United States and Sweden set up Olympic re-match in Omaha
Team Shuster and Team Edin set up Sunday showdown at Ralston Arena
Sunday’s men’s final at the Curling World Cup second leg in Omaha will be a repeat of February’s Olympic gold medal match as Team John Shuster and Team Niklas Edin do battle once again.
Team Shuster delighted the home fans at the Ralston Arena on Saturday with another dominant display to conquer Canada’s Team Jason Gunnlaugson 7-3, sealing top spot in Group A by a handsome six-point margin and finishing with a 5/1 record.
After conceding an early steal, the Minnesota natives exerted control with a draw for four in the third end and never let Canada back in the game thereafter.
Going into the game, China were the only team who could have denied Shuster’s rink, but their heavy 9-1 defeat to Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat ensured United States' place in Sunday's showpiece was never in any danger.
Skip Shuster admitted: “We’re playing great. It’s very evident that we’ve done a lot of work together to get to this particular point and I’m just really proud of how the guys are preforming on the ice.
“[Tomorrow’s game] sounds like a lot of fun. That’s something we’ve had a lot of chances to talk about [the Olympic final]. I’m sure Sweden will be really grinding tomorrow to see if they can put one on us.”
Team Edin sealed their final place by virtue of a 7-2 triumph over old rivals Thomas Ulsrud of Norway.
An early steal of one was followed by a three in the fourth end to go 5-1 at the midway point, and Ulsrud offered his hand towards the end of the seventh.
Edin, the three-time world champion who has been nursing multiple injuries in recent months, said: “We played the first World Cup [in Suzhou] going in as favourites but we had a couple of inuries, the ice was really tricky and we just didn’t really play well enough. Here it feels way better.
“The last two or three games have been really dominant performances by us. We’re looking forward to the final.
“It definitely feels like we’re bouncing back. We said in the summer that this might be one of those in-between sorts of seasons for us. We’ve gone really hard for four years getting everyone ready for the Olympics, and had a line-up change. Not winning the final there, we mentally needed a bit of a break but it feels like we’re starting to come back.
“It feels like we’re a solid team who can reach the semi-finals at least in all the events. A few more of those and getting that confidence back I think we’ll start winning events again.”
Team Edin had to return to the ice in Saturday’s evening session for an incidental final group game against Switzerland, in which they wrapped up a rapid 8-4 victory in the seventh end.
Because both United States and Sweden finished the group stage with 15 points, all four members of each team were required to draw to the button to decide whether they or United States would start with the hammer in Sunday's final.
Team Shuster did it earlier, with the average of their best three shots coming out at 48cm. Edin's rink better that comfortably, recording an average of 24.1cm, so they will start the final with the advantage of the hammer in the opening end.
Earlier in the day, United States had earned their fourth victory of the group stage by defeating Scotland 6-5 in a match which went right down to the wire.
Knowing they needed a win inside eight ends to finish top of the group, skip Mouat opted for a hit-and-stick with his final shot rather than a safer draw. It clipped a guard, earned only one and the Scots were eliminated.
In the other early morning men’s matches, Team Gunnlaugson’s morning 10-6 defeat to China confirmed their elimination while Japan’s Team Matsumura beat Swiss rink Team Yannick Schwaller 6-4, only for both teams’ hopes to wither due to Edin’s domination of their group.