With the USA Curling Nationals reaching the halfway point of round-robin play, some stories have come to the fore. On the men’s side, the 1-3 start by Year-To-Date points leader Heath McCormick has put the team’s playoff chances in peril. Meanwhile, Team John Shuster is 4-0 and showing that their improvement over the past three months is no fluke. For the women, the 3-0 start by Cassie Potter has given her team a leg up towards the playoffs while Jamie Sinclair is also at 3-0 ahead of matches against the other Team USA rinks today.
Let’s look back at the three things I mentioned in my Nationals preview on how to win the title and see how the teams are doing:
- Form. Shuster and Potter were on good form heading into Everett and that doesn’t seem to be fading. On the other hand, McCormick’s team has slipped a little since the start of the year, beginning with a three-and-out at the Canadian Open and continuing with a quarterfinal appearance at the Golden Wrench in Phoenix. Something seems to be off and hopefully they can right the ship today with wins against a pair of down-table teams.
- Luck. Luck on the ice is well and good, but the luck of the schedule seems to be playing itself out. Sinclair’s 3-0 has come against the bottom half of the table and now she will go on a gauntlet of matches today and tomorrow against Cory Christensen, Nina Roth, and Potter. Potter, on the other hand, has gotten over a pair of hurdles in her first three matches (a top-three win and a nervy match-up against Jessica Schultz in the opening draw) and has a less-daunting pair of fixtures today before closing against Sinclair and Roth. Christensen’s match with Sinclair wraps up her battles with the top half in the round-robin and she closes with three matches against teams in the bottom half of the standings. McCormick has four of his last five matches against teams with a collective 5-11 record (2-7 against the foursome of Shuster, Craig Brown, Brady Clark, and Todd Birr), while Brown will close the round-robin against a pair of teams that are both 1-3 thus far and Shuster finishes off with Clark and Birr (both 3-1).
- NO BAD LOSSES. On the women’s side, there hasn’t been a bad loss to date (8-0 in top-half/bottom-half match-ups), and only two on the men’s side (Pete Fenson over Birr and Hunter Clawson over Brown) in 12 matches. Those two will surely tighten the field as the top half begins playing one another in round-robin, but there is no cause for alarm heading into today’s games.
So who makes the playoffs? For the men, it will be Shuster, Brown, McCormick (they’ll get the ship righted), and the winner of Clark and Birr. The women’s playoff field will be Christensen, Roth, and Potter. Tune into all the action at the USA Nationals site.