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Gunnlaugson, Scott move on to the Roar of the Rings

Two additional entries for the upcoming Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials emerged from C qualifiers Saturday morning at the CN Centre.

Kelly Scott’s pre-tournament favourites from Kelowna advanced much later than expected.  Jason Gunnlaugson’s young team from Beausejour, Manitoba wasn’t expected to advance at all.

Scott got off to a hot start, running up an early 5-1 lead on Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont., in a women’s qualifier. Directing Jeanna Schraeder, Sasha Carter and Jacquie Armstrong, the 2007 world champion skip wound up with a 9-4 victory in the pre-Trials Road to the Roar, presented by Monsanto.

The Kelowna group won four of six games and lost in A and B qualifiers to Crystal Webster of Calgary and Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay.

“We’ve never done anything the easy way and this is no different,” she said. “It didn’t matter how we get there but we knew it was all or nothing today. And we’re used to playing lots of games and scrapping at the end.”

Middaugh said “our skip didn’t show up today”.

“We had an incredible draw, it couldn’t have got any better, I think we had the sweetest position and we didn’t take advantage.  You don’t realize how disappointing it is until after it’s over and you’re looking at the big picture.”

Scott said her foe’s early struggles reminded her “of the way we came out in the last two qualifiers.”

“So it felt good to be loose and positive today. We’ve been fighting for a solid three years for this so we’re thrilled. This was great, great practice for us because we know Edmonton will be tougher. We learned a lot about those rocks by playing the maximum amount of games this week.”

The 25-year-old Gunnlaugson, who plays poker when he’s not curling, which is most of the time, upended the more experienced Mike McEwen of Winnipeg, 8-7 in an extra end.

Control changed hands two or three times in this one but the more flamboyant Gunnlaugson exhibited more perseverance. In the end, he needed to erase a McEwen stone to win but was slightly inside and wound up spilling a cluster of rocks to get the job done.

“I tried to give everybody a heart attack on the last one but the big brushers saved me,” he said.

“It’s really going to be tough in Edmonton but there’s going to be less pressure on us and more pressure on everybody else. It’s going to be so much fun to be there in front of all the people. I mean, all the people here in Prince George seemed to support our team all the way through and that made it so much fun. So hopefully we can get some of that going in Edmonton.”

Gunnlaugson thinks his fan appeal has something to do with his youth.

“I think some people just wanted to see a change of the guard. We try to be fun to watch.  That’s something we want to do. If you spice the game up a little bit you can’t hurt it.  People said we were cannon fodder coming in here. But we’ve worked hard all year and we got it done.”

The final two qualifiers will emerge from finals at 5 p.m. (PT) and 6:30 pm, live on TSN.

Wayne Middaugh of Toronto faces Bob Ursel of Kelowna in men’s play while Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., tackles Marie-France Larouche of St-Romuald, QC.

The male Middaugh reached the final Saturday morning by eliminating Jean-Michel Menard of St-Romuald, 8-7 in an extra end.