Young Korey Dropkin went for the jugular with the biggest shot of his curling life — and missed.
That was the opening John Shuster needed to keep his hopes of defending his Olympic title in February.
Team Shuster rallied past Dropkin 7-3 to force a third and deciding game Sunday in the U.S. Olympic Trials finals in Omaha.
The women’s finals continue later Saturday (NBCSN and NBCOlympics.com), with Tabitha Peterson‘s favored team up 1-0 over Cory Christensen in their best-of-three series.
CURLING TRIALS: Broadcast Schedule
Dropkin, after cruising to an 8-4 win on Friday, led 2-1 and had the hammer in the sixth end of the second game of the best-of-three series Saturday night. With that last shot, Dropkin had a difficult shot to score five and essentially clinch his first Olympic berth.
But he misfired, allowing Shuster to steal two, take the lead and eventually close it out.
“He could have just drawn for one, and they have a two-point lead and they still have huge control of the game,” Shuster said on NBCSN. “We got, obviously, fortunate there.”
That final shot in the sixth breathed life into team Shuster, which is used to heart-pounding drama. Shuster also rallied from a game down in the 2018 Olympic Trials finals, then in PyeongChang took five consecutive must-wins en route to gold.
Dropkin, 26, was on the team that succumbed to Shuster in the Olympic Trials finals four years ago. He went back to skipping his own team the following season and won his first senior national title in May.
But Shuster wasn’t at those nationals after placing fifth at the world championship the month prior. In fact, Shuster has won every national tournament at which he’s competed dating to 2017.
Dropkin went into Omaha with a 1-4 record against Shuster as skips, with the victory back in 2016, according to Curlingzone.com.
But team Dropkin, the top challenger to Shuster, was the only quartet to challenge the Olympic champs in double round-robin play, forcing an extra end in defeat and then winning 6-1 after Shuster had already clinched the top finals seed.
Now they’re 2-2 against each other in Omaha.
On Sunday, Shuster will either earn his fifth Olympic berth, or Dropkin will become the youngest skip to win an Olympic Trials since 2006 (Shuster’s first Olympics).
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— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) November 21, 2021