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A hot start at Scotties for Team Canada

Team Canada is off to the races. You might say Rachel Homan stormed out of the gate, given the weather here Saturday.

Homan and her two-time defending Canadian championship team started the Scotties Tournament of Hearts with two wins Saturday. Homan’s Ottawa foursome opened with a 6-4 victory over Quebec’s Lauren Mann, and followed it up with a 6-3 victory over Stefanie Lawton of the host province.

Third Emma Miskew and the rest of her Team Canada squad enjoyed a 2-0 day on Saturday in Moose Jaw. (Photo, CCA/Andrew Klaver)

Third Emma Miskew and the rest of her Team Canada squad enjoyed a 2-0 day on Saturday in Moose Jaw. (Photo, CCA/Andrew Klaver)

In other evening games, Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones and her Winnipeg rink topped Ontario’s Julie Hastings (Thornhill) by a 7-5 count, Northern Ontario’s Tracy Horgan (Sudbury) bowed 6-4 to Alberta’s Val Sweeting (Edmonton), and P.E.I.’s Suzanne Birt of Charlottetown downed New Brunswick’s Sylvie Robichaud (Moncton) 8-2 in eight ends.

In the Saturday afternoon draw, Nova Scotia’s Mary-Anne Arsenault (Halifax) beat Newfoundland/Labrador’s Heather Strong (St. John’s) 12-7, Lawton downed British Columbia’s Patti Knezevic (Prince George) 8-2, and Horgan defeated the Northwest Territories’ Kerry Galusha (Yellowknife) 7-6. The win gave Horgan a spot in the main draw after winning the pre-qualifying event.

Canada leads the standings at 2-0, with Manitoba, Alberta, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. at 1-0. Saskatchewan is 1-1, while Newfoundland/Labrador, Northern Ontario, Ontario, B.C., New Brunswick and Quebec are 0-1.

The Homan-Lawton game featured bundles of great shots.

Homan scored two on the second end and always seemed to have that two-point cushion.

Alberta skip Val Sweeting. (Photo, CCA/Andrew Klaver)

Alberta skip Val Sweeting. (Photo, CCA/Andrew Klaver)

Homan took a 4-2 lead and the hammer into the eighth end. Lawton made a freeze with her last rock that looked like it would keep Homan from scoring. The shot brought the largest roar of the day from the crowd.

Homan coolly went down the ice and executed a touch-weight tapback to count one, and take a three-point lead into the ninth end.

“We definitely played well,” Lawton said. “It was a couple of key shots where we were maybe a little heavy on the finesse shots. We couldn’t quite put it to them. And they curled really good.

“It was unfortunate we gave them the deuce (on the second end), because then they can play their game.”

Homan said the early deuce was a help to them.

“It was good to get that two. I kind of established control of the game, but against a team like that you can never relax.”

She was impressed with the Saskatchewan reps.

“They are a great team. They have so much experience. Like I said, you can never relax any end you play against them. If you do, they will snap a three on you pretty easily. We have a lot of respect for them. They are going to keep rolling through this tournament for sure.”

The crowd was clearly behind Lawton in both draws. It didn’t go unnoticed and unappreciated by the Saskatchewan skipper.

“It’s pretty cool to be playing with that,” she said after her first game. “It’s awesome. It’s a long game out there, so you have to take some breaks and enjoy the crowd and have some fun with it, too. It’s great.”

It wasn’t lost on Homan that the crowd was on Lawton’s side.

“They weren’t cheering so hard for us that game, but it’s OK. It’s all good,” she said with a laugh.

Horgan pushed Sweeting to the max in their game. The Sudbury team had a couple of good chances early, narrowly missing run-backs for multiple points. After finding herself down three, Horgan clawed back and was one-down without the hammer coming home. Sweeting drew the top of the four-foot for the win. It took all three of Sweeting’s teammates brushing from just inside the hogline to get it there.

On the next sheet, Manitoba gave up singles on the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth ends to Ontario. Manitoba’s once 6-1 lead was suddenly down to 6-5 with one end to play. Facing one buried, Jones tapped one of her own rocks into the four-foot for the win.

“We got off to a great start and then two shots would be missed on those ends and didn’t really have a chance on my last one to score,” said Jones. “We learned a little bit. I felt we were comfortable with the ice and comfortable with the speed, so we feel good about that win and it’s nice to have to battle back to win a game.”

The blizzard Saturday didn’t keep people away from Mosaic Place. Curling continues on Sunday with draws at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times Central).

For ticket and other event information, visit http://www.curling.ca/2015scotties-en/

For the complete schedule, go to http://www.curling.ca/2015scotties-en/draw-schedule/

TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for the CCA’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2015scotties-fr/