The Trevor Andrews rink moved into a tie for first place Tuesday with a decisive 8-3 win over Hibbing's Aaron Wald in the Junior National Championships at the Bemidji Curling Club.
Fighting to represent the United States at the World Junior Curling Championship in Switzerland, the Bemidji rink marched toward that goal.
Three games remain in the round-robin portion of the event. Two more draws are scheduled today, with the final draw on Thursday. The top four teams in the men's and women's standings advance to the playoffs starting Friday.
Andrews, one game behind previously unbeaten Wald, used the hammer to jump out to an early lead. The Bemidji foursome scored three in the first and stole one in the second for an early 4-0 lead.
It was an important start for the locals as Wald was looking to avenge a 4-3 loss to Andrews earlier this season at the state championships.
The Wald rink, featuring Bemidji's Josh Bahr, came in as the top-ranked ranked junior team in the nation, but the loss at state made them the Minnesota 2 team. Minnesota 1, featuring Bemidji's Mark Fenner, Nic Wagner, Aaron Tasa and Andrews, was seeded fifth.
"Jumping out with three right away really gave us some confidence," said Tasa. "It gave us more of a boost to keep up our good curling."
"We started hot," added Andrews. "But Wald kind of struggled. I know he can play a better match than that."
Up 4-1 after three ends, Wald failed to clear out the back of the four-foot with his last shot, which left Andrews the possibility of scoring two. He connected and went up 6-1.
"We know most of them and have curled against them our whole lives," said Fenner. "So it was friendly game, but you really want to beat those friends at the same time."
"We had some tough shots that we ended up leaving open," said Wald. "We had five good games and now a bad one; that's going to happen. Better now than in the finals."
Tied for first with three draws left, both Minnesota teams are eyeing a spot in the finals.
"It's our first year at nationals," said Tasa. "Being in the top four would be huge for us and if we can medal that would be even better."
The Alex Carlson rink of Wayzata, Minn., continues to roll through the women's round robin. The defending national champion won twice on Tuesday to remain unbeaten in six games. That's good for a one-game lead over the Becca Hamilton rink of Wisconsin, which won a tough 3-2 decision over Jillian Walker of Massachusetts Tuesday night.