Turns out, there was a good reason for it.
The two rinks put on an impressive showing for the 2,500 or so fans on hand Saturday night at Mosaic Place as Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle posted a 9-6 victory to kick off their Scotties quest.
Homan took control of the contest in the fifth end, taking advantage of a couple of miscues by the Wild Card rink to steal three and build a 7-3 lead.
“I think there were a lot of big shots in that end, we were able to capitalize on the one she slipped in deep and put the pressure on and got a bit of a mistake out of her,” Homan said. “It was a close game, back and forth with twos to open the game and it just kept on like that.”
Homan would steal another one in six before Jones got a pair back in five to close within three 8-5. The two rinks would exchange single points the next two ends before Jones conceded prior to the 10th.
“It was just a couple of shots, that steal of three really hurt,” said Jones, who is taking the ice with third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Dawn McEwen. “I thought we started the game okay and I missed a bad one in four and then five got away from us. But all in all we’re happy with where we’re at and if you’re going to lose a couple along the way, it’s nice to not lose the first one, but we’ll be okay.”
Things could have turned out differently had things gone differently in the third end – Jones appeared to have things set up for an impressive score but Homan was able to recover and hold her to one.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Homan said with a good-natured laugh when asked if she was in trouble that end. “A couple inches here or there and they’re close to laying two or three. But both teams made a couple of errors, then were able to sneak one in there and hold them to one… it was a well-played end and fun to watch.”
In the end, Jones came by her success honestly: Ontario curled 88 per cent for the game, including an exceptional 90 per cent from Miskew.
Ontario is back in action against Newfoundland during Sunday’s 8:30 a.m. draw; Jones faces Yukon the same draw.
You’d have to excuse Newfoundland and Labrador’s Erica Curtis if she just seemed happy to be there on Saturday night.
Travel delays kept the east coast rink from escaping Toronto in a timely fashion, resulting in some members of their team arriving barely in time for practice on Friday afternoon.
We’ll let Curtis explain:
“We had quite a few delays, surprisingly enough the weather was nice in St. John’s, it was Toronto that gave us all the trouble,” she said. “So we were really late leaving St. John’s because our flight couldn’t get in, then we missed our connection and managed to get on standby minus the coach. We made it here at 3 a.m. on Friday morning, the coach made it here at 12 o’clock yesterday afternoon, but we’re all here now and good to go… We had to switch up a few of our morning things, but thankfully everyone was very understanding for us.”
In the end, it all worked out as well as Curtis, third Erin Porter, second Julie Devereaux and lead Beth Hamilton could have hoped as they would take a 6-3 win over Yukon’s Hailey Birnie in the closest game of the evening draw.
Curtis got off to a solid start against Birnie, third Chelsea Duncan, second Gabrielle Plonka and lead Kimberly Tuor, taking a pair in the second end and stealing one in the third to go up 3-1. Birnie would get one back in the fourth, but Curtis would extend her lead to 5-2 with a fifth-end deuce.
Curtis blanked the next two ends, Yukon took one in eight, Newfoundland one in nine and the two teams shook hands.
“Obviously for us, we don’t get a chance to play on arena ice that often throughout the year, so getting used to it is really big for us, just practicing and feeling what it’s doing,” Curtis said. “So to go out and play well in the first game like that is a real confidence booster for the rest of the week.”
Things weren’t quite as close in the other two contests, beginning with Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson against Quebec’s Noemie Verreault.
The winner of the Province of Death playdown between herself, Jones and CTRS points leader Tracey Fleury two weeks ago, Einarson and her rink of third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur didn’t get off to the best of starts and found themselves down 2-0 after the opening end.
Verreault, third Alanna Routledge, second Marie-Pier Cote and lead Jill Routledge were unable to keep pace from there, as Einarson got one back in the second and then went on a steal tear, picking up deuces in the third, fourth and fifth ends. Verreault would get one back in the sixth, but Manitoba put two more on the board in the seventh, and an end later the two rinks would shake hands with a 9-4 Einarson win.
“They put some pressure on us early and made some really clutch shots, she made a really nice one in the second to force us to one,” the Manitoba skip said. “We could have played a shot for three but it wasn’t worth it at that point, but we were able to just hang in there and make some really precise shots when we needed them.”
Quebec takes on Alberta in their next contest during the 8:30 a.m. draw Sunday, Manitoba does battle with Nunavut the same draw.
B.C.’s Laura Walker got off to a similar less-than-perfect start against Nunavut’s Lori Eddy, but much like Einarson, was able to get on track quickly and pick up the win.
After Eddy scored one in the first, Walker picked up two in the second and followed with a steal of three for a 5-1 lead through three ends. Eddy – playing with third Sadie Pinksen, second Alison Griffin and lead Kaitlin MacDonald – picked up one in the fourth, but Walker would pick up singles the next three ends on their way to an 8-3 eight-end win.
“It feels pretty good, we had a really slow start to that game but then we started firing off in the second part of that game, so to come away with a win is really exciting,” said Walker, who is taking the ice with third Kate Cameron, second Taylor McDonald and lead Nadine Scotland. Fifith player Kelsey Rocque also saw action for a pair of ends in the contest.
Walker felt that catching on to the ice quickly played a major role in their success.
“We actually expected it to be a little bit straighter than it was just from what we were watching on TV last night and today,” she said. “But the draws finished really, really nice and pretty much anything that wasn’t a peel had really nice finish to it, and I think that’s what caught is in the first end or two, we were over-curling. Once we got it figured out, it was fantastic out there, the ice kept its speed and never broke down.”
Competition continues with three draws at 8:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Extra ends… Sandra Schmirler Day in Saskatchewan takes place Sunday, and part of the festivities will be the annual Schmirler Foundation Telethon. Players both past and present will be manning the phones at Mosaic Place throughout the day and fans can call 1-866-210-6011 to make a donation…. All proceeds will go towards neonatal intensive care units throughout Canada.