There’s still lots of curling left in the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts but if Ontario’s Rachel Homan does go on to win her fourth championship here she’ll no doubt look back at Thursday afternoon’s win over defending champion Kerri Einarson as a key moment.
The top two teams in the standings met at the Markin MacPhail Arena in Calgary and, while Einarson and Team Canada had the upper hand coming into the game, it was Homan who emerged with it after the last rock stopped sliding.
Homan won 7-4, moving her team into a first-place tie with Einarson at 7-1 as Championship pool play gets underway Friday.
More importantly, it gave Homan the head-to-head tie-breaker, which could be the difference if the two teams remain deadlocked after Saturday’s games. The team with the best record after the championship pool will earn a direct spot in Sunday’s Scotties final, while the second- and third-place teams will have to play in a semifinal.
“It’s obviously very huge for us to be at the top and make sure our records are the same going into the championship round,” said Homan, a three-time Scotties champion and five-time finalist. “There’s a huge battle ahead though in the championship round and there will be tons of good games. Every game is gonna be crucial from now on.”
Homan, who is eight months pregnant, has played remarkably well this week, save for one off game, when her team lost to Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories on Wednesday.
“I don’t think anybody can really say they’re close to the top of their game right now with COVID and the way that we prepared before coming here, but I think we’re firing as well as we can be,” Homan said. “I’m really proud of how the girls are playing.”
Homan and Einarson finished tied atop Pool A and the other two Championship Pool spots went to Beth Peterson, a wild card team from Manitoba and Laura Walker of Alberta, both with 5-3 records.
Peterson started the Scotties with a 1-3 record but has won four games in a row, including a gritty comeback against Galusha Thursday. Peterson trailed 8-5 after eight ends but scored two with the hammer in the ninth, stole one in the 10th and stole another in the extra end for the win.
“Um, I don’t have many words … we’re pretty excited,” said Peterson, a first-timer in the Scotties.
“Our first goal was to make the championship pool, so we’ve done that, put up that check mark and now we can move on to the next goal.
“The girls really held me in there today. I wasn’t my best but my girls were great and brought me back in after a few missed shots. We were able to capitalize in the last two ends. We were pretty much 100%, the last two ends.”
Walker qualified for the Championship Pool for the first time after missing out in her first Scotties appearance last year.
Her team started 3-0 here this week, fell back to 3-2 and wound up battling to a 5-3 mark. The teams at three losses can’t really afford any more, but they’ll still be playing on Friday and Saturday and that’s an achievement in itself.
“Our goal is to stand on top or the podium and to win this event,” Walker said. “We’re not going to be truly satisfied unless that happens. Yes, it’s a bit of a monkey off the back to be into the championship round but we’re not satisfied at this point by any means.”
In Pool B, six-time champion Jennifer Jones, Saskatchewan veteran Sherry Anderson and Quebec’s surprising rookie Laurie St-Georges tied at the top at 6-2 and Tracy Fleury’s wild card team, skipped by Chelsea Carey, came in at 5-3 to advance to the championship pool.
Carey’s team had the bye on Thursday night and they were just happy to have a chance to rest, while everyone else battled it out.
“The timing of the break, we’re really happy with it,” Carey said after an 11-2 win over Sarah Hill of Newfoundland, Thursday morning. “At a normal Scotties, there is no bye because there’s an even number of teams in the pool. So we were really happy with where ours was in the draw. If you have it early in the week, your body is not tired and beat up yet. It worked out as good as it could have for us.
“I don’t know about these guys who are younger than me on my team, but my body could use a little break.”
Jones beat Lori Eddy of Nunavut (0-8) 10-3 Thursday night, while St-Georges was up topped Melissa Adams of New Brunswick (3-5) 9-7 and Anderson beat Hill (2-6) 9-3.
Jones, the most decorated player in the history of the Scotties, got off to a ragged start this year but reeled off four wins in a row, including a 12-3 drubbing of Adams on Thursday morning.
“We’re pretty happy with where we’re at, given that we had a bit of a bumpy start,” Jones said. “We’re pleased we’ve put a few wins together but there’s still a lot of games left and it looks like it’s gonna come down to the wire. We’re gonna have to play well the next few games and, hopefully, just keep getting better.
“We’re feeling really comfortable with the ice. The ice has been outstanding,”
Saskatchewan’s Anderson, 57, is the oldest skip in the field. She’s a two-time world senior women’s champion and she’s showing this week that she still has plenty of game at the Scotties.
“We feel pretty good,” Anderson said. “I mean, after our start, losing our very first game, that we didn’t curl well in and should have easily won, it’s been going OK. We still have some ups and downs that we can iron out.”
After 17 draws
x-Ontario (Homan) 7-1
x-Canada (Einarson) 7-1
x-Wild Card 3 (Peterson) 5-3
x-Alberta (Walker) 5-3
Northwest Territories (Galusha) 4-4
Nova Scotia (Brothers) 3-5
Wild Card 2 (Zacharias) 3-5
Northern Ontario (Burns) 2-6
Yukon (Eby) 0-8
x-Saskatchewan (Anderson) 6-2
x-Manitoba (Jones) 6-2
x-Quebec (St-Georges) 6-2
x-Wild Card 1 (Fleury/Carey) 5-3
P.E.I. (Birt) 4-4
B.C. (Brown) 2-4
New Brunswick (Adams) 3-4
Newfoundland (Hill) 2-6
Nunavut (Eddy) 0-8
x-advanced to championship pool
Manitoba 10, Nunavut 3
B.C. 9, PEI 5
Saskatchewan 9, Newfoundland 3
Quebec 9, New Brunswick 7
Alberta 11, Yukon 1
Peterson 9, Northwest Territories 8 (EE)
Ontario 7, Canada 4
Zacharias 9, Northern Ontario 4
Saskatchewan 8, B.C. 7
Manitoba 12, New Brunswick 3
P.E.I. 10, Nunavut 8
Fleury/Carey 11, Newfoundland 2