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Larouche advances to rematch with Kleibrink in Canada Cup final

Marie-France Larouche of St-Romuald advanced to the women’s final of the Canada Cup by edging veteran Cheryl Bernard of Calgary, 7-6 in an extra end, in Saturday’s semi-final at the Farrell Agencies Arena in the Gallagher Centre.

It all came down to last rock, as Larouche mulled over a choice of a draw to the four-foot or a hit (on a Bernard counter in the eight-foot) and stay for the win.  She decided on the hit, and although there were some anxious moments after she let her rock go, it managed to remove the Bernard counter and stay in the eight-foot for the victory.

“I was a little nervous on the last one,” said Larouche.  “But I was sure that rock would curl and it curled enough.”

The win now sets up another match with Calgary’s 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink, who beat Larouche handily, 6-4 this morning in the A1-B1 game in qualifying for Sunday’s final at 8:30 am/10:30 am ET, live on TSN.

“If we play well, I think we’re going to have a tight game,” continued Larouche.  “And maybe we have a chance to win this.  This would be our best season by far.”

There’s plenty on the line in tomorrow’s final. The winner not only receives $25,000 (second place is worth $15,000) but also earns a berth into the pool of 16 teams eligible for the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, which will be held December 6-13 in Edmonton to determine Canada’s representatives for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

Kleibrink, who won the 2005 Canada Cup in Kamloops. has already qualified directly into the Trials, based on her cumulative points total on the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) during the past three years.  Larouche, on the other hand, has not yet clinched a spot even in the pre-Trials event in Prince George, British Columbia, November 10-14, which will qualify four teams for the Trials.   So a Cup win would at least get the 28-year-old skip, who also competed at the 2005 Trials in Halifax, finishing with a disheartening 1-8 mark, to Prince George.

Larouche, who finished third at the recent Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Victoria, is playing this week without her regular third, Nancy Bélanger, who was unable to attend because of work commitments.  Thus, regular second Annie Lemay moved to third, Joëlle Sabourin was elevated to second and alternate Véronique Brassard has played lead.

Kleibrink finished first in Section A, while Larouche took Section B, both with 4-1 marks in the round robin.    Each round robin win is also worth $800.

Said Bernard, who herself is close to locking up a berth directly into the Trials, based on her CTRS cumulative points total for the past two years, said, “They played great against us, but it was just one shot (that beat us).  They’ll have to be up for Kleibrink.”