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Prince Edward Island’s latest Scotties curling contender?

It was good enough for Russ Howard and Brad Gushue at the 2006 Olympic Games, so why not Prince Edward Island’s latest Scotties curling contender?

“That’s the way we figured it,” said veteran skip and second shooter Kathy O’Rourke following her second straight Scotties victory Saturday night at the Essar Centre, an 11-8 conquest of New Brunswick’s Andrea Kelly.

O’Rourke actually was the last piece of the puzzle in place for this new Island team that sets the pace at 2-and-0 going into today’s three-draw schedule.
Having played in five previous renditions of the Canadian women’s curling championship, O’Rourke was obvious choice to call the shots on a team with a pair of 21-year-old junior grads and long-time lead Tricia Affleck.

The latter was looking for a new team and consulted O’Rourke who recommended the back end of last year’s P.E.I. junior contender — Erin Carmody and Geri-Lynn Ramsay. The three joined forces and then decided O’Rourke would make an ideal fourth, much like Howard fit like a glove when Gushue won the 2005 Trials and the 2006 gold medal at Torino.

O’Rourke said the young players on the back end “are very good shooters” and lifting the responsibility of skipping from Carmody’s shoulders in her first Scotties is a sound tactical move.

“I think it will be very helpful,” said O’Rourke. “She (Carmody) doesn’t have to worry about whether or not she has taken the right ice, she just has to go down and execute. And the combination has worked well so far.

“It was a little tricky at first, skipping for lead rocks, then running down the ice to throw two, then running back to call the shots for the last four. But I’m getting used to the drill now.”

Carmody agreed.

“Kathy calls a great game, she knows exactly where to put the broom down and we all trust her completely,” said the last-rocker. “It just makes sense the way we’re lined up and, also, I love to sweep so I get my share of that.”

Still, the Islanders are far from looking forward to a picnic following Day One.

“It’s exciting to be here,” said Carmody, “but I think I’m still a little nervous.”
Earlier, P.E.I. stole nine points in a surprising 10-3 pummelling of Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland Kronau who had won the Ford Hot Shots skills competition earlier in the day.

“I’d trade the car for the win,” said Holland. “We forgot how to curl. They came out strong, we didn’t, hence the result.”
Defending champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg opened with an evening win in her lone assignment of the day, pulling away from a former teammate — Manitoba’s

Jill Thurston — by a 10-5 count.

Jones stole three-enders in the fourth and ninth ends.

“The ice was fudging and I just never caught on to it,” said Thurston. “I’d throw what I thought was draw weight and it was light. I threw eight feet more and it was light. I’d throw another six feet and I was still light. I just never got it.”

Said Jones:”The teams that catch on to the ice for the whole week are the teams that’ll be there at the end. The ice may have been a little challenging but you have to adjust and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

On an adjacent sheet, young Alberta upstart Valerie Sweeting of Edmonton followed a string of upsets in her home province by stunning 2007 world champion Kelly Scott of Kelowna 6-5.

Sweeting was scored at 95 per cent on her last shots. Scott was heavy on a last-rock draw for two in the 10th end to force overtime.
“We lost our first game to Tracy Streifel and came back to win the Scotties,” reasoned Scott, “so this isn’t the end of the world.”
Sweeting, 22, said her team is far from being intimidated by the field of champions.

“We just wanted to go out there and play like we know we can,” she said. “We knew it would be a good game and we had to take our chances when they came along and if we did that we could do well.”

Host-province favourite Ontario exploded from the starting gate on the afternoon shift, stealing six points en route to as 9-2 pummelling of New Brunswick’s Kelly.

McCarville won 11 straight at the start of the month to win the Ontario title after finishing third at the Tim Hortons Olympic Trials at Edmonton in December.
“It was a nice way to get it going,” said McCarville, who added she’s never entered a Scotties feeling more confident in herself and her team.

This is McCarville’s fourth Ontario representation in five years.

“It’s nice, too, because she (Kelly) beat us last year. So we got a little revenge there.”
The game’s turning point was the sixth end when Kelly, trailing 4-1, needed to avoid a guard and erase McCarville’s lone rock in the rings for a tying three-count.

McCarville had partially buried her last stone, then watched Kelly’s last wreck on the front stone.
Elsewhere on the tournament’s opening draw, Newfoundland/Labrador clobbered the Territories 12-2 and Quebec stole two in an extra end to polish off Nova Scotia 8-6.

The squad from The Rock had an easy time of it with an ice cold group of Polars skipped by Sharon Cormier of Yellowknife.

“My girls played so well today and it made my job so easy,” said St. John’s skip Shelley Nichols.

“Tell you what. This means we won’t be going 0-and-11 and I’m excited about that.”

Cormier rebounded in the evening to throttle Nancy McConnery’s Bluenosers 8-2.

“This afternoon we didn’t have draw weight,” said Cormier. “Tonight, we had it. That was the difference.”

Quebec trailed the Nova Scotians all the way until two precise shots from skip Eve Belisle squared the account in the 10th end of their afternoon fracas.
The jig was up when McConnery missed her last shot of the 11th end.

“They were above us all game so we were lucky,” said a relieved Belisle. “But she had a tough shot in the extra end and I think we played well there.”