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Manitoba escapes close call against Nunavut in Scotties draw three

Alberta also wins to join Einarson at 2-0 in Pool A; Ontario’s Homan wins to lead Pool B
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the rankings are, who is on the ice or even what the shotmaking percentages are.

Sometimes curling just happens at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and you get games like the battle between Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson and Nunavut’s Lori Eddy during Draw 3 at Mosaic Place on Sunday morning.

In the end, it was the top-ranked Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur who came away with a 6-4 victory, but not before enduring one heck of a close call against their northern opponents.

“It definitely wasn’t our best,” said Manitoba second Shannon Birchard. “We weren’t in a ton of trouble in the game, it seemed like every end we weren’t finishing them off and didn’t have that killer instinct. I don’t know if it was the early morning or what was going on, but we definitely need to pick it up going forward against the teams we play tomorrow.”

Einarson got off to the kind of start one would expect from the second-ranked team in the CTRS standings heading into the Scotties, scoring two in the first end and stealing another in the third to go up 3-0.

Nunavut battled right back, though, with Eddy getting two back in the fourth, stealing one in the fifth and sending a serious murmur through the crowd of around 1,000 fans with another steal of one in the seventh.

Just like that, 4-3 Nunavut.

“The way they played the first few ends, I was nervous it was going to be a quick game, but I think we showed a lot of guts,” said Eddy, playing alongside third Sadie Pinksen, second Allison Griffin and lead Kaitlin MacDonald. “I think that was a position we weren’t expecting in our wildest dreams, that were going to be that close. I’m not sure I was mentally prepared enough for that, there’s one shot I’d like back in the ninth end, but other than that I thought we did a stellar job.”

Einarson took one in the eighth to tie the game before taking control with a two-spot in the aforementioned ninth and running Eddy out of rocks in the final end.

“To their credit, Nunavut played great, they gave us a game and we obviously need to pick things up… it’s a little bit of a wake-up call for sure,” Birchard said.

Manitoba improved to 2-0 and is tied for the Pool A lead with Alberta’s Laura Walker, who also won Sunday morning (see below). Nunavut fell to 0-2.

Nunavet is back on the ice for the 6:30 p.m. draw Sunday against Saskatchewan while Manitoba is off until the morning draw on Monday when they take on Northern Ontario.

There were no such difficulties for Ontario’s Rachel Homan against Newfoundland and Labrador’s Erica Curtis in their third-draw match-up, as the perennial Scotties contenders rolled to a 10-5 victory.

Making things all the more impressive is just how well Homan and her rink of third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle  have played thus far, curling 87 per cent as a rink after hitting 88 per cent in the win over Wild Card’s Jennifer Jones.

Homan got off to the exact start she was hoping for, holding Curtis to one in the first end before racking up five in the second. A steal of one the next end made it 6-1, but the east coast crew didn’t go quietly, with a deuce in the sixth closing things to 7-4.

“They played really well, they made some amazing freezes, so perfect we couldn’t get them out,” Homan said Newfoundland’s stick-to-it-iveness. “So they played really well right to the end there.”

Curtis – playing with third Erin Porter, second Julie Devereaux and lead Beth Hamilton – dropped 1-1 with the loss.

Homan is happy with the team’s solid showing thus far.

“It’s great to come out and play a really good game, especially this early [in the draw],” she said. “We had a tough game against Jones, it’s always a battle with her, so it was good to come out and get off to a good start.”
Ontario next faces P.E.I. during the 6:30 p.m. draw Sunday, Newfoundland is off until the morning draw Monday.

Jones and Team Wild Card (1-1) didn’t waste much time getting back on track after their loss to Homan.

A 5-0 lead by the fourth end against Yukon’s Hailey Birnie, 8-1 lead through six ends and a deuce in the eighth brought things to an early 10-1 win for the six-time Scotties champion.

“It was nice win, we were able to make some draws and make some shots, we figured the ice out a lot better,” said Jones, who is playing alongside third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Dawn McEwen. “All in all it wasn’t a bad morning.”

Having a chance to pick up on the ice a little more helped as the game progressed against Yukon’s Birnie (0-2), third Chelsea Duncan, second Gabrielle Plonka and lead Kimberly Tuor.

“It’s great getting on the ice and learning the ice, how it’s reacting,” McEwen said. “We just really focussed on that today, so every game we just try and get better and stay focussed and we did that today.”

Wild Card takes on B.C. in the evening draw Sunday, while Yukon is off until Monday morning against Nova Scotia.

Alberta’s Laura Walker picked up a similarly commanding win to also improve to 2-0, downing Quebec’s Noemie Verreault 8-3.

Things were fairly close in the early going, as Walker led 3-2 through four ends, but three in the fifth and steal of one in the sixth put Alberta ahead 7-2.

“We didn’t know much about that team, but to win the province you have to be a pretty good team,” said Walker, playing alongside third Kate Cameron, second Taylor McDonald and lead Nadine Scotland. “They were hanging in there for awhile, making some great draws, and it felt good to get a lead and put some pressure on. If we let up they’ll capitalize, so we we wanted to keep the pedal to the metal.”

Verreault, third Alanna Routledge, second Marie-Pier Cote and lead Jill Routledge fell to 0-2 with the loss.

Alberta will look to keep the momentum going when they take on New Brunswick during the evening draw Sunday, while Quebec is back on the ice Monday morning against Team Canada.

“We hoped to start with a few wins so when we get to the nitty gritty we have a bit of a cushion,” Walker said. “Every single win we aren’t taking for granted because they’re all so important at this event.”

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