Sochi recap: Curling, day 7

With one day of group play left, Sweden, Canada, China and Britain are in playoff position in each bracket. (Norway is tied with Britain on the men’s side.) The USA is running out the string.

Date: 16-Feb

Sport: Curling

Event: Day 7 of group play, with two men’s sessions and one women’s

How U.S. fared: John Shuster’s men played a back-and-forth thriller with Canada, stealing one in the eighth end for a 6-5 lead. Shuster was poised to limit Canada to a single in the ninth, but his last shot curled more than the one before it to his consternation, and Canada’s Brad Jacobs had a simple draw for two. Down one in the 10th but with the hammer, Shuster erred on his first shot, failing to get his rock near a Canadian rock close to the center. Brad Jacobs expertly froze his next shot at the center as well, leaving Shuster a difficult draw just to force an extra end.

usa-can-curl
Can you fit a rock in the button here? Neither could John Shuster.

Shuster gave it a good run, nudging the Canadian rock and leaving his own rock very close to the button. But Jacobs’ rock was ever so slightly closer, stealing one and taking the 8-6 win.

The schedulemakers gave us a USA-Canada doubleheader. The women’s game seemed like a mismatch — the USA was 1-6 coming in, while Canada was two games away from going unbeaten. But Erika Brown responded from a steal in the second to score three in the third, and the teams battled from there. Canada, its playoff place long secure, played with a bit of reckless abandon and misfired on occasion. Especially in the 10th — Brown left a stone near the button, and Jones’ hammer bumped into it a little short of the win. Tied 6-6, they went to an extra end.

One misplay gave Brown a chance to set up a steal. But her last rock sailed a couple of feet farther than she wanted, to the back of the four-foot circle.

usa-can-women
The red rock closest to the top needed to be in the blue circle in line with the other red rock.

Had she played it to the front, Jones would have needed a double takeout or an extraordinary draw for the win. Instead, she was able to follow the same path as Brown’s last rock, using that U.S. rock as an insurance backstop in case she was too heavy. She didn’t need to be perfect, but she was, winning by a couple of inches.

The U.S. women will play South Korea tomorrow for last place in the round-robin. Will we see alternate Allison Pottinger get some playing time?

John Shuster’s team did just that in the evening session, bringing Craig Brown (Erika’s brother) in place of vice-skip Jeff Isaacson to face Sweden. The tournament leaders scored three in the second end and stole one in the sixth to go up 5-2. Shuster could manage only a couple of singles in response, and Sweden took a 6-4 win.

What happened:

Morning session (men): Sweden moved to 7-1, momentarily ahead of idle China, with an 8-4 win over Russia, which conceded the 10th end.

The biggest game for playoff positioning was Britain (5-2) vs. Norway (3-3). Britain scored two in the ninth to tie the game 6-6 but relinquish the hammer to Norway. Britain couldn’t set up a steal, and Thomas Ulsrud made the simple takeout for the 7-6 win.

Afternoon session (women): Like Spinal Tap, a couple of games went to 11. The USA-Canada was one, and the erratic Swiss team got its second steal of the game in the 10th to take Japan to the extra frame. Japan got it right in the 11th for the 9-7 win.

Sweden-Russia also went down to the wire, with Sweden’s Maria Prytz clinching it on a clutch raise, bumping her stone dead on the button. Sweden had a second rock just a bit closer than Russia’s within the four-foot, good enough to score two and win 5-4.

The other game was all but over by the eighth end. South Korea couldn’t clear the traffic, and Denmark lined up three rocks across the top of the four-foot. Un Chi Gim had nowhere to go with her hammer, giving up three. They traded singles in the last three ends, leaving Denmark up 7-4.

Canada (8-0) and Sweden (6-2) have clinched playoff spots. China and Britain are tied at 4-3, ahead of Switzerland (4-4) and Japan (3-4). Game to watch tomorrow morning: Japan-China.

Evening session (men): The marquee game put China (6-1, second place) against Canada (6-2, third). China’s Liu Rui hit a difficult takeout for three in the fifth and stole one in the sixth when Brad Jacobs uncharacteristically missed an open draw. Canada made up the 6-3 gap by scoring two, stealing one in a complex eighth end, and stealing two more in the ninth. China finally made the hammer count in the 10th to tie it at 8-8, and we went to the extra end. Jacobs missed a double takeout, and China played a decent draw to give Jacobs only half of the button at which to aim.

“I think that’s there,” Jacobs said as he let his final shot go. And it was. Stopped perfectly in place for the 9-8 win.

While first-place Sweden met the USA (see above), other teams were fighting for survival. Denmark stayed afloat with a 6-3 win over Germany, stealing one in the ninth to put the game out of reach.

Norway, which has the loudest pants in sports, played a quiet game against Switzerland. Neither team scored more than a single, and Norway stole one in the seventh by forcing Switzerland to attempt a double takeout. Sven Michel only got one, and Norway had a 4-2 lead. Thomas Ulsrud made the clutch draw for a 5-3 win.

Sweden (8-1) and Canada (7-2) have clinched playoff spots and are coincidentally idle in the final session tomorrow. The game to watch is China (6-2) vs. Britain (5-3), with Norway (5-3) facing eliminated Denmark (3-5).

Full results | Men’s standings | Women’s standings | Recaps with diagrams

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