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National curling: Fenson, Pottinger rinks will represent USA at World Championships

PHILADELPHIA -- Pete Fenson captured the USA National men’s curling championship Saturday as the skip from Bemidji and his teammates dominated the Craig Brown rink of Madison, Wis. 9-3 in the Page playoff final.

The playoff win also gave Fenson enough order of merit points to secure the national crown. This season USA Curling officials changed the format for selecting the national champion. In previous years the tournament winner would automatically represent the United States but this season a points-based order of merit was implemented. Points were earned for participation and placement in major curling events throughout the season, including the national meet, and in the men’s division the race was tight. After the Page playoff teams were determined, the team which won the tournament would also claim the points title.

Fenson gave notice early in Saturday’s final that it was ready to do battle.

After stealing a pair in the opening end Fenson was in total command. Brown closed within 2-1 with a solo in the second but Fenson answered with three in the third. Brown tallied one in the fourth but Fenson regained control with two in the fifth and a steal of two in the sixth.

The teams shook hands after Brown managed only a single rock in the seventh end.

Teaming with Fenson were Shawn Rojeski, Joe Polo and Ryan Brunt.

After qualifying for the Page playoffs as the third seed with a 6-3 round-robin record, Fenson won three games. The rink began the playoffs with a 7-4 victory over Brady Clark and in Friday’s late elimination game Fenson stole a point in the 10th end to defeat Heath McCormick 5-4.

Saturday’s outcome was not as dramatic as Fenson cruised from start to finish.

Women’s Division

The Nina Spatola rink of St. Paul won the USA National women’s curling championship tournament Saturday with a 5-4 victory over the Allison Pottinger rink of St. Paul but, based on the order of merit point system, Pottinger will represent the USA at the World Championships which begin March 15 in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Curling on the Pottinger rink is Natalie Nicholson of Bemidji.

Pottinger entered the national tournament among the top teams in terms of merit points and as soon as the rink qualified for the Page playoffs, Pottinger had enough points to win the overall national title regardless of where it finished.

“We came here to win a national championship,” Pottinger told USA Curling officials after Saturday’s game. “It was really important to win the Nationals, and we fell short of our goal. We’re thrilled to be going to the Worlds, but we wanted to cap it off with the national championship.”

The teams were knotted at 4-4 heading into the ninth end and Spatola, who owned the hammer, had a rock in the button. Pottinger had room to slide her final stone into position to become shot rock but her shot came up a little short and Spatola had the win.

USA National Curling

Women’s Championship

Pottinger 001 001 101 0 - 4

Spatola 000 110 020 1 - 5

Note: Spatola wins tournament title. Pottinger will represent USA at World Championships March 15-23 at Saint John, New Brunswick because of more order of merit points accumulated through the regular season.

Men’s Championship

Brown 010 100 1xx x - 3

Fenson 203 022 0xx x - 9

Note: Fenson wins tournament title and finished season with the most order of merit points throughout the season. Fenson will represent USA at World Championships March 29-April 6 in Beijing, China.