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Saskatchewan tops P.E.I. in first Scotties championship pool contest

Manitoba, Ontario and Wild Card also post commanding wins to form three-way tie for first in pool

So far, so good for Team Saskatchewan and Robyn Silvernagle on Thursday at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

A little over an hour after winning a tiebreaker in the morning, Silvernagle, third Stefanie Lawton, second Jessie Hunkin and lead Kara Thevenot recorded an 8-7 win over Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt in their first Championship Pool contest at Mosaic Place – and stole one in the 10th to do it.

The win saw Silvernagle improve to 5-3 and kept her in the hunt for a spot in the top three and the Page playoffs beginning Saturday.

Silvernagle played a near perfect final end to earn the steal. With one counting just behind the t-line in the four, she threw a deep guard to the top of the eight to leave Birt a potential double – and also a potential jam.

Birt ended up with the latter, and Silvernagle’s Scotties are still alive.  

“We played a pretty perfect 10th end and got a couple lucky breaks there, with the five-rock rule it’s pretty much impossible to make every shot perfect, so we executed well that end,” Silvernagle said. “That game meant either [technically] going home or continuing to play so we’re really happy to still be in the hunt.”

Things were close in the early going as Birt, third Marie Christianson, second Meaghan Hughes and lead Michelle McQuaid built a 2-1 lead through the first four ends. But Silvernagle got all that back and more in the fifth when Birt wrecked on a guard in front while facing three with her final shot, giving Silvernagle a draw for four she wouldn’t miss.

Birt was far from finished, though, picking up a two in the sixth and after holding Silvernagle to one in seven, put up a three-spot in the eighth to take a 7-6 lead.

Silvernagle ended up with a tough draw to the four foot facing five with her final shot of the ninth but was once again money.

Coming out on top of a back-and-forth contest was another step in the right direction for the North Battleford rink and one they hope continues on.

“It’s been a grind for us and that was a grind of a win,” Silvernagle said. “We had control early I they came back on us, but we just fought…this shows your resilience, and that you’re never going to give up. Your experience helps, you gain more every time and it helps with experiences from the past.”

Birt fell to 5-3 with the loss.

Things couldn’t have gone much better for Wild Card’s Jennifer Jones – and conversely, worse for Team Canada’s Chelsea Carey – in their opening championship pool contest.

Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Dawn McEwen improved to 7-1 with a 10-5 victory over Carey, third Sarah Wilkes, second Dana Ferguson and lead Rachel Brown.

The score was crazy enough.

How it got there was utterly bizarre.

Jones stole four in the first, another in the second and three more in the third to lead 8-0 after three ends. Carey got two back in four, but single points the next two ends made it 10-2, and it was all but academic from there.

“You don’t expect to get a steal of four in the first end, it’s always hard to be up so many points and trying to make sure they don’t get any more than two,” Jones said. “And it’s always nice to shake hands [early].”

The early struggles for Carey came out of a change to the rocks prior to the championship pool, as the implements were sanded overnight in order to increase curl. The amount of change led to Canada battling through the early ends and especially in the first when Carey’s final shot over-curled despite taking the kind of ice that would have led to the shot she was planning.

“You don’t know how the sanding affects each one of them, so that’s the challenge,” Carey said. “They needed to be sanded, it was too straight yesterday, but the problem is it affects some rocks differently than others and it’s just hard to know that.”

The game was a rarity for Jones in that her rink has found themselves battling to the end in most of their contests through the week.

“We’ve been playing a lot of full games and extra ends, so we’ll look to use this and get some rest and come out strong tonight,” she said.

The loss knocked Carey to 4-4 and effectively eliminated her from contention.

Ontario’s Rachel Homan took few prisoners through the preliminary pool portion of the Scotties and hasn’t let up as the championship pool began.

Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle built a 5-1 lead through four ends against Northern Ontario, tacked on another three in the sixth for an 8-3 lead would go on to win 9-4 in eight ends.

For her part, Homan had little difficulty picking up on the rock changes and was quick to make use of the extra curl.

“The ice technicians have done a great job, and after sanding the rocks last night it was great to see a little more finish and hopefully it’ll carry on tonight and into playoffs,” Homan said.

“So we’ll keep doing what we can to play our best and have a good game tonight.”

Homan improved to 7-1 and joined Jones and Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson (see below) in a three-way tie for first.McCarville, third Kendra Lilly, second Ashley Sippala and lead Jennifer Gates, fell to 5-3 and are tied with Northern Ontario and P.E.I for the fourth and final playoff spot.

Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson came out of Pool A with only one loss and didn’t let up in her first championship pool outing against B.C.’s Corryn Brown.

Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur scored three in the first end and never looked back on their way to an 8-4 victory.
The win improved Manitoba to 7-1 and kept them part of the aforementioned tie.

“We came out with a real solid game, we had a great first end and the team played well, we had a lot of great draws that kept the pressure off us,” Einarson said. “So it was a really a nice win.”

As well as things have gone, there’s still a long road ahead – and a lot of unbelievably high quality competition.

“It was kind of funny, on the way in the car here, it was ‘okay girls, only seven more games’ and we were like ‘oh my god, its like starting another whole spiel again,” Einarson said with a laugh. “Mentally and physically out there it’s a grind, but that’s why the off-season training is key.”

Brown, third Erin Pincott, second Dezaray Hawes and lead Ashley Klymchuk are now 4-4.

Evening draw play will see Saskatchewan take on B.C., Northern Ontario against Wild Card, Ontario playing Manitoba and Canada duelling Prince Edward Island.