John Shuster, Matt Hamilton and the U.S. men's curling team are going where the Americans have never gone before: the Olympic gold medal game.
Shuster, the skip from Superior, and McFarland's Hamilton helped the U.S. defeat Canada 5-3 in the semifinals on Thursday in Gangneung, South Korea.
The American team, also featuring Tyler George and John Landsteiner, are guaranteed the country's best Olympic finish and will play Sweden for the gold on Saturday (12:35 a.m. Madison time).
The U.S. lost to Sweden 10-4 last Friday in the round robin part of the tournament and was 2-4 after back-to-back losses to Japan and Norway.
But Shuster has engineered a four-game winning streak that, with Thursday's result, has included two victories over country that won the last three men's Olympic curling titles.
Before a round-robin victory on Monday, the U.S. men had never defeated Canada in the Olympics.
"Knowing the work that we've done together and seeing my teammates being the best versions of themselves along with myself is really, really exhilarating," said Shuster, a four-time Olympian who was part of the country's previous best finish, a bronze medal in 2006.
"Our team has had its back against the wall plenty of times. But come on, it's the Olympics. Who's going to give up? I've had some phenomenal teammates through this whole process and each one of them has played a part in getting us here. We're just ready."
Tied 2-2 in the eighth end Thursday, the U.S. stole two points when Canada skip Kevin Koe's last throw was errant.
An aggressive play by Shuster in the ninth end forced Koe into counting only one point, giving the U.S. a one-point lead and the last shot for the final end. Instead of playing to allow Canada to blank the ninth, Shuster played a freeze onto the lone Canadian stone in the house.
In the 10th, Shuster had to play a hit and stick on a Canadian stone on the button to score one and seal the victory.
It's the first time since 1984 that a U.S. men's team will play for gold at the Olympic or world championship level.
"I don't think there's going to be any more pressure," Hamilton said. "I've never been in this situation before, so I can’t tell you for sure. Any medal is a good medal, and we're going to go out there and play our game and hope for the best."
The Americans outshot Canada 87 percent to 82 percent. Shuster shot 91 percent, and Hamilton was at 89 percent.
The U.S. team that included Eau Claire native Ben Loomis placed last of 10 teams in the men's large hill event.
The competition includes a ski jump and a four-by-5-kilometer cross-country skiing relay. The U.S. was ninth in both categories and finished 5:16.7 behind winner Germany.
Madison-born Joanne Firesteel Reid and the American team finished 13th of 18 teams in the four-by-6-kilometer relay.
The U.S. finished 2:01.9 behind the gold medalists from Belarus.