Wednesday, February 17, 2010
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American men's curlers fall to 0-2 on 1st day

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[February 17, 2010]  VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The Americans' chances for a men's curling medal took a big hit with a pair of heartbreaking losses on the first day of the Olympic tournament.

Though they would beg to differ.

"It just puts a lot more pressure on us," U.S. second Jeff Isaacson said. "We can't cough up any more games. It's Day 1 -- we're not out of this."

Skip John Shuster's final shot was slightly too hard and slid past its target, allowing Norway to steal a point in the extra 11th end for a 6-5 victory Tuesday night and sending the Americans to 0-2 after an earlier 7-5 loss to Germany.

While the consensus is that three losses might be too many to reach the semifinals, the Americans remain confident they will rebound and advance.

"We have seven games left. We know we can go 6-1 or 5-2," vice skip Jason Smith said. "We're not too concerned about our chances. It's just tough. Curling comes down to inches, and 4 or 5 less on that one, we win the game."


Thomas Ulsrud's Norway team bounced back to salvage a split following their emotional morning loss to favored Canada. The trendsetting Norwegians -- sporting their funky, diamond-print pants yet again -- lost that one 7-6 in an extra end with the home Canadian crowd going wild the entire time.

"We played two tough games today," Ulsrud said. "To lose them both would be terrible, a bad start to the week for us."

Shuster had put his team ahead after the ninth end on a clutch deuce, but Norway evened the match at 5 on the final stone of the 10th to force another end.

"That was tough. You hate to lose that way," Isaacson said. "But that was one of the funnest ones we've played. We made big shots, the crowd was great."

While the Americans realize full well they've dug themselves a deep hole, U.S. lead John Benton is confident they can turn things around in a hurry. Next up is a match with Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon.

Shuster acknowledged the Americans must be near-perfect from now on.

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"Oh yeah," he said. "We've had our backs against the wall before."

In the opener, Shuster and the rest of his foursome had plenty of chances, but the Americans failed to follow through against the experienced Germans.

German skip Andy Kapp never even had to release his final rock. He took out two U.S. stones with his next-to-last throw to secure the victory. The shot-making by Shuster & Co. wasn't nearly as spot on. Shuster liked his shot selection -- the rock just didn't curl the way he hoped.

While the Americans had their share of red, white and blue supporters in the stands at the 5,600-seat Vancouver Olympic Centre, it was the home fans who rocked this house.

Cowbells clanged and feet stomped as skip Kevin Martin and the favored Canadians had to go the distance to hold off Norway. Canada later improved to 2-0 by beating Germany 9-4 at night.

The Americans and Germans played an aggressive third end, with a combined nine rocks in the house at one point. But the U.S. foursome failed to come away with a point as Germany got two for a 3-1 lead. They evened it in the fourth with a deuce. Shuster's throw to close the sixth end went to official measurement, but Germany was closer to button and took a 5-3 lead.

The Americans plan to maintain their easygoing demeanor even after their rough start. Shuster was the only player in the morning matches sporting a baseball cap, and he bumped fists with teammates and seemed plenty loose before the first rock was thrown.

They don't plan to change their approach now.

Elsewhere, Britain, the 2009 world champion and Canada's top rival, was upset in its opener. David Murdoch's team lost 6-4 to Sweden. Switzerland held off Denmark 6-5.

[Associated Press; By JANIE McCAULEY]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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