(By Rob Neff and Sarah Mendek)…..The featured game in Thursday’s seventh draw pitted a pair of struggling teams against each other. The Northern Ontario host team (1-5), skipped by Richard Prud’homme and featuring a blend of curlers from Sudbury and Thunder Bay, was hoping to build on their fifth round win over Nova Scotia.
The highlight of the week so far for Joanne MacDonald’s Newfoundland & Labrador side was a nail biting 5-4 third draw loss to Manitoba. MacDonald’s team from the RE/MAX Centre in St. John’s gave the defending champions all they could handle in that game, but haven’t been able to regain that form since. Both teams were looking to build some positive energy into the last two days of the round robin.
The teams struggled to find their weight early in the opening end. With a solid wall of rocks sitting in front of the house, Host Team second Dennis Duclos squeezed through a skinny port to sit on the button. Well protected, that shot held up and the Host Team got on the board first, 1-0.
Joanne MacDonald executed a masterful draw against a pair of Host counters to even the score after two.
Gino Sonego displayed his own strong draw skills in end #3, spotting a shot to the button. NL second Cecilia Carroll’s takeout attempt stopped just short of the rings to serve as an unwilling guard. Sonego responded with another nice draw a bit deeper in the house. Host second Cecilia Carroll added another to the four-foot. Facing a heap of trouble, MacDonald picked off one to sit third shot. Richard Prud’homme pulled up short on a last shot takeout attempt, but the Host Team picked up a pair to jump ahead 3-1.
In end #4, Joanne MacDonald slid through and wide open house on her first shot. After Prud’homme caught a guard, MacDonald threaded through four yellow guards strung across the top of the house, scoring a single point to leave the Host team up 3-2 at the break.
The ice seemed heavy coming out of the break. Six of the first seven rocks came up shot, setting up of wall of stones clogging the front of the house. Joanne MacDonald caught a nice rub off her own rock to bury a shot in the eight-foot. That left Richard Prud’homme with limited options. The left-hander lost the handle on his shot, allowing Newfoundland & Labrador to steal one to tie the game.
NL drew a pair to the button to open the sixth, then proceeded to put up guards. The end developed beautifully for NL, eventually laying three with another pair in the house. Sadly, Prud’homme first shot picked up debris halfway down. With a trio of NL counters lined up in the house, Prud’homme tried a soft tap to minimize the damage, but Lady Luck deserted him again as he slid through a narrow gap and out of the house. NL seized the opportunity, stealing three huge points to take a stranglehold on the game, 6-3.
Almost tasting their first win, Newfoundland & Labrador wasn’t about to let up on the seventh. Felix green played a beautiful shot against backing deep in the house, then grabbed apiece of the four-foot on his second shot. However, Prud’homme’s near perfect draw saved the game for the moment. Host Team trailed 6-4 without the hammer heading to the last end.
NL, led by Green’s accurate shooting, was content to simply punch Host rocks out of play. Green’s second shot plugged a hole and protected a NL rock laying shot. Prud’homme missed a touchy raise takeout attempt on his last shot, and Newfoundland & Labrador was on the win column.
Alberta (6-1) broke up a tight game late to remain alone atop the standings with an 8-4 win over Northern Ontario (4-3). Nova Scotia (2-5) pulled off the upset of the day so far edging Manitoba (4-3) by a score of 7-6. Saskatchewan (5-2) dealt British Columbia’s (3-4) playoff hopes a blow, winning 7-4. Quebec (4-3) pulled out a squeaker 8-7 over Ontario (4-3).
Round robin play continues until the final draw Friday morning, March 23. The top four teams will advance to the Page Playoff with the championship final scheduled for 2:30 pm EST on Sunday, March 25.