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Three women’s teams unbeaten after Day 1 at Canada Cup

Three teams remained undefeated heading into today’s rounds in the $75,000 Canada Cup women’s curling championship at the Gallagher Centre.

Halifax’s lone entry in the 10-team competition, with Mary-Anne Arsenault throwing last rocks and Kay Zinck directing teehead traffic, won a pair of matches Wednesday, as did Kronau’s Amber Holland and the Quebec team of Marie-France Larouche from St-Romuald.

“The mission is we gotta score lots of points this week,” said Arsenault, who moved to last rocks on this team when her former five-time Scotties-champion teammates Colleen Jones, Kim Kelly and Nancy Delahunt retired.

“If we win this, it gets us straight to the (Olympic) pre-trials but as long as we do well it’ll get us to the Players Championship and we’re on the cusp right now. So we’re waiting to see the results.”

Arsenault upended former champion Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary, the current No. 1-ranked Canadian woman’s skip, 5-3, and followed by manhandling Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont., 9-3.

Holland, meanwhile, defeated Cheryl Bernard of Calgary 8-5 in the morning and then staged a rousing rally to dump defending champion Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon, 10-8 in an extra end.

“The first win was a bonus,” said Holland. “Just being able to go out there and figure out the ice and make the shots was the key for us. Just getting a good feel and executing, we did that and it was great the wins came along with it.” Holland held a 4-1 lead on Lawton at the half, but the current Saskatchewan champion bounced in front 5-4 after seven and scored three in the ninth for an 8-5 edge heading for home.  Holland miraculously fashioned a tying three in the 10th and stole the winning deuce in overtime.

Larouche hammered a four and two three-pointers on the board in a 12-9 extra-end marathon against Bernard after earlier stopping Middaugh 8-5.

“We both made some mistakes but taking two in the eighth end was really key,” said the Quebec skipper of her initial win.

Offered Middaugh, “A lot of missed opportunities. We had ends set up and we allowed them to get out of it. We had a couple of misplaced shots to give up deuces where we could have forced them.  We turned what could have been a two or three into one in the seventh. It was all about misplaced rocks.”

Larouche agreed the seventh end was the turning point.

“Our confidence is good again,” said the third-place finisher in last month’s Scotties at Victoria.  “Our Scotties was a lot of ups and downs and we tried to stay focused, but I think we can stay focused here. It’s a good thing for us.”

Regular vice-skip Nancy Belanger, a teacher, is at home handling exams and report cards. Second Annie Lemay has moved up to third, Joëlle Sabourin to second and alternate Veronique Brassard is playing the lead rocks.

“Points and money both are important to us,” said Larouche. “But most of all, it’s important to play well. We know we are almost in the (Olympic) pre-trials. So we’re going to concentrate just playing against the best teams.”

Larouche won five bonspiels on tour prior to winning her provincial championship and competing at Victoria.
Elsewhere on Day One, Kleibrink rebounded for a split with a 9-3 verdict over Michelle Englot of Regina.

Englot earlier stole a point in an extra end to defeat two-time Canadian champion Kelly Scott of Kelowna, 7-6. Scott needed a cold draw to a full four feet and was one foot heavy, but rebounded to scored three points on the last two ends for a 6-4 conquest of Edmonton’s Cathy King.

Also 1-and-1 on the day, King trounced defending champion Stefanie Lawton 10-4 in the morning. “We just couldn’t make the draws out there,” said the defender, who joined Bernard and Middaugh on the winless list. “We were having some trouble with the weight. But Cathy’s team played strong. Kaitlyn Lawes definitely is a great thrower.”

The silver-winning skip of Canada’s team at last week’s world junior championship at Vancouver has dropped in to toss third rocks for King.

Middaugh, who failed to defend her Ontario title in January, suggested her Coldwater crew was “a little rusty and not too sharp”.

“We haven’t the competitive edge that teams coming off the Scotties have,” she said. “It’s been a big lull now. We don’t have many opportunities to play together on a regular basis.”