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Saskatchewan earns Page One-Two playoff berth

The last day of round-robin play at the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts in Charlottetown was a bounce-back opportunity for two early leaders and a Maritime team to stay rolling.

Amber Holland at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts (Photo by: Andrew Klaver)

Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland ran her record to 9-1 with a last-shot 7-6 win over Andrea Kelly’s New Brunswick crew which guaranteed her a spot in the Page One-Two playoff game Friday night.

Ontario’s Rachel Homan came back from two losses Wednesday to take care of business against Kerry Galusha’s Territories team 9-3, guaranteeing Ontario at least a playoff tiebreaker with a 7-3 mark.

And Nova Scotia’s Heather Smith-Dacey won her third in a row, a nailbiter on both the scoreboard and the time clock. The Mayflower skip made a double for a deuce in the 10th end against Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink to win 8-7 and go to 7-3. The Alberta crew drops to 6-4 with a match against defending champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg remaining on their schedule tonight at 7:30 (AT).

In a game that meant little to the standings but much to the Civic Centre crowd, P.E.I.’s Suzanne Birt posted an 8-5 win over P.E.I. Part 2, otherwise known as Cathy Overton-Clapham’s Manitoba squad. Both teams have been eliminated from weekend play, but the place was still abuzz after Wednesday night’s tilt between Overton-Clapham and her old boss Jennifer Jones of Team Canada – a game won 8-6 by Manitoba.

“I’m just tired I think, emotionally drained,” said Overton-Clapham after the loss, leaving her team at 3-7.

“I just wasn’t feeling it out there today.”

“We came here to win and that’s not happening but we want to go out tonight and win (against NL),” she said.

The aftermath of the big game against Jones  was evident in the skip’s tired eyes.

She and her teammates were buoyed by the outpouring of emotion from fans in the building, across the country and even across the pond, thanks to social networking.

“It’s been really overwhelming – we’ve received lots and lots of e-mails and I haven’t gone through all the text messages yet,” said Overton Clapham, adding she even received congratulatory messages from curlers in Europe.

“The best thing is, the fans and our peers, that was really exciting that everyone was so excited for us.”

Holland was happy to take care of business in the morning draw and bounce back from her first defeat Wednesday.

“It’s nice to have that finish . . . in the top two and get that extra life in the Page playoff, but our goal was playoffs, and we’ve done that,” says Holland.

“We managed the rocks much better today, and we’re happy about that and we’ll take that to the next game.”

She’ll finish up tonight against B.C.’s Kelly Scott in a game that could determine whether or not there are Friday tiebreakers . . . and how many.

Ottawa’s Homan said it was great to rebound after hers double drop.

“That was really important for us, and we played much better today. It guarantees us at least a tiebreaker and that was our goal coming into the week,” said Homan.

The Smith-Dacey/Kleibrink duel was a see-saw affair. The Bluenosers stole two in one on what both teams termed “keen ice” only to watch Alberta bounce back to a 5-3 lead at the break. Over the remainder of the contest, both teams found themselves in trouble with the time clock.

Down one with hammer in 10, Dacey Smith, like her opponent, had under a half-minute remaining when staring up from the hack on last rock.

“Both teams were fighting it, we were like down to 15 seconds on our last shot and then you have to execute it,” said Smith-Dacey.

“It gets everybody’s heart-rate up so you tend to overthrow things, so you have to calm down and throw it like you normally would,” said the skipper who coolly made the open shot nevertheless.

Kleibrink was reflective on the tough loss but offered no excuses.

“We wish we could have stopped the clock, but I looked up and we had 20 seconds so we just didn’t have time to talk about it,” said Kleibrink of her last shot which left her opponent a high-percentage hit.

“There’s no excuse though, we had time to manage and make it through that end. I made a couple of bad calls, one for sure I would like to have back,” said the Calgary skip of an early shot in the end where she chose a come-around instead of guarding and didn’t make it. That set the stage for the comeback win by the Nova Scotians.

Birt evened her record at 5-5, though disappointed at being eliminated, says she has loved every minute of the experience.

“We know we’re not going to make the playoffs, but we just want to come out tonight and get another win,” said Birt, who added the atmosphere in Charlottetown and the team’s experience this week have been wonderful.

The key matchup this afternoon at 2:30  see Jones’ Team Canada take on Nova Scotia. Jones is 6-3, and a win by either side would clinch at least a tiebreaker.

B.C. is still in the hunt as Kelly Scott’s Kelowna crew at 5-4 has two draws remaining and likely needs to win both to see the playoffs. She plays New Brunswicks’s Andrea Kelly.

Quebec’s Marie-France Larouche plays Galusha’s Territories, while Stacie Devereaux’s Newfoundland/Labrador squad takes on Overton-Clapham.