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U.S. Olympic Curling Trials: George and Birr win playoff openers

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Round robin winner Tyler George and defending champion Todd Birr won the opening playoffs Friday at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at Broomfield, Colo.

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George advanced to today's final with his 6-5 decision over John Shuster in the 1-2 match up.

Birr remained alive in the 3-4 match, eliminating Craig Brown 9-6, to face Shuster in the late night semifinal.

The women's championship will begin at 10 a.m. Colorado time and the men's title match at 3.

George, with Bemidji's Mark Haluptzok throwing lead rocks, never trailed but needed one in the 10th end to snap a 5-5 tie.

Birr used two big ends to win.

He scored three in the third to take a 3-1 lead and four in the sixth to break a 3-3 tie.

Brown got two back in the seventh but the pair traded points in the final three ends.

Hibbing's Paul Pustovar, who has curled on many national contenders for several decades, is third on the Birr rink.

Thursday playoffs

The women's playoffs opened Thursday night with Deb McCormick and Patti Lank winning their openers.

McCormick stopped Amy Wright 9-4 in the 1-2 match up while Lank eliminated Erika Brown in the 3-4 match.

That sent Lank against Wright in the semifinal where Lank reversed Thursday's 9-5 loss top the Duluth foursome in the second place tiebreaker with a 6-5 win.

That sent Lank against McCormick in today's opening final.

Lank scored four in the fourth to take a 5-2 lead but saw it shrink to 5-4 when Wright scored once in the fifth and stole one in the sixth.

The McCormick foursome, with Bemidji's Natalie Nicholson as lead, is seeking its fourth straight national title.

McCormick broke a 2-2 tie with a pair in the fourth and stole two in the fifth to lead 6-2. The teams traded singletons the next thee ends before McCormick closed out the match with two more in the ninth.

The champs played well at all four positions all night.

Wright 011-001-010---4

McCormick 200-220-102---9

Brown 010-020-011-0---5

Lank 001-101-200-1---6

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