(By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek)….Like Old Red River, Team Manitoba just keeps on rollin’ along.
Today’s 3rd draw featured a David and Goliath matchup between defending champion Manitoba, out of Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Curling Club, jumped out to a 2-0 record after the first day of competition. At the other end of the spectrum, Joanne MacDonald’s Newfoundland/Labrador rink, curling out of the Remax Centre in St. John’s, found itself winless going into draw three.
It was clear from the outset that NL, featuring three female curlers, was taking its giant killer role extremely seriously. The team from the Rock jumped out to a blazing start. Skip Joanne MacDonald froze to a blue Manitoba stone at the back of the house to put up a quick point in the first end. Facing a clutch of Newfoundland/Labrador stones in the house, Manitoba pulled out a single point of its own in the second.
In the third end, Manitoba skip Dennis Thiessen missed a tough draw against a NL counter, but settled for second shot. After MacDonald spotted a nice guard, Thiessen tried a touchy shot on the unfamiliar left side of the sheet, only to see it picked off by the guard. On her last shot, MacDonald was a hair heavy on an angle raise for two. Manitoba conceded a single point.
Manitoba began to master the tricky ice in end four. Melissa Lecuyer’s letter perfect draw slipped around a trio of guards to catch a piece of the button. The well protected stone held up for shot, forcing Manitoba to take one. NL went into the break with a 3-2 lead and the hammer.
Looking to regroup after the break, Manitoba spotted three rocks in the house early. Some pinpoint NL takeouts left Manitoba laying one behind a centre line guard. Manitoba stole a point to tie the game.
Facing a tough final shot, with virtually no room to sneak in to the house, Joanne MacDonald surrendered a singleton in the sixth, giving Manitoba its first lead at 4-3.
By the seventh end, the pressure on both teams was building. George Horning’s rock in the eight-foot was laying shot, with plenty of backing behind the T-line. Felix Green promptly eliminated that. A precise freeze by Thiessen left MacDonald with a nearly impossible shot for a crucial point. Despite only four years of curling experience, MacDonald came through like a seasoned professional, knotting the game at 4-4 going into the last end.
Manitoba filled the house with rocks early in the eighth, laying four with shot rocks left to play. MacDonald eliminated one of those. After Thiessen’s attempt at a guard fell short of the hog line, McDonald’s valiant attempt at a second miracle shot slid tantalizingly wide, but only by mere inches. Manitoba survives a scare from a game Newfoundland/Labrador foursome, winning 5-4 to remain undefeated.
Elsewhere, the logjam persisted at the top of the standings. Alberta remained undefeated, building an early 5-1 lead en route to a 7-3 win over previously unbeaten Ontario. BC dropped from the undefeated rank following an 8-3 los to Northern Ontario. Saskatchewan snapped a 6-6 tied at six ends and topped Nova Scotia 9-6. Quebec stomped the winless Host Team 12-l, in a game stopped after five ends.