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Kleibrink vs Bernard, Lawton vs McCarville in Canada Cup playoffs

A rematch Saturday morning of last year’s Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials final at Edmonton was written into the women’s Canada Cup of Curling playoff script on Friday night.

Cheryl Bernard of Calgary, Alberta (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

When the smoke cleared from qualifying action at The Arena, defending champion Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary had completed a perfect 5-and-0 record with an 8-6 victory over defending Canadian champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg.

The loss eliminated the Jones team from the competition.

Kleibrink faces Calgary arch-rival Cheryl Bernard (4-and-1) at 8:30 a.m. with the winner advancing to Sunday’s 11 a.m. final and the loser dropping to a semi-final Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Also surviving the preliminary scrapping Friday, Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon (4-and-1) goes against Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay (3-and-2) in a secondary playoff at 8:30 with the winner advancing to the semi-final and the loser hitting the highway for the home precinct.

Kleibrink, this event’s only two-time winner, won two games on Friday without the services of vice-skip Amy Nixon who was sidelined with the ‘flu. Alternate Crystal Webster was rung in at second with normal second player Bronwen Webster moving to third.

“Crystal did a great job for us,” said Kleibrink. “We thought we might be in a bit of trouble having to bring in any player who doesn’t know the ice. Amy is an awesome player but Crystal was amazing so we were lucky.”

This isn’t the first time Nixon has been shelved with a ‘flu bug in major competition. She was bitten during the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino where Kleibrink won a bronze medal.

“She’s so unlucky,” said Kleibrink. “She never gets sick until it’s really important. We hope, by tomorrow morning, she’ll be better. But, if she isn’t, we’re still in pretty good shape with Crystal.”

Kleibrink, who had Chelsey Bell at lead, yielded a three-spot to Jones in the third end but jockeyed back into it with a tying deuce, followed by steals of one and two points for a three-point lead of her own and controlled the issue from the seventh end.

“We had a couple of scary moments but we just hung in and made the key shots,” said Kleibrink. “And it all worked out.”

Jones (3-and-2) kept up the pressure in the ninth, trailing 6-5 without the hammer, until she left Kleibrink with a routine hit for a deuce.

“That was the turning point,” admitted Kleibrink, who won her 18th straight competitive match and now needs two more victories for her third title.

Bernard won her qualifying pool with a 7-1 thrashing of Amber Holland’s Kronau, Sask., team in the afternoon.

“We’re playing better and better and better,” said the 2010 Olympic silver medallist, who earlier directed a 9-4 conquest of Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin.

“That was a four-of-us-together game.” said Bernard, whose Calgary Curling Club crew includes third Susan O’Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire, and lead Cori Morris. “It’s all about draw weight. We’re not getting in trouble putting stuff behind the T-line. And we’re throwing the right weights for hits. Our rock placement is a lot more accurate, and it has to be that way at this level.”

Holland remained with a chance to advance in the evening but surrendered a 10th-end steal in a wild scoring match won 11-10 by Chelsea Carey (2-and-3) of Winnipeg. That defeat enabled McCarville (3-and-2) to ease into the last playoff position despite yielding the theft of three in the 10th end to bow 10-7 to Heather Nedohin (2-and-3) of Edmonton.

“We have the curling gods on our side and that doesn’t usually happen to us,” said McCarville. “I missed a couple of big draws in that game.  It’s something that will have to be corrected on Saturday.”

Lawton and her Saskatoon gang battled from behind to oust Carey 8-5 in an extra end to secure a playoff berth in the afternoon. The 2000 Canadian junior champ finally put things away on a hit-and-stick for three with her final rock of the 11th end.

“We didn’t really want to go there (gambling on a 3-2 record),” she said. “We wanted to put our fate in our hands, and put ourselves in a good position with a win.”

Lawton directs third Sherry Anderson, second Sherri Singler, and lead Marliese Kasner, the skip’s sister.

“We’ve played her (Carey) three times this year, and the last couple of times they beat us,” Lawton added. “We know they’re a great team, and we had to play well against them. We just happened to pull it off today.”

Shelley Nichols (0-and-5) bowed 10-6 in the morning draw while McCarville sidelined Kelowna’s two-time Canadian champion Kelly Scott with ninth and 10th-end steals.