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They’re off in Prince George

Former Canadian champion Cathy King of Edmonton recorded the critical theft of two points in the eighth end which catapulted her to a 9-6 victory over three-time Ontario champion Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay in the opening round of the Road To The Roar pre-trials, presented by Monsanto.

McCarville was leading 5-4 playing the seventh end and yielded three to King, then the crucial steal.

“I made a bad call,” said McCarville. “I should have gone with initial instinct, a long runback. Instead, I tried a tough double. And I jammed it, which is the worst thing I could have done.”

The Ontario team now drops to a Wednesday morning outing against Heather Rankin of Calgary.  “That was our C game,” said McCarville. “We can play better. We’ll have our A game coming tomorrow morning.”

The 50-year-old King played like the veteran she is, which is to say, double-tough, despite a rough plane ride into this northern B.C. centre on Monday.

“I get a little motion sickness,” said King. “I don’t do well in turbulence so I’m so glad we came in yesterday and I had time to get over it.”

King advanced to the quarter-finals of the A qualifying event with the win and will play Kelly Scott of Kelowna later today.

Also moving to within three wins of a qualifying berth in the Canadian Olympic trials at Edmonton next month were Sherry Anderson of Saskatoon, Rachel Homan of Ottawa and Crystal Webster of Calgary.

The veteran Anderson will play Michelle Englot of Regina at 4:30 p.m. (PT) while the young Homan team plays Marie-France Larouche of St-Romuald, QC, and Webster takes on Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, ON.

Anderson stole two in the third end and another in the 10th to defeat Rankin 8-5 in the opening draw while Homan, last year’s Canadian Junior silver medallist, wiped out a three-point deficit after five ends and posted three deuces, one of them stolen, to upend Eve Belisle of Montreal 8-6.

In the wildest of the openers, Webster stole three points in the 10th end to vanquish Amber Holland of Kronau, SK, 11-9.

Holland had earlier trailed but engineered the theft of four in the eighth for a 9-6 advantage. Webster rebounded with a deuce in the ninth before Holland was short on a last cold draw through a port to a piece of the four-foot in the 10th.

“It wasn’t an easy shot for sure. It was a bit of a wider path,” said Webster.  “It’s always nice to get one under your belt, get comfortable with ice and the arena and all that.”

Holland shrugged and smiled afterward.  “You can’t smile, you can’t curl,” she said.  “I just threw it light. A little tentative and that’s what happens. I had draw weight all game and then lost it. You have to roll with the punches. We’ll figure it out. I’m not too worried about it.”

Holland faces Belisle in her next assignment Wednesday morning.

The initial men’s draw began today at 12:30 p.m. (PT) with Kerry Burtnyk, the 2001 Olympic trials runnerup, facing fellow Winnipegger Jason Gunnlaugson, Bob Ursel of Kelowna going against Ted Appelman of Edmonton, Joel Jordison of Moose Jaw tackling 2000 world champion Greg McAulay of Richmond, BC, and Pat Simmons of Davidson, SK, playing 2006 Brier champion Jean-Michel Menard of St-Romuald, QC.