USA's Team Persinger skip Rich Ruohonen celebrates with Phil Tilker (Photo by Steve Seixeiro, World Curling Federation) after qualifying for World Championship Playoffs.
By Price Atkinson
LAS VEGAS - Another huge USA Curling deficit and another comeback for the ages.
Miracurl Part II?
After starting the 2018 World Men's Curling Championship with a 1-6 record that included six-straight losses, Team USA has done the unthinkable after looking virtually dead in the water midway thru round-robin play.
Team Persinger led by skip Rich Ruohonen and an unbelievable game from fourth Greg Persinger defeated Switzerland 5-3 tonight, capturing their fifth-straight win and a spot in the playoffs. The Americans will be the No. 6 seed and fight on thanks to "help" from other teams, including Korea which had to beat Russia tonight for Team USA to live to fight another day tomorrow.
"I can say that at 1-6, I couldn't imagine that we were gonna make it back to this point," Persinger said afterward with reality setting in. "I was getting ready to sit out this game because I didn't figure we were going to have a playoff chance. Yeah, it was pretty crazy. We played really well, the team played great tonight."
How big of a comeback is this for Team USA? Earlier in the week relegation was being discussed with North American potentially losing a world championship qualifying spot had the Americans finished last. But then the win over Germany happened and the winning streak is now at five.
Persinger shot 99% perfect for the game, one of three Americans over the 90-percent clip.
"You know it takes away a lot of the sting from earlier in the week," lead Phil Tilker said. "We were pretty much dead and revived and then on life support the whole week since then but we're here."
The way Team Persinger played in winning the 2018 USA Curling Nationals in Fargo last month, a top-six playoff spot was almost a guarantee. But the world stage is different and everyone knows you have to prove it.
"We always wanted to be here, didn't necessarily know if we'd make the 1-2 but going into the week I was pretty confident that we'd make the top six for sure," Tilker said. "Our goal was to be playing on Saturday and now the week that just happened is no longer relevant. We just have to win three games."
Persinger shot 99% perfect for the game, one of three Americans over the 90-percent clip. The game's only deuce came in the second end on Persinger's takeout.
After a few late-game misses early in the week, Persinger has only gotten better every game during the winning streak.
"It was probably my best game of the week.I don't think I missed a shot," Persinger said. "Shoot like that tomorrow, we should win."
Tomorrow will include another dance with No. 3 seeded Team Canada tomorrow morning at 11:30 am (EST). However, Brad Gushue and crew haven't been lighting the ice on fire, losing two of their last three games, which includes a 6-5 loss to Team USA last night.
"I'm hoping for a really good game," Tilker said. "They're a tough team. It's tough to beat them once. It's just as hard to beat them twice. We have to come out, play our game and we'll let the scoreboard take care of itself."
But for tonight it was the fight, determination, and resilience USA Curling teams have shown on the world stage this year. And team Persinger was no different tonight.
"This team - we fight. No matter what, we're always going to fight," Persinger said. "We played good all week and it didn't show most of the week. Here's what happens when the other team doesn't make every single shot against you."