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Ontario, Saskatchewan Set Scotties Pace

A matter of 13 months ago, Rachel Homan was skipping her Ottawa team to a 13-0 record at the Canadian junior women’s curling championship. On Sunday night at the Civic Centre, the 21-year-old Homan gave an indication she’s aiming for a repeat in decidedly different company — the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts.

Representing Ontario, Homan and her team of Emily Miskew, Alison Krevaziuk and Lisa Weagle bounced 2006 Olympic bronze-medallist Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary 10-7 with a last-rock double-kill to extend Ontario’s winning streak to three games.

Team Ontario at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts(Photo by: Andrew Klaver)

The win sustained Ontario’s position neck-and-neck with Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland who directed a 10-6 conquest of home-province favourite Suzanne Birt of Charlottetown.

Holland earlier erased defending champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg from the unbeaten ranks with a 9-3 whipping.

“It was great, nerve-wracking, but I think everybody must have loved the game,” said the 21-year-old Homan afterward. “It was a battle. And it was good to finally get a win against her (Kleibrink). But one shot in that game could have gone either way.”

The deadly-serious Homan actually controlled it, though, with Kleibrink’s Calgary team chased to stay even throughout.

“My heart rate’s always right up there,” said Homan. “But I don’t think it affects my game. For sure, I’m dead serious out there. But I’m smiling now.”

How about another 13-0 run?

“Going 13-0 was tough in Juniors but it would be a lot tougher here,” she said. “I’m not sure we’re going to get to that level and I’m not sure you really need to go 13-0. We just want to win the big games, build up to the playoffs.

“I think we have the skill and the dedication and we’ve put in the work, and I think we could be there at the end but we have to play our game and take it one at a time for sure.”

Kleibrink (2-1) was undeterred by the tight setback.

“We’re not feeling too badly about that except we have to figure out the ice a little better tomorrow,” she said.

“I’ve never been in an arena that’s so hot. I had to take the shirt off underneath and I was sweating like I was playing racquetball. The ice is really patchy so it’s a guessing game if you have to draw the button. It’s very heavy.”

Holland, meanwhile, overcame an 0-2 start with a deuce in the third, a steal of one in the fourth, another deuce in the sixth and a crushing five-spot in the eighth end.

“Three-and-O?” she repeated the query. “It’s definitely a good place to be. We wanted to get on the roll early and it’s always good when you’re racking up the Ws.

“This is a really feeling good. It feels like a sort of relaxed intensity. You’re out there playing the game, not working the game, if you know what I mean.”

Joining Kleibrink at 2-1 heading into a three-draw Monday were the defender Jones and British Columbia’s Kelly Scott, a former two-time Scotties champion.

Nova Scotia (Heather Smith-Dacey) and New Brunswick (Andrea Kelly) were 2-2 after Sunday night wins.

Nova Scotia routed Kerry Galusha’s Territories team from Yellowknife 8-2 and New Brunswick walloped Manitoba’s Cathy Overton-Clapham 9-3.

Newfoundland, P.E.I. and Quebec were 1-2, Manitoba 1-3 and the Territories 0-4.

Saskatchewan’s Kronau-based team was nothing short of immaculate in the afternoon against Jones.

Skip Holland was pointed at 94 per cent on her stones. Jones was 73.

“We got some opportunities there and we took advantage of those,” said the blonde Saskatchewan skip. “That made it a little easier. We executed well and Jennifer missed some key shots, hence what happened on he scoreboard.”

Kleibrink stole a 7-6 extra-end decision over Scott of British Columbia who narrowly missed a long runback triple-kill with her last rock after Alberta welded two stones on the button behind its own guard.

Homan stole five points in an easy 7-1 rout of Newfoundland’s Stacie Devereaux.

“We’re just playing really well and capitalizing on mistakes,” said Homan.

Alberta’s was a tight match until B.C. claimed a ninth-end deuce to take the lead and could have stashed away an insurance point in the 10th end but Scott’s last-rock guard failed to block Kleibrink’s avenue to a B.C. stone in the four-foot.

“My second rock over-curled on the guard,” said Scott. “The ice was a little wonky out here. That rock swung so much it almost wound up in seats.”

Sad Kleibrink:

“We’ve got mountains to climb right now but I’m on the way up there.”
Birt gave a strong performance, doubling the count 10-5 against Marie-France Larouche of St-Romuald, Quebec. It was Birt’s first win and Larouche’s second loss in three games.

This issue swung in the fourth end when Birt, owning the hammer in a 3-3 argument, watched her last rock take a fortunate rub and re-direct to the four-foot with Quebec counting a bundle.

“If I don’t make that they’re stealing four or five,” admitted Birt.

Thereafter, the Islanders stole one instead and tore the issue with three in the seventh and a steal of another deuce in the eighth.

Defending champion Jones shrugged off her loss.

“We struggled with the ice, struggled with draw weight, struggled with where to put the broom. It was not our game.

“But you’re not going to go through undefeated, I always say that. You have to think it may be the right time to lose and hopefully it’s not going to kill us. The key is not to have back-to-back losses.”

Jones admitted her opponent “outplayed us — they played pretty well, and put the rocks in all the right places”.

Holland said she normally wouldn’t expect to catch Jones with a cold hand.

Saskatchewan stole two to go up 5-1 in the fourth end when Joes pulled the string on an open in-turn draw.

“She’s usually pretty bang-on, especially when we play her,” she said.

“It’s tough to get up early and try to kill the game. You get up four points early and you know there’s lots of game left and a lot can happen. With that team, they’re going to position rocks well and you’re going to have your work cut out for you even though you have a lead.”

Holland admitted her team “definitely is more confident in the way we’re throwing and managing the ice”.

“This game is all about experience,” said the 36-year-old veteran.

“You look at the champions of the last few years and it’s all about people who have been there, done that. We know that and we’re going to take advantage of that experience.”

Jones directed a wild 12-1 thrashing of Galusha’s Polar entry in the morning while Scott rebounded from off the pace to steal three in the ninth end which led to a 6-4 victory over Manitoba.

Overton-Clapham had several other opportunities to score the tying points in the last end but continually missed perfect freeze attempts. Scott executed a pair of open takeouts to clinch the decision.

“The complexion of that end and that game changed rather quickly,” admitted Scott.

“You never expect to get a break like that when somebody like Cathy has the last brick. I think out of her hand they were happy with it but it didn’t finish up.”

“We made a couple of wrong calls and I wasn’t controlling the house as I should have,” said Overton-Clapham. “You can’t give up a steal of three in the ninth end here.”

In other morning tilts, Quebec and Newfoundland each posted initial victories — Quebec 10-5 over Nova Scotia and Newfoundland 10-4 over New Brunswick.