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Fenson, Pottinger rinks drop openers in championship series of U.S. Olympic Trials

FARGO — If the Pete Fenson rink of Bemidji and the Allison Pottinger rink of St. Paul are to win the U.S. Olympic Trials Curling championships at Scheels Arena they will have to do it the hard way.

In Friday’s opening game of the men’s and women’s best-of-three championship series, both rinks lost. Fenson rallied from an 8-3 deficit with two in the eighth, a steal of two in the ninth and a steal of one in the 10th but John Shuster of Duluth used a takeout with the hammer in the 11th end to escape 9-8.

The second game of the series will be played at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. If a third game is necessary it will be played at 11 a.m. Sunday.

In the women’s championship series, Erika Brown of Wisconsin forged a 3-2 advantage after six ends and took control with three in the seventh on way to a 7-4 victory over Pottinger.

The Pottinger rink, which includes Natalie Nicholson of Bemidji, scored two in the eighth but Brown answered with one in the ninth. Brown kept the house clean in the 10th end to preserve the win.

Pottinger and Brown will continue their series 7 p.m. Saturday. A rubber game, if needed will be 2 p.m. Sunday.

Shuster used the hammer to score two in the opening end of the men’s championship series but Fenson countered with a pair in the second end.

Shuster regained the lead with a single in the fourth but Fenson answered again, this time with one in the fifth.

The tide turned in the sixth end as Shuster scored four. A steal of one in the seventh gave the Duluth rink a seemingly invincible 8-3 advantage but Fenson battled back with a pair in the eighth, a steal of two in the ninth and another solo steal in the 10th.

In the 11th end Fenson tried to curl around a pair of guards and bury his final shot in the four-foot and, for the most part, he was successful. But a piece of the stone was vulnerable and Shuster, who had second stone in the left corner of the house, was able to make contact with the hammer and complete the takeout of Fenson’s rock.

“That’s the key, stay in the game as long as we can, make as many shots as we can despite the score,” Fenson said of his team’s comeback from the 8-3 deficit. “The score dictates what we are going to do but, mentally, it’s important to just hang in there and our guys did a good job.

“The comeback was big … some momentum at the end of the game. We didn’t start real good but we ended good. So we are going to bring that in tomorrow and, hopefully, use it to our advantage,” Fenson added.

The seventh end proved to be the difference in the women’s game as Brown increased a 3-2 lead to 6-2 by scoring three in the frame with a double-takeout on the final shot.

Brown owned the hammer at the start and bolted to a 2-0 lead with a pair in the first end. Pottinger scored one in the second but Brown matched that with one in the third.

Pottinger cut the deficit to 3-2 with a single in the fifth and, after Brown scored three in the seventh, Pottinger made things interesting with two in the eighth.

Once again, however, Brown answered, this time with one in the ninth

Nicholson played very well as the second, shooting at 91 percent.

U.S. Olympic Trials

Championship Series (best-of-three)

Women’s Division

Friday’s Game

Brown 201 000 301 x - 7

Pottinger 010 010 020 x - 4

Brown leads series 1-0

Saturday’s game: Pottinger vs. Brown, 7 p.m.

Sunday’s game: Pottinger vs. Brown, 2 p.m., if necessary

Men’s Division

Friday’s Game

Shuster 200 104 100 01 - 9

Fenson 020 010 022 10 - 8

Shuster leads series 1-0

Saturday’s game: Fenson vs. Shuster, 2:30 p.m.

Sunday’s game: Fenson vs. Shuster, 11 a.m., if necessary

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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