FARGO -- When it comes to Olympic Team Trials, John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) only knows how to win. The two-time Olympian began his quest for a third straight Olympic appearance by earning a 10-4 victory Sunday night at Scheels Arena over Washington's Brady Clark rink as the second draw of action at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling concluded.
"It's huge to win your first game because you start out ahead rather than trying to play catch up. It was definitely, I thought, more of a challenge for us out there," Shuster said. "Those guys had a game under their belt so we had to figure out what weights were doing what and that kind of thing. We really struggled early with hitting, but as the game went along we kind of tightened it up."
Bemidji's Pete Fenson rink, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalists, opened with a victory but lost a second match on Sunday. Shuster and his team of Jeff Isaacson (Gilbert, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Duluth, Minn.), and John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.) shot 82 percent as a team to defeat the reigning men's national champions. Clark's team only had a modest 1-0 lead to begin the game as Shuster's rink took control thereafter by limiting their opponents' offense and capitalizing on key mistakes. "He [Clark] flashed three takeouts in those early ends and when you get those breaks you have to try and run with them. As they were creeping back into the game we thought maybe we didn't run far enough but we kept the pressure on and hopefully caught a little break and caught one in the eighth end," said Shuster, 31.
Tyler George's Minnesota rink bounced back from an earlier loss to even their record to 1-1 with a convincing 9-4 win over Fenson. George and teammates Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Rich Ruohonen (Minneapolis, Minn.), and Colin Hufman (Seattle) took a 4-1 advantage after scoring three points in the fourth end. After Fenson's team was limited to a single in the fifth, George's team settled in and protected the lead. The eighth end quickly turned in favor of Team George as they set themselves up to score four points to seal their first win. "It was kind of a grind. There were a couple mistakes here and there from both teams throughout. The sheet was a little trickier than the one we played earlier today, but I thought we made good adjustments throughout the game, made big shots when we needed to and it wasn't one of those games where everyone was going to put up 95 percent and goes down the wire. It was a matter of who was going to make a big shot at the right time," George said after the win.
The third draw of the men's first round robin is set for 12 p.m. Monday. The women's competition gets under way at 7 p.m. Monday.