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USA Junior Nationals Curling: Minnesota moves on to the playoffs

Team Wisconsin 1 members Karlie Koenig, left, releases the rock as Jenna Haag and Grace Gabower prepare to accompany it to the house on Thursday's curling action at the Juniors National Championship. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Both Minnesota teams won Thursday to advance to the Friday's Page playoffs as the top two seeds in the USA Curling Junior National Championships at the Bemidji Curling Club.

The Minnesota 1 rink, featuring Bemidji's Trevor Andrews, Aaron Tasa, Nic Wagner and Mark Fenner, completed their march toward a top seed with a 9-5 win over Blake Morton of Wisconsin.

The Minnesota 2 team with Bemidji's Josh Bahr and Hibbing's Jarad Zezal, John Muller and Aaron Wald had a much tougher match, needing an extra end to defeat the Sean Beighton rink.

That set up a rematch between the two Minnesota teams in today's 2 p.m. Page playoffs. The winner will advance directly to Saturday's 'hampionship, while the loser will play again in the semifinal tonight hoping to win its way into the final.

In the other Page playoff matching the 3-4 seeds, Beighton will face the Stephen Dropkin rink of Massachusetts.

Defending women's cham-pion Alex Carlson of Wayzata had already clinched the top seed before it lost for the first time in round-robin play Thursday afternoon. Wisconsin's Becca Hamilton rink defeated Carlson 6-5.

In the Page playoffs today at 2, Carlson will face Amanda Tucker of Fargo in the 1-2 game and Hamilton will take on Jillian Walker of Massachusetts in the 3-4 game.

Beighton, from Edmonds, Wash., defeated Andrews on Wednesday to secure a three-way tie for first in the men's division.

"The top two seeds are huge," Beighton said afterward. "They're guaranteed to medal."

But the loss to Wald on Thursday morning sent Beighton to the 3-4 game.

Wald took an early lead, scoring two in the second end. That turned out to be the largest lead of the match, though, as Beighton tied it up in the eighth and again in the 10th, but that gave Wald hammer for the extra.

Wald, throwing the red stones, kept peeling away Washington's guards and eventually sat two near the four-foot with a yellow sitting third. Beighton's final attempt to gain shot-rock chipped out his own yellow and left the two reds. Wald never threw his last stone, winning 7-5.

Andrews rebounded from Wednesday's loss to Beighton, in which it only scored three points, by getting three in the first and three more in the third. The 6-2 lead was too much for Morton as Andrews won 9-5.

The two champions will represent the United States at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Flims, Switzerland.