Shawn Rojeski, Joe Polo

Pete Fenson’s rink forces deciding game at U.S. Olympic Curling Trials

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Pete Fenson‘s not done yet in Fargo.

The 2006 Olympic bronze medalist skip and his rink stayed alive at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials with a 5-4 win (in an extra end) over John Shuster‘s rink on Saturday. They’re tied 1-1 in a best-of-three championship series.

The deciding game will be Sunday at noon ET (or 3 p.m. if there is no women’s match) on NBCSN and NBC Live Extra.

On Saturday, Fenson’s rink gave up its 4-3 lead in the 10th and final regulation end, but that allowed it to take the hammer (last shot) in the 11th end, which is a major advantage. Fenson converted on his final throw to earn the winner.

“We had a game plan,” Fenson, a pizza maker who chewed gum while playing, said on NBCSN. “We stuck to the game plan. That last half of the game we wanted to try and force and get the hammer. It came down to 10, and we forced them and had the hammer. … We played pretty tight to the vest and got things to go the way we wanted them to go.”

On Friday, Shuster won the first game 9-8 in an extra end after squandering an 8-3 lead after seven ends. Shuster said he’s learned from the first two games.

“When opportunities present themselves, take advantage of them,” Shuster said. “Try not to give them in turn too many of those opportunities.”

The men’s winner in Fargo is not guaranteed an Olympic berth.

The next step for Sunday’s winner is what’s called the Olympic Qualification Event from Dec. 10-15 in Füssen, Germany, because the U.S. did not qualify for Sochi via results at last two World Championships.

The top two from the Olympic Qualification Event will earn the final spots at the Olympics.

The U.S. is favored to take one of those two spots given it’s the highest-ranked nation in the Olympic Qualification Event field (eighth overall) and has qualified into every Olympic curling tournament since the sport returned to the Games in 1998.

Fenson, 45, skipped the U.S. rink that won bronze at the 2006 Olympics. Shuster was on that rink and then led his own rink to the 2010 Olympics, where he was briefly benched after a poor start.

Video: Mikaela Shiffrin wins slalom, reindeer

No NHL players means more mistakes and goals at Olympics

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Hockey is a game of mistakes and it’s on display in fine form at the Olympics.

It doesn’t look beautiful, of course, with players all outside the NHL turning the puck over for point-blank scoring chances or leaving opponents wide open in front. The talent level is lower, so the risk factors and the entertainment level are up. Goaltenders have to be on their toes for unexpected, game-saving stops even more than usual.

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“It’s a short tournament: A few mistakes can decide your fate,” Finland goaltender Karri Ramo said Saturday. “You try to create more than carry it out of the zone, so obviously teams are trying to keep the puck and create scoring chances, so those mistakes happen. You’re not going to win if you play safe.”

There’s not a whole lot of safe, low-risk play so far, and scoring has increased as a result. After each team played twice, games were averaging 5.1 goals, up from 4.7 in Sochi with NHL players on the rosters.

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Ligety exits quietly, Hirscher brilliant again

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Marcel Hirscher, the Austrian ski god, is finally having his moment. King of the World Cup tour for the past seven seasons, on Sunday Hirscher won his second Olympic gold, in the giant slalom.

Hirscher had won a grand total of no Olympic medals, nada, zip, zero in two prior Games. Now he might — could, should — win three here at PyeongChang. The slalom, another Hirscher specialty, is due to be run Thursday.

To watch Hirscher ski is to watch one of the great athletes of our — or any — time. Like being courtside in Chicago to see Michael Jordan back in the day. At Wimbledon for a Roger Federer volley. At the Water Cube in Beijing in 2008 when Michael Phelps was swimming the butterfly.

In Sunday’s race, Kristoffersen finished second, 1.27 seconds back of Hirscher. Pinturault finished third, 1.31 behind.

American racer Ted Ligety used to own this event: the Sochi 2014 giant slalom gold medalist, he was world champion in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Pinturault took Sochi 2014 bronze.

Considering his relatively low slalom ranking and the pounding that slalom demands, Sunday’s GS was — just like that, that quickly, that quietly — likely the final race of Ligety’s outstanding Olympic career.

“This is probably it for me at these Games,” he said after run two, adding that he is planning to head back to Europe, to race the remainder of the World Cup season.

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