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Pete Fenson rink tops Shuster 5-4 in 11 ends, evens Olympic Trial series 1-1

FARGO — The Pete Fenson rink of Bemidji, which represented the United States in the 2006 Olympics, held on to live another day at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials with a 5-4, extra end win over two-time Olympian John Shuster Saturday at Scheels Arena.

Facing elimination in the best-of-three playoff, Fenson’s team forced an extra end and sealed their win with a takeout with the final stone.

Shuster won Friday’s first game in the series 9-8, also in 11 ends. The rubber game will be played at 2 p.m. today.

In Saturday night’s women’s division final series Erika Brown drew to the four-foot with the hammer in the 10th end and captured the Olympics Trials title with an 8-7 victory over Allison Pottinger. Brown won the best-of-three series 2-0.

Among the curlers on the Pottinger rink was Natalie Nicholson of Bemidji.

“Yeah, it’s two great teams ... pretty evenly matched teams. Both playing well on real good ice, and I would have liked to have won the first one to see if we could have swept, but no surprise here for me,” Fenson said about the men’s playoff going to a third game.

The winning men’s team from the Olympic Team Trials will move on to represent the U.S. at the Olympic qualification event Dec. 10-15 in Fussen, Germany. The event will include teams representing eight countries and the top two will advance to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in February.

“We need to do a little bit better in the early ends. We were super fortunate to be in the game after the eighth end,” Shuster said. “That was an absolute disaster of an end. Luckily, my last shot worked out to just give them a steal of one. Tomorrow we are going to have to be a little sharper all the way through the lineup.”

The Shuster rink had a chance to win the game in the latter ends. “One down with the hammer coming home, is a good situation,” Shuster said. “We kind of had squandered a chance ... we had three in there in the ninth and squandered that and got a blank, but were fine with that. Had a couple chances in the 10th, but really put the heat on him. He made a great shot on the first one. We were just a tiny bit not quite as sharp as we needed to be.”

Fenson and teammates Shawn Rojeski, Joe Polo and Ryan Brunt struck first as Fenson was forced to make a double takeout for a single point in the opening end.

In the second end, Team Fenson didn’t get their stone buried far enough behind the corner guard and Shuster used his first rock to clear both out and leave three of his in the rings in scoring position. Fenson used his final stone to double them out, setting up Shuster and teammates Jeff Isaacson Jared Zezel and John Landsteiner with a draw for two.

In the third end, Team Fenson had a chance to set up a deuce after getting a stone behind the center guard early but a few half shots by the team gave the Shuster rink the advantage. As the end unfolded, the Fenson rink had a chance for two but his stone rolled out of second scoring position after the takeout was made.

The teams exchanged singles over the next two ends and blanked the two thereafter.

As the eighth end unfurled, seven rocks were behind the tee-line by the time vice skip stones were played. Rojeski covered the button with a perfect draw behind the center guard to weld it to the other Fenson stone. Isaacson missed the runback, just moving the top Fenson stone over into the four-foot.

Rojeski’s second stone was a little lighter and over-curled, landing as a guard rather than the intended freeze to cover the button again. Isaacson’s second stone rolled into the four foot but Fenson was still shot rock plus one more.

The 2006 Olympic skip then covered the button with his first stone. Shuster played the hit and roll but it didn’t roll far enough to be in scoring position. Fenson used his final stone to freeze to his rock on the button, leaving Shuster to play a double takeout to escape with just giving up a single steal to Fenson.

In the ninth end, Team Shuster got rocks positioned in their favor early on, thanks to a double takeout by Zezel. Back-to-back double takeouts by Rojeski and Fenson turned the end from a chance for Team Shuster to score multiple points down to a blank.

The 10th end was going Team Shuster’s way for the necessary deuce until Isaacson’s first stone - a come-around draw into the four-foot behind the center guard - was heavy and gave Fenson’s rink an opening. That allowed Rojeski to remove the Shuster stone in the top of the house and eliminate the opportunity to score multiple points.

In the extra end, Fenson’s team kept the rings relatively open and the veteran skip sealed the win with a takeout.

“No problem. We have been through it a lot of times,” Fenson said. “Like I said, my team handles these big games really well. I never worry about them. I know they are going to show up, I know they are going to be relaxed. They almost always play great,” Fenson said about tomorrow’s game.

*Pete Fenson 101 010 010 01 - 5

John Shuster 020 100 000 10 - 4

*last rock in first end