (Fenson advances to championship game)
Birr over McCormick 9-5
George over Birr 8-7
Today's Championship, 3 p.m.
Fenson vs. George
Thursday's Playoff Results
Lank over Pottinger 6-5 (Lank advances to championship game)
Potter over Brown 9-4
Friday's Playoff Result
Pottinger over Potter 8-5
Today's Championship, 10 a.m.
Lank vs. Pottinger