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Team USA bounces back into win column at World Curling Championships

Canada skip Jeff Stoughton, left, keeps his eye on U.S. skip Pete Fenson as he calls a shot during the men's world curling championships in Regina, Saskatchewan, Monday. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

Team USA's four-game losing skid came to a halt this morning courtesy of a big fourth end that propelled the Americans to their second win of the round robin at the 2011 Ford World Men's Curling Championship at the Brandt Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Pete Fenson (Bemidji) and his team of Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm), Joe Polo (Duluth) and Ryan Brunt (Bemidji) scored five points in the fourth end against Jiri Snitil and the Czech Republic men to help them prosper in an 8-4 victory. Next up will be the struggling Norwegians, who lost this morning to Switzerland, and have been playing uncharacteristic this week. That match is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. today MT.

With the win, Fenson and the boys improve to 2-4 in the standings, which equates to a five-way tie for sixth place at the moment.

"We played well. We've been trying to do that the whole time, and finally we got some offense going. We hadn't been able to do that quite yet so we got that nice five-ender in the fourth. That gets us into the kind of game we like to play with Shawn and Joe just smashing the whole time," said Brunt, who is playing in his first world championship. "We gotta win out, so we gotta keep playing well, and go out there and win. We're starting to be a little more precise with our shots and doing a little better out there."

Monday night's last-rock loss to Canada stung the Americans but was a good launching pad for a victory this morning.

"We kinda went to school on it and drew from what we did well and tried to bring it out here today and do it well again...and I thought we did," said Fenson, who shot 82 percent in this morning's win. "We're playing better, and we gotta keep stepping it up a little bit every game."

After the U.S. stole a point in the opening end, the Czechs had two stones nearly frozen to one another near the button in the second end as Fenson threw his second stone. He was able to double them out, leaving Snitil to simply remove the remaining U.S. rock hanging off the back of the house to blank the end. However, he nosed it and the Czechs forced themselves to accept a point. The Americans would give back a point in the third end when Fenson's final takeout jammed.

In the fourth end, the U.S. had two rocks positioned above the tee-line behind guards. The Czechs tried to remove them but with Martin Snitil's second stone, he inadvertently moved a third U.S. rock, which had been a guard, into the house. Rojeski drew in a fourth rock and the U.S. was poised for a big end. The elder Snitil brother then erred as well in this end as his final freeze attempt over-curled and left Fenson with a takeout for five points.

After holding the Czechs to a single in the fifth, the U.S. scored two more as Fenson's sweepers just squeaked past a corner guard to remove the buried Czech rock in the side of the eight-foot to extend the lead to 8-3. The Czechs could only muster a single in the seventh and offered the handshake to end the match thereafter.

Team USA's remaining opponents include Norway (2-4), Korea (1-4), China (2-4), Scotland (6-0) and France (4-1).

"Four is too many," Fenson said about the number of losses Team USA has. "Last year 7-4, I don't know if that was in, but you know in 2005 we were 8-3 and in a six-way tie for first so we don't want any more [losses]."

Fenson put up a valiant fight with unbeaten Canada but couldn't survive in a 5-3 loss Monday night to Jeff Stoughton's rink.

Fenson had the game tied and the last-rock advantage in hand but didn't execute well enough in the final two ends to defeat their neighbors to the north.

"We got what we were bargaining for. They played great, and we played great for awhile. We swept a couple of draws there and had a little trouble with the speed on a couple of freezes coming home and paid for it," Fenson said.

The loss was the fourth straight for Team USA. Fenson's play kept the U.S. in the game but his final shots were seemingly over-swept as Canada stole points in the final two ends to win.

"We played good tonight for the most part. We made a few mistakes, but you know, we're playing better, and that looks good for us," Fenson said. "We just have to have a little better rock placement. When we get around the guards they need to be in the right spot, and we had a little bit of trouble with that tonight, and that was probably the difference."

Stoughton, 47, is seeking his second world title after winning gold in 1996. The Manitoban stood tall throughout the match as the two veteran skips battled back and forth throughout the game.

"He made 10 run-backs probably; Pete played awesome and made some great doubles," Stoughton said of his opponent. "We were not perfect, but made some big shots when it counted. All of us had good draw-weight. We forced them and got lucky in nine and 10."

Stoughton, in fact, was shooting 100 percent up until late in the eighth end. Fenson shot 80 percent in the loss.

It was a bit of a pitcher's duel tonight as the U.S. continually forced Canada to blank ends. The first end turned fortuitous for the Americans as Fenson made the hit and rolled behind a corner guard to lie two, eventually leading to a second takeout for the deuce. That was the first deuce since Sunday morning's second end in the match versus Switzerland. But, unfortunately, it would be the only one the Americans were able to supply.

Canada capitalized for a deuce as well in the third end after Rojeski's second stone wrecked on a corner guard as he attempted to freeze his stone to the Canadian rock hanging off the four-foot. Fenson converted a double takeout with his first rock. He then narrowly missed a second double, which set Stoughton up for the draw for two.

Fenson drew through two stones in the four-foot for a single in the fourth end and then applied pressure to the Canadians for four straight ends. Fenson made a double takeout to put a halt to Canada's deuce hopes in the fifth end. As the sixth end unfolded, the Americans put two stones behind the guards until Canadian vice skip Jon Mead doubled them out but the end resulted in a blank. The U.S. pressured Canada in the seventh end as well and U.S. looked to have the force of one in play until Mead once again made the double takeout.

The U.S. employed a similar strategy in the eighth end as Brunt stuck a stone in the four-foot behind the center guard. Things were going well for the U.S. until Rojeski's first stone when he removed the U.S. shot rock that was frozen to the Canadian rock, leaving Canada with shot rock. However, when Mead rolled out on his takeout attempt, Fenson was able to grab back control of the end. Stoughton's 100 percent shooting output was laid to rest on the next shot when he made the takeout and rolled out. Canada was eventually forced to one and finally relinquished the hammer.

Rojeski made a raise takeout with his second stone to remove the Canadian stone that was buried in the four-foot since the start of the ninth end. Stoughton, however, answered with a come-around draw to re-position the Canadians. Fenson used his first bullet to raise that rock out with Stoughton once again drawing around behind the guard to rest in the side of the four-foot. The Americans were forced to draw for a single but Fenson's stone slipped to the back of the four-foot and out of count. With the last rock in hand in the 10th end, Canada outplayed the U.S. and Fenson's final shot was again seemingly over-swept and allowed Canada to steal the win and remain undefeated. "The last shot was just one of those things we were expecting to play an extra end," Stoughton said.

Up next for the Americans on Tuesday, as they continue a stretch of four straight matches, is the Czech Republic (2-3) at 8:30 a.m. followed by Norway (2-3) at 1:30 p.m. as the round robin meets the halfway point. Canada and Scotland remain on top at 5-0 followed by the surprising France team at 4-1. Sweden and Switzerland are chasing with 3-2 records.