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Family doesn’t count when it comes to playing each other at the Scotties

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. – Jill Officer was hoping her niece, Kristin MacCuish, would make it to this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts, but when it came time to play each other on Thursday it was all business, not family.

“I think we just try to focus on our business and stay within our own teams and play our own games,” Officer, third on Team Canada, said after her team had beaten MacCuish and Team Manitoba 8-4.

“We both know and are well aware that when we go out on the ice it’s purely business and when we’re off the ice we’re family and still love each other.

“But I will say it does not make it a whole lot easier.”

MacCuish, in her first Scotties as lead for Kerri Einarson’s Manitoba (East St. Paul) team while this is Officer’s 12th, agreed that on the ice “it’s just like playing any other team, we kind of stick to ourselves.

“There’s a few moments before the game when we’re chit-chatting, but once we’re on the ice we’re in our own zone … just another competitor that I want to beat. It will happen.”

But not on Thursday.

Team Canada continued to roll impressively towards the playoffs with its sixth straight win. Skip Jennifer Jones made a pair of key shots in the third and sixth ends to score deuces and put her team in control of the game.

“She’s made a ton of big shots this week, which is great because that’s what you hope your skip can do,” Officer said of her skip. “As well as make the easy ones, which she’s also been doing.

“I anticipated they would come out and play and they make some big shots, but we were able to capitalize on some misses as well.”

Meanwhile, Krista McCarville of Northern Ontario moved one step closer to the Scotties playoffs with a pair of crucial, bounce-back wins.

To guarantee a playoff berth, however, she may have to go through the southern half of her province, represented by Jenn Hanna and her Ottawa team.

McCarville, backed by third Kendra Lilly, second Ashley Sippala, lead Sarah Potts, alternate Oye-Sem Won Briand and coach Lorraine Lang, rolled past Marie-France Larouche of Quebec (4-6, St. Romauld) 7-2 in the afternoon draw at Revolution Place.

Its second win of the day improved Northern Ontario’s record to 7-3, trailing only Team Canada at 7-2 and Alberta at 8-2.

Ontario vice-skip Brit O'Neill guides her teammates during Thursday's game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

Ontario vice-skip Brit O’Neill guides her teammates during Thursday’s game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

“We needed that because we’re getting closer and we needed to be picking up our game and I think we have,” said McCarville, whose team lost both its games on Wednesday. “That’s the most important thing, but we still can’t look too far ahead, one really big game tomorrow versus Ontario.”

Hanna kept alive her playoff hopes with an 8-5 win over Suzanne Birt of P.E.I. (4-5; Charlottetown). That left Ontario at 5-4 with its last two games against Team Canada tonight and Northern Ontario in the final round-robin draw Friday morning.

“Jenn Hanna beat me in provincial final in 2005 so it will be good to play her again,” said McCarville, a four-time Ontario champion. “We haven’t played her in a while, but that’s the game that sticks out in my head.”

The Thunder Bay skip feels good going into her final round-robin game after her team’s performance Thursday.

“Yesterday I probably didn’t have my best games and today I felt I picked it up and that’s how I want to feel going into tomorrow, last round-robin game and hopefully into the playoffs, too,” she said.

Alberta has locked up a spot in Friday night’s Page playoff 1-2 game, where a berth in Sunday’s gold-medal game will be up for grabs.

The top four teams will make the Page playoff round, which sees the first- and second-place teams playing Friday at 6:30 p.m. (all times MST) for a berth in the final Sunday at 6:30 p.m. The third- and fourth-place teams will also meet, Saturday at 1:30 p.m., with the winner moving onto the semifinal Saturday night at 6:30. The loser of the three-four game will play the semifinal loser in the bronze-medal game on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

The other afternoon game saw Karla Thompson of B.C. (Kamloops) score deuces in three ends en route to a 7-5 win over Sylvie Robichaud of New Brunswick (Moncton) that left both teams tied for last at 2-8.

Not playing in the afternoon draw were Chelsea Carey of Alberta (8-2; Calgary), Jolene Campbell of Saskatchewan (6-4; Regina), Nova Scotia’s Jill Brothers (5-5; Halifax) and Stacie Curtis of Newfoundland-Labrador (3-7; St. John’s).

There’s one more draw today at 6:30 p.m. MT

For ticket and other event information, visit http://www.curling.ca/2016scotties/tickets/

For the complete schedule, go to http://www.curling.ca/2016scotties/draw-schedule/

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2016scotties/?lang=fr

TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.