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Eric Peterson, Published February 19 2011

Fenson just one win shy of another USA curling national championship

Pete Fenson is one victory away from adding to his curling legend.

Fenson skipped his team to an 11-7 victory Friday against Team George at Scheels Arena to advance to the men’s gold-medal match at the USA Curling National Championships.

Fenson is seeking his seventh overall national championship and his fifth serving as skip. The six national titles he already has in hand are a record. Another national championship would make him the men’s second athlete to win five as a skip.

“You’ve got to be in the final to win the final,” said Fenson, who won an Olympic bronze medal in curling in 2006. “That was a big part of our goal to get there and through the 1-2 (seed) game was our preferred path so we’re pretty happy right now.”

Team Fenson has yet to lose at these nationals, posting a 9-0 record in round-robin play prior its playoff victory against Team George.

“I feel like everybody is playing pretty consistently,” Fenson said of his team. “I mean each of us has had an up and down along the way, but consistently we’re playing good. We’re comfortable with the ice, comfortable with the speed, love the arena. We’re just kind of playing along.”

Team George rebounded from its loss against Team Fenson to score a dramatic 8-7 victory against Team Birr in the semifinal.

After losing a 7-1 lead against Birr, Tyler George earned a single point on the final rock of the game.

“The second half of the game was such a disaster, to block that stuff out … after everything that happened was nerve wracking for sure,” said George, from Duluth, Minn. “I managed to pull together to throw one last real good one.”

Team Birr stayed alive earlier in the day with a 9-5 win, in nine ends, against Team McCormick in 3-4 seed matchup of the first round.

Team Fenson and Team George are slated to play at 3 p.m. today for the men’s championship.

“We are going up against Pete once again, old friend, old teammates,” George said. “We are happy that we are there playing against them. I think that whoever wins will be a great representative at the world championships.”

Team Fenson got off to a slow start against Team George in the 1-2 game, falling behind 3-0 through two ends, even though Team Fenson had the hammer in both.

The game turned in the fifth end. George wrecked on a guard on his final stone. That gave Fenson, who had the hammer, an opening. He capitalized, drawing for a four-ender that gave his team a 6-4 lead. Team Fenson never gave up the lead from that point.

“We made some good draws and got some rocks in a good spot,” said Fenson, from Bemidji, Minn. “We made Ty make some choices, got a miss and made them pay. We had a good end and got a mistake or two out of them and were able to pick up the four.”

Team Pottinger earned a spot in the women’s final with an 8-5 semifinal victory against Team Potter. Team Pottinger will play Team Lank, which earned a spot in the gold-medal match with a 6-5 victory against Team Pottinger in Thursday’s 1-2 seed playoff. The women’s final is set for 10 a.m. today.

“It’s a familiar place for us,” said Natalie Nicholson, who is from Bemidji, Minn., and plays for Team Pottinger. “The three of us girls have been in the finals several times.”

Allison Pottinger, Nicole Joraanstad and Nicholson have played together for six seasons. All three were on the 2010 U.S. Olympic women’s curling team. The three also played together on the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 national championship teams. Debbie McCormick served as skip for all four of those titles.

“We get more fine-tuned every game and we get a little bit stronger in everything and smarter,” Nicholson said. “Everyone is throwing it really well.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com