Host Alberta back in win column at Scotties

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That elusive fourth win is in the books … Finally.

Laura Walker and her Alberta rink won’t have to think about it — or answer to it — any more at the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

It’s done and dusted after their 8-3 win over Northwest Territories on Tuesday afternoon in the Calgary curling bubble.

“Yes, it feels good to get our fourth win that’s so elusive that everyone keeps talking about,” said Walker, with a sense of sarcasm aimed at the non-stop conversation over putting behind last year’s four-loss-and-out collapse after three early wins at the Scotties.

“I really felt like (the fourth win) was coming anyways.”

Best that it came Tuesday, though, in the Edmonton rink’s only game of Day 5 at the Canadian women’s championship.

Because a loss to Scotties veteran Kerry Galusha and her NWT crew — now 2-2 — might have set off alarm bells, especially with what’s on deck Wednesday at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre (6:30 p.m., TSN).

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That’s when they measure up against unbeaten Team Canada, the defending champions, in a Pool A draw that could have huge playoff implications.

Heading into Day 6, Canada and Ontario — with three-time Scotties champ Rachel Homan at the helm — both boast unsurprising and perfect 5-0 starts, while Alberta is lined up in behind alone in third at 4-2 but saying there’s no room yet to think about the championship pool.

“We were just looking at our play — there was room for improvement after (Monday’s 4-2 loss to Wild Card 3), and that’s where the focus was (Tuesday),” said Alberta third Kate Cameron. “I don’t think we were necessarily dwelling on the past or putting that in the back of our minds. We just wanted to play better.”

The skip agreed.

“We just need to keep learning like we’re doing,” Walker said. “We’re still not at our highest level of curling yet, and we’re slowly figuring it out. And I think we’re doing a really good job of chatting after our games and being just really honest with each other about what’s happening out there and figuring out how we can make it better.

“And so if we keep doing that every game, even after our wins, then that’s what’s going to put us in the right direction.”

The post-game team chatter Tuesday likely focused on the positives, although it didn’t look all that good for the first half of the draw.

Plenty of stones in play made it hard for either team to gain control — highlighted by a low-percentage triple-raise with the last rock missed by Walker in the fourth, forcing Alberta to settle of one.

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Galusha missed on her chances, too — draw opportunities, though — that kept the team from the Saville Community Sports Centre in it, down just 3-2 heading into the sixth end.

That’s when Alberta took over with a solid end from lead to skip — capped by a strong Walker draw to the eight-foot — to put three on the board and flip the score from one down to two up.

“I think we finally just put eight really good shots together and we were on the right side of things and made their shots really hard,” Walker said. “When you make the other team make hard shots, you often have good things happen.

“Just really good rock placement in that end.”

What followed was a strange eighth, ending with a lengthy measure to see which rock would count. And the result was a rare sight, with both stones ruled as being equal in distance from the centre of the house, marking a blank end.

Really, it was typical of this past year and more proof — coupled with Monday night’s rare pick of Cameron’s rock — that these are strange times in the world.

“Expect the unexpected has been kind of the whole motto of the curling season right now,” Cameron said. “Yes, that pick (Monday) was really unfortunate, but they happen, and it happened against us and happened to us. And that’s the first time seeing a measure that so took long to figure out.”

In the end, the blank eighth worked to Alberta’s advantage, as they put up another two in the ninth before shaking heads and celebrating a fourth win.

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Admittedly, there was some relief in hitting that mark.

“I think so,” Walker said. “We didn’t deserve to win the game that we played (Monday) night (in a 6-4 loss to Wild Card 3). We weren’t sharp enough as a team. I think either team that won that one was going to feel like they escaped with one. So we really wanted to come out and have a good team game (Tuesday), whatever that looked like. And I think we did that.

“We were just a lot sharper and a lot more confident in the ice conditions,” Walker added. “And so that’s just a really big thing for us to carry into (Wednesday).”

tsaelhof@postmedia.com

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