The Minnesota 2 rink showed why they are the top-ranked junior team in the nation Friday afternoon with a 9-1 win over Minnesota 1 in the Junior National Championships at the Bemidji Curling Club.
The loss put Minnesota 1 in the semifinal on Friday night against Washington, 5-3 winners over Massachusetts.
The semifinal match went right down to the wire, with Bemidji's Trevor Andrews stealing one to force an extra-end.
"It was tight-knit match the whole way," said Andrews. "But we got some momentum stealing that last point. We tried to do some of the same things, but it came down to a tough assortment of shots and I missed my last one. My only hope was a lucky kick."
"My lead threw two pistols," said Washington's skip Sean Beighton. "So we had the four-foot guarded. That made both the shots he had very difficult. Now we got the Minnesota 2 team; win and we go to Switzerland. Lose and I'm done with juniors." Beighton will be too old.
"It just came down to who made less mistakes," added Andrews. "We're still proud to medal, though." They earned Bronze.
The tight match overshadowed the afternoon Page play-off, which Minnesota 2 won handily. "We we're all just really loose and relaxed," said Aaron Wald skip of Minnesota 2. "We're curling great right now."
The match drew a big crowd, as the bleachers filled with people to see the hometown team. The entire Andrews rink, Aaron Tasa, Nic Wagner and Mark Fenner, are from Bemidji.
The Wald rink, including Bemidji's Josh Bahr, are from nearby Hibbing and Chisholm. "We notice the crowd," said Tasa. "But you don't let it affect you. It's no where near as big as it will be for Worlds.
The Wald four jumped out to an early 5-0 lead before Andrews finally got on the board with a single in the fourth. "We were down by five already, we needed to get on the board" said Andrews who drew for one.
The start played out exactly opposite of Tuesdays match-up between these two rinks when Andrews scored three and stole one to start, then went on to win 8-3.
This time it was Wald that started with three and then stole one.
"It was just like they did to us," he said. "We were pretty tight going into the game that last time," said Tim Muller coach of the Minnesota 2 team. "I think we wanted it more than we needed it, so it kind of fell apart."
Up 5-1 the Wald rink kept the pressure on, scoring another three-ender to go up 8-1 at the five-end break.
"Keep it simple," said Bahr of the conversation during the break. "Make sure we play relaxed and enjoy it."
The sixth was more of the same. Andrews had hammer and was left with an easy take-out for two. Instead his rock slid through the house, giving Wald one, and the match.
"I don't know," said Andrews summing up the miss. "Even if I make that shot we probably don't win, it was just indicative of how the match went."
The win puts Minnesota 2 in the Championship match. "Which was our goal coming into the tournament," said Bahr.
The Bemidji four moved to the semifinal's against Washington's Sean Beighton. "We're upset now, but in the end we'll look back and be satisfied with how nationals went."
The Beighton rink earned their spot in the semifinal match with a 5-3 win over Massachusetts' Stephen Dropkin. Tied 1-1 at the fifth-end break, Beighton scored two and stole two, then hung on for the win. "It was a slow start, said Beighton. "We just had to wait and be patient. They kicked our butt's earlier so it was nice to get them back."
In the Women's division, defending champ Minnesota's Alex Carlson won the 1-2 Page play-off and will play in the Championship at 1:30 p.m. today.
Wisconsin and North Dakota will play at 9 a.m. with the winner moving to the Championship. The Loser will earn bronze.