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Favourites off to a good start at Canada Cup

Olympic silver medallist Cheryl Bernard and defending event champion Shannon Kleibrink both started out on a winning note Wednesday morning as the 2010 Canada Cup kicked off at The Arena in Medicine Hat.

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Cheryl Bernard delivering the final rock (Photo by: Brennan Schnell/CCA)

Bernard, who skipped Canada to the second spot on the Olympic podium at the Vancouver Winter Games, defeated Kelly Scott of Kelowna, B.C., 6-3 during Wednesday’s opening draw, while fellow Calgarian Kleibrink doubled up Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin 8-4.

In other first-draw results, Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton defeated Shelley Nichols of St. John’s, N.L., 9-6, defending Scotties champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg edged Chelsea Carey of Morden, Man., 8-6, and Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., needed an extra end to clip Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., 7-6.

“We’ve been a little hit-and-miss this year, with a lot of other stuff going on. We’re trying to get a lot of post-Olympic stuff done. So it’s really nice to come out, be done with our other commitments, and just curl,” said Bernard, whose Calgary Curling Club crew includes third Susan O’Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire, and lead Cori Morris.

“And we’re really excited to be back out on arena ice again. We’ve been in clubs for a while, and this gets us excited right away, the minute we step out on the ice,” added Bernard, who won the Twin Anchors Invitational at Vernon, B.C., on the cashspiel circuit on Oct. 3. “It makes such a difference. You can make so many shots out there, and it’s curling, and it’s fast.”

Bernard stole a point in the third to go up 3-1 Wednesday, “and that put us in a really good spot, although we just about lost it in 10. (Scott’s team) made some great shots in the 10th, and we had some misses. But we managed to pull it off.”

The 2010 Canada Cup has no direct bearing on playdowns for the 2014 Olympics at Sochi, Russia, but the women’s and men’s champions earn automatic berths at both the 2011 Canada Cup at Cranbrook, B.C., and the 2012 Continental Cup at Langley, B.C.

Kleibrink and her Calgary Winter Club outfit, which includes third Amy Nixon, second Bronwen Webster, and lead Chelsey Bell, are now on a 14-game winning streak, after claiming their last two tournaments — the Red Deer Curling Classic from Nov. 5 to 8, and the just-completed Boundary Ford Curling Classic at Lloydminster, Alta., from Nov. 26 to 29.

“We’re not playing in a lot of big events this year. We’re sort of doing the Alberta tour, and this is our biggest Canadian event,” said Kleibrink, the only two-time women’s champion at the Canada Cup since it began in 2003.

“It was pretty close today. Just a break here and there,” said Kleibrink, who scored deuces in the second, seventh, and ninth ends against Nedohin, whom she just defeated in the Lloydminster final on Monday by a 10-4 count. “It could have gone either way.”

Lawton, meanwhile, has welcomed four-time Saskatchewan provincial champion skip Sherry Anderson to her Saskatoon-based foursome this winter.

“We’ve had a great fall so far. Sherry fits well into our team. She’s got a very calming manner about her, and she’s a lot of fun, so we really enjoy having her on the team,” said Lawton, who won the Colonial Square Ladies’ Classic in Saskatoon on Nov. 1, and was a semifinalist at the Manitoba Lotteries Women’s Curling Classic in Winnipeg in late October.

Lawton’s three-ender in the sixth gave her a commanding 8-2 advantage over Nichols.
“We’re catching on to draw weight out there. It’s very nice ice to be playing on. It’s got lots of curl. It’s exactly what we want,” added Lawton, whose Granite Curling Club team also includes second Sherri Singler and lead Marliese Kasner.

Jones’ outfit enters Medicine Hat following a November to remember, with cashspiel circuit victories at New Glasgow, N.S., on Nov. 14 and Brantford, Ont., on Nov. 22.

“We’re pretty happy with how our season’s gone,” said Jones, a four-time Scotties champ, whose team at this Canada Cup includes third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer, and lead Dawn Askin. “We feel like we’ve played well from start to finish, and we really wanted to come out and have fun.”

The Jones gang got it by hanging four points on the board in the opening end against Carey, her opponent in the final of the Sobeys Slam at New Glasgow. “We made eight shots that end, eight really good shots,” said Jones. “We wanted to make sure we got our three, but four was a bonus. We made a pretty good little tap through a hole.”

McCarville, who turned plenty of heads during the 2009-10 season with an Olympic Pre-Trials ‘B’-event win in Prince George, B.C., and an early charge at the Scotties in Sault Ste. Marie Ont., executed a tap-back to the four-foot ring Wednesday for the winning point in the 11th end.

“We could have ended it a little early, in the 10th end, but I missed my last shot” as Holland scored twice to tie the score 6-6, noted McCarville. “But that’s OK. As long as it’s a ‘W,’ it doesn’t matter how you win.”

McCarville’s Fort William Curling Club team now includes Ashley Miharija, 23, at third, and Sarah Lang, 21, at lead, in addition to second Kari MacLean, giving her team a much more youthful appearance.

“We still have really high goals for ourselves. We’re a great team,” said McCarville, whose squad won a fall cashspiel at Duluth, Minn. “Ashley and Sarah are young, but they bring a fresh spirit to our team, and we just keep playing like we know how.”

The men’s first draw begins at 12:30 p.m. MT at The Arena.

Brad Gushue’s outfit from St. John’s, with Randy Ferbey slinging third stones, takes on Rob Fowler of Brandon, Man., Kevin Martin’s 2010 Olympic gold-medal-winning team from Edmonton meets Serge Reid of Jonquiere, Que., Mike McEwen of Winnipeg faces Mat Camm of Ottawa, Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., squares off against Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg, and defending Brier and world champion Kevin Koe of Edmonton clashes with Calgary’s Brent Bawel.