There will be a new champion at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts as the playoff picture finally became clear Friday night with the completion of the championship round.
Chelsea Carey leads the four-team pack that advanced to Saturday’s Page Playoffs. She’ll have hammer in the 1-2 game against Saskatchewan’s Robyn Silvernagle, who took the second seed after a 6-3 win over Ontario’s Rachel Homan.
Homan will have hammer in the 3-4 game against Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville, who edged Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt 7-6.
Carey, who bounced back nicely after a two-loss day Thursday, finished at 9-2.
“We’ve felt all week like we’ve had it dialled in,” she said. “Today was back to normal and that’s all you can ask for.”
The other playoff teams were 8-3. Silvernagle took the second seed with the best head-to-head record among the three rinks.
“A lot of hard work and dedication, no sleep, and blood, sweat and tears went into it,” Silvernagle said. “We’ve put in a ton of work this year. So there was no reason why we couldn’t believe that we could be in the 1-2 game.”
Team Wild Card’s Casey Scheidegger (7-4) had a chance to force a tiebreaker, but she dropped a 9-8 decision to Carey in an extra end.
Also missing the cut was Team Canada’s Jennifer Jones (6-5), who did not reach the playoffs for the first time in 14 trips to the national championship.
Jones stunningly came up short on a draw to the 12-foot ring that would have forced an extra end in her 8-6 afternoon loss to McCarville. The Winnipeg skip said the rock felt good out of her hand, but she knew it was going to find the slide path.
|Team Canada skip Jennifer Jones waves to the crowd as she heads from the ice after losing to Northern Ontario in championship pool action at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S. on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. Team Canada has been eliminated from play with the loss. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)
“It’s about an eight- to 10-foot difference than the middle,” Jones said. “So if you get to the slide path, it does what it did. If I was out wider, that’s probably T-line.”
The crowd gasped when the stone stopped about a foot short of the rings, despite a furious sweeping effort from Jones’s teammates.
“I’ve had some worse losses than this for sure,” Jones said. “We’ve played in I don’t know how many Scotties and had a good run, had some fun, made some big shots and at the end of the day, it wasn’t our week.
“But I’m OK with it. Losing a final is way worse.”
Jones — a six-time champion — later defeated British Columbia’s Sarah Wark 5-4 in a game without playoff ramifications.
The victory gave Jones the all-time record of 141 career Scotties wins as a skip, one more than Colleen Jones.
“Obviously a hugely disappointing week,” Jones said, her voice cracking at times. “But it feels pretty good to have that record with all these amazing players out there.”
Sarah Wark an unexpected qualifier
Sarah Wark’s curling team from B.C. isn’t used to cross-country travel, arena ice, top-flight competition or the national spotlight.
You wouldn’t know it by Wark’s debut performance at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
She has embraced the big stage this week and unexpectedly made the championship round to boot.
“I love it, it’s nice to go in feeling the crowd, the emotions, being on camera and everything like that,” Wark said. “It drives me a little bit and it just brings out a nice level of competence that I don’t always have.”
Wark opened the competition with three straight wins before losing one-point games to Alberta and Northern Ontario. Her only other defeat in the preliminary round was an 8-6 decision against Ontario.
Pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country.
“I think it says a lot about the fight we have in us,” Wark said.
Wark got a chance to play some higher-ranked teams at the Red Deer Curling Classic last fall and she won bonspiels in Abbotsford and Kamloops before taking the B.C. title.
|British Columbia lead Jen Rushnell, left, and second Carley Sandwith sweep a rock as they play Manitoba at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S. on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)
She has played with lead Jen Rusnell the last three years while third Kristen Pilote and Carley Sandwith came on board this season. They all played a busier schedule and it has paid off.
“It’s exciting to watch this team grow from where we started,” Wark said. “We just keep improving and improving and improving.”
Pilote and Rusnell debuted at the Scotties in 2015 with skip Patti Knezevic. This is also the second career nationals appearance for Sandwith, who played with Kesa Van Osch in 2014.
“I don’t want this to be a one-time curling experience,” Wark said. “I want to make a curling career out of it. I need to learn lots now, take it all in and just continue it in the years to come.”
Five-way tie still pushed Alberta and Ontario through
Earlier in the day, Team Wild Card defeated British Columbia 11-6 and Alberta dumped Saskatchewan 10-3. Ontario needed an extra end to get by Prince Edward Island 7-6 as Homan hit a draw to the four-foot ring to win.
A five-way tie at 8-3 was a possibility entering the night draw, but Alberta and Ontario knew they would advance regardless due to head-to-head records.
The winner of the Page 1-2 game will advance directly to the final Sunday evening. The 3-4 game winner will play the 1-2 loser in the semifinal Sunday afternoon.
P.E.I. finished at 6-5 and B.C. was 5-6. The eight other teams in the 16-team competition did not make it out of the preliminary round.
The Scotties winner will represent Canada at the March 16-24 world women’s curling championship in Silkeborg, Denmark.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press