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Moose Jaw’s Ackerman looks back on a stellar first showing at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Saskatoon Nutana skip was a single win away from qualifying for the playoffs at the Canadian women’s curling championship
Team Saskatchewan had lots of fans cheering them on throughout the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Normally when a curling rink makes their first appearance at one of Canada’s national championships, it’s a week of learning and gaining experience and maybe picking up a win or two along the way.

Contending for a playoff spot? Maybe next time.

Turns out, someone forgot to let Moose Jaw’s Skylar Ackerman know about all that.

Ackerman and her Saskatoon Nutana foursome of third Ashley Thevenot, second Taylor Stremick and lead Kaylin Skinner not only came a single win away from reaching the playoffs at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, but with a bit more luck in the Last Stone Draw throughout the week, could have actually snuck into the third place in their Pool.

As it stands, it was a near miss, and one that left Ackerman proud of what her team had accomplished throughout the week.

“It was honestly such an unreal experience, it more than exceeded all of our expectations,” Ackerman said on Sunday afternoon after returning home to Saskatoon. “To put that green jacket on and be out in front of that big of a crowd, it was just so fun the whole time.”

Ackerman capped the tournament with a 4-4 record and appeared to have no chance at a playoff spot after the round robin, but a crazy turn of events in the final draw saw five teams tied at 4-4 in Pool A, causing the Last Stone Draw tiebreaker to come into effect. Manitoba’s Kaitlyn Lawes had the lowest total throughout the week, and therefore claimed the last playoff spot.

“Things almost worked out our way, but not quite,” Ackerman said. “It just makes us want to get back there again, for sure.”

To say that Ackerman and crew got off to a great start would be an understatement. An 11-8 win over P.E.I.’s Jane DiCarlo, 8-6 win over Lawes and 6-5 win over Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville -- the latter two being multiple-time Scotties representatives -- gave Ackerman a 3-0 record after opening weekend.

“That wasn’t necessarily exactly what we were expecting going in,” Ackerman admitted with a laugh. “But we knew every game would be a grind, and it would be close. And if we took things one shot at a time and followed our processes and what we needed to do well, we thought we'd have some success. But yeah, for sure, to start off 3-0 for our first time there was was pretty unbelievable.”

Things got tough from there, though, and losses to Quebec’s Laurie St. Georges, Alberta’s Selena Sturmay and Canada’s Kerri Einarson had Saskatchewan sitting at 3-3 heading into their final day of play.

There, they’d defeat Newfoundland’s Erica Curtis to get within playoff striking distance before falling to Brown in their final game.

“I think as every team kind of started to get a better handle on the ice and feel more comfortable out there, every game got tougher and tougher,” Ackerman said. “Unfortunately those next three didn't go exactly how we wanted them to go, but it was nice to bounce back with a win the next day after those three losses for sure.”

Of course, there’s a lot more to the Scotties than just curling. Ackerman and crew had all sorts of fan interactions throughout the week and just being a part of the whole atmosphere of the event was exceptional.
Then there were the names on the back of the jackets -- Lawes, Einarson, Jones, Homan and so on -- that made things almost surreal at times.

“Just to be around all those teams that have so much experience and so much success at that level, and just to be in the same tournament as them, is pretty neat,” Ackerman said. “And having so many people cheering us on was really cool. We had a ton of family and friends that came to watch us and they all had matching buddy hugs, so there's just a sea green out there. Tons of people from all over the place came to watch, too, and came up to us after game for autographs and stuff. It was really awesome.”

One thing that’s for certain is if Team Ackerman has anything to say about it, this won’t be their only Scotties. To that end, thoughts are already turning toward next season and making a return trip in 2025.

“It absolutely leaves us hungry and wanting more for the next time we get back there,” Ackerman said. “We’ll keep working on our technical and keep improving our game so that next year we're starting off on an even stronger foot than we did this year.”

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