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Three A finalists decided

The issue for the initial two qualifiers for Edmonton’s Tim Hortons Roar Of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials next month boiled down to finalists in men’s and women’s A-side divisions Wednesday night at the CN Centre.

Top seeds Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg and Kelly Scott of Kelowna won their second straight pre-qualifying matches and moved within one win apiece of tickets down the Road To the Roar.

Stoughton defeated fellow Winnipegger Mike McEwen 4-2 and awaits the survivor of a match involving Brad Gushue of St. John’s and Pat Simmons of Davidson, SK., for an opponent in the deciding tilt Thursday at 6:30 p.m. (PT). Gushue and Simmons square off tonight at 8:30 p.m.

Scott won her second straight, outlasting Sherry Anderson of Saskatoon 9-8 with a 10th-end deuce and faces Calgary’s Crystal Webster with the winner headed for Edmonton. Webster stole the 8-6 insurance point in the 10th end to defeat the youthful Rachel Homan team from Ottawa. Neither Stoughton nor McEwen faced the kind of ice conditions that demanded risky strategy.

“We never got to the point where anyone put a lot of rocks in place,” said Stoughton, the Brier runner-up last season.  “The ice was a little bit straighter so no one really got anything buried. So we made a couple of good doubles and played the game we wanted.

“You play the game the way you have to play when the ice dictates. We didn’t have to take too many chances and we didn’t have to push the envelope. It would sure be nice to get it done tomorrow.”

Added McEwen, who dropped to a B qualifying quarterfinal match against Jean-Michel Menard of St-Romuald, QC.  “It was hard to get anything going offensively. Too bad because it wasn’t real good championship ice.  One double here and there and everything’s out of the rings. So it wasn’t that either team wasn’t trying to get rocks in the rings, it was a situation where you couldn’t really do a lot.”

But McEwen isn’t deterred by an initial loss.  “We usually get better with more games and we never do things easily, anyway,” he said.

Scott’s team continues to look more like the championship team she skipped in 2006 and 2007.

The match with Anderson was a see-saw affair but Scott never appeared to be beaten even when she was down two after the theft of a pair by Anderson in the sixth end. She answered immediately with a tying pair, stole in front with a single, gave up a deuce and responded again in the last frame.

“We’re learning out there,” said Scott. “This format is not like a round robin where you have a few games to get warmed up. We’re lucky to be on the winning side at this point and we’re one game away. We’re digging deep and finding ways and that’s the sign of a champion.

“Things are working for us but we’re having to work hard for it, too. But they’re happening again and they weren’t last year. So we’re willing to work harder than any team out there if that’s what it takes.”

Scott never has played Webster on arena ice.

“I know they’re tough sharpshooters. They’re good. Arena ice presents a different game and it’s a reward for having scratched through all the cashspiels and playdowns and this is what you play for is the chance to play on it.

“It’ll be a good match to go to Edmonton. There are plenty of opportunities out there he way the ice is curling and you have to throw the rock smart with the right weight or you won’t get the amount of curl that you’re expecting. It’ll come down to some good shotmaking.”

Said Webster, who has won three in a row in two days, “We’ve always believed we could get where we are right now and we’ve had some good breaks go our way. We’ve never given up. We’re getting strong finishes and that’s what we need is what we need to win in the end.

“To be able to play on this kind of ice is great. If you have the confidence to make your shots, and we do, it makes a huge difference. I love it.”

Homan took a 5-2 lead after six ends but Webster tied it with three, then scored two in the ninth. The 20-year-old Homan required a precise double-kill with her last rock and narrowly missed getting the result.

Alongside the Gushue-Simmons match on the late draw, a pair of opening C-qualifying matches will mean the elimination of two women’s teams on today’s late draw.

In those tilts, Eve Belisle of Montreal plays Heather Rankin of Calgary and Michelle Englot of Regina takes on Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, ON.