Sharp-shooting Shuster delights Omaha crowd
United States top men's Group A and Team Edin lead Group B after day three
John Shuster put United States in command of men’s Group A in spectacular fashion on day three of the Curling World Cup second leg in Omaha.
On a day of only four men’s matches, the Olympic champions won a dramatic game with China’s Team Zou Qiang which they had looked like losing for most of the contest.
Elsewhere, Scotland won another superb tussle against Team Jason Gunnlaugson of Canada which also went down to the final shot. Team Edin went clear at the top of Group B on nine points by comfortably beating Japan 7-2, while there was yet more last-stone drama as Switzerland's Team Yannick Schwaller edged out Team Thomas Ulsrud 6-5.
In the day's second session, Shuster were down 4-1 at the halfway point, and remained 5-3 behind with one end remaining, before a dramatic last two stones. China drew their final shot just behind the button but Shuster’s deadly accurate take-out shot earned three and the victory to the delight of an ecstatic crowd.
"We got down big early and they were making all kinds of shots,” Shuster said. “We just had to keep grinding away. They missed a draw for two in the sixth end, and we worked a blank in the seventh end. With the five-rock rule it gave us a good chance to get two and an outside chance to get three and win it without a shoot-out."
It has been a hectic year for Shuster’s team since they burst to international fame by taking gold medals at the Winter Olympics in February. He reflected: “Our lives have all been insanely busy, but it's good busy, getting a chance to go out and share our story and introduce people to curling who only have casual knowledge of it. It's been a lot of fun. The tricky part has been finding time to curl!"
With two games remaining, Shuster's rink now top Group A on nine points, ahead of Korea and Scotland on six. On their chances of making Sunday’s final, Shuster added: "You can't be too confident when you have two teams in the world's top 10 ahead of us, but we know that now we're in control of our own destiny. We've got to go out and get two wins tomorrow to make the final.”
Across the ice from the amazing conclusion to Shuster’s game, there was more drama as Team Mouat beat Team Gunnlaugson in another game which went to the final stone.
With Scotland leading 6-5, Canada had the hammer and three stones surrounding the button. Mouat rolled up for a freeze with his last shot before a power-packed runback by Gunnlaugson failed to remove the shot stone.
"Tense is one way of describing it!” said Mouat. “The position we're in with two losses and one win means we needed to probably steal that last end. Jason played an amazing double runback but unfortunately for them it didn't come off. That's our gain and we're going to try and win the next two and have a shoot-off to go through."
Gunnlaugson added: “It was a really, really good game. We got down to the wire and had a good chance to win and unfortunately he made the perfect shot and we almost made the perfect shot to counter him. We’re doing a lot of the right things, we just need a little bit better execution.”
In the day’s third session, there were contrasting victories for Swedish world champions Team Edin and and Switzerland’s Team Schwaller.
Sweden established an early grip on their match with Japan’s Team Yuta Matsumura with steals of one and two in the first two ends. A three before the break gave them a 5-1 advantage and Japan offered a handshake with two ends remaining to concede a 7-2 defeat.
That win puts Team Edin alone at the top of Group B on nine points, with Switzerland’s Team Schwaller beating Team Ulsrud in a tight contest to leave both sides on six, above Japan on three.
Schwaller exerted pressure from the beginning with two early steals of one, and heading into the eighth end they were 6-4 ahead. Ulsrud had the hammer and a glimmer of a chance of forcing a shoot-out, but they could only grab a single point with their last-shot runback.
Schwaller said: “We knew already that we’d have to win our last three games to come on top, so that’s one down. We’ll go and talk with the coach about it and how we’re going to approach it tomorrow. Our performance is getting better and better so we’ll keep that up, hopefully.
“It’s a lovely arena here, there has been some really nice work from the organising committee. We’re loving it out here.”