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Krista McCarville’s perfect run is over

McCarville’s Ontario rink lost its first game of the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts on Monday morning at the Essar Centre, as Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland made a double-raised takeout with her final stone to score the winning point and emerge with a hard-fought 7-6 victory.

Saskatchewan’s record improves to 2-2 at the Canadian women’s curling championship, while previously undefeated Ontario falls to 3-1. The decision also halted McCarville’s winning streak at 14 games; the Thunder Bay quartet, which includes Tara George, Ashley Miharija and Kari MacLean, had streaked through Ontario’s provincial championship tournament with a perfect 11-0 record.

“That was just weird,” said Holland, whose team of Kim Schneider, Tammy Schneider and Heather Kalenchuk curls out of the Kronau Curling Club in Kronau, Sask.

“We just didn’t execute well the second half of the game when you need to, and we let them get back in it. Krista’s very scrappy. She knows rock positioning, and where to put them. They play those shots really well.

“I knew it was going to be a tough one,” added Holland, “maybe just not that tough after we had the (four-)point lead.”

In Monday morning’s other action, Eve Belisle’s Quebec team trumped Shelley Nichols’ Newfoundland outfit 9-3. The fleur-de-lis gang improves its record to 2-2, while Newfoundland falls to 1-3.

Saskatchewan was cruising along with a 5-1 advantage through five ends, but ran into trouble in the seventh, when Holland’s draw attempt facing three yellow Ontario rocks came up short of the house, giving McCarville a steal of three — and new life, with the score knotted at 5-5.

And in a wild ninth end, with seven rocks in the four-foot ring before the skips even entered the hack, McCarville — trailing 6-5, and facing a possible Saskatchewan theft of three — produced her biggest shot of the week so far.

The Ontario skip made a nose hit on a Saskatchewan guard, with a long runback onto her own stone in the four-foot, which then glanced off more granite and nestled on the button for a point. The incredible shot sent the teams to the 10th end with the score knotted at 6-6.

“We said after the fifth-end break, ‘If we can make her throw a difficult shot with her last rock of the 10th end, we’re happy.’ We definitely picked it up the last five ends, and that’s key going into another big game tonight,” said McCarville, whose Ontario team was slated to face Kelly Scott’s British Columbia team in Monday evening’s draw.

“We’re not happy. We don’t have a ‘W.’ But we’re happy that we picked it up in the last five ends, and we became the team that we know. So we’re happy with that.”

Holland’s win avenges a couple of defeats to McCarville along the Olympic trail in late 2009. McCarville had won 7-6 in an extra end during a tie-breaker at the Tim Hortons Canadian Trials at Edmonton in December, and clipped Holland 6-3 during a ‘B’ semifinal of the Olympic pre-Trials at Prince George, B.C., in November.

In Monday’s 10th end, Holland had opted for a draw to the four-foot on her first shot, but watched as the rock settled in the top of the eight-foot. So with her final brick, she chose to go for the take-out.

“My front end definitely didn’t want me to play the dead draw. I thought it was there, but they weren’t quite comfortable with that,” said Holland. “So if they aren’t comfortable sweeping it, I’d better not throw it.”

Despite the loss, McCarville was praised for her marvelous ninth-end circus shot.

“It was basically, gotta make it or you shake hands,” she shrugged. “It was a tough one, but I trusted the ice, there, and I felt like I knew it.”

Meanwhile, Belisle delivered on an open hit for three points in the seventh end, putting Quebec up 8-3 in a game that was over after eight.

“We’re learning from the ice. In the first five ends, we were always a little too heavy, a little wide, but then we tightened the broom and it went well after five,” said Belisle, whose Montreal-based team includes Brenda Nicholls, Martine Comeau and Julie Rainville.

“We’re not in bad shape. We lost to two good teams. We’ve still got to take it one game at a time.”

The game turned decisively in the fifth end. Facing four Newfoundland rocks, Belisle made a clutch hit-and-roll to become shot, and Nicholls’ final stone wrecked on a guard to give Quebec a steal of one, and a 5-2 lead.

“I did not show up today. I wasn’t even there,” said Nicholls, whose St. John’s crew includes Stephanie LeDrew, Rhonda Rogers and Colette Lemon. “I had one draw to the button, which I made, and everything else, my draw weight was just erratic.

“My team played well this morning. Kudos to them, because I wasn’t there. We had our opportunities, and we just missed them. It’s unfortunate, but you can’t take it back . . . and nobody misses on purpose.”