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Ontario knocks defending champs to open 2017 Scotties

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – After a one-year absence, Rachel Homan is happy to be back at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

The Ontario skip and her Ottawa team won its opener 7-5 in an extra end, but didn’t exactly receive a warm welcome from a plucky Team Canada on the opening draw at the Meridian Centre.

After a three-year run at the Scotties, including two Canadian titles, Homan lost the 2016 Ontario final to Jenn Hanna. Homan jokingly told reporters on Saturday that she had taken a hiatus and was now out of retirement. Her team quickly got down to business against Team Canada, jumping out to a 4-1 lead after five ends against Chelsea Carey’s Calgary team.

Team Manitoba’s Kate Cameron checks out her shot on Saturday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

Team Canada didn’t go away.

Carey got a single in the sixth end and stole two in the seventh end when Homan chose to play a short, straight-back double when facing three, rather than attempting to draw the four-foot. She didn’t get enough of the top rock, leaving Carey with a steal of two and a 4-4 score.

Team Canada got a break in the eighth end when Homan came up short on a draw for two to take a 5-4 margin into the ninth end. Canada hit its way out of trouble in the ninth end for a blank.

The 10th end was fun, with virtually every rock in play, including a wall of Ontario stones at the back of the house.

Team Canada got its point when Carey grabbed an inch of the four-foot with her last rock. The extra end got eventful when Ontario vice-skip Emma Miskew rolled her rock onto the centre line when attempting a peel on a corner guard. That gave Carey something to duck behind.

When Homan settled in the hack to throw her final, Canada had one locked into the four-foot. Homan had the second and third counters. Homan made a short double to win the game and send the boisterous crowd into a frenzy.

“The crowd was amazing,” said Homan, who is backed by Miskew, second Joanne Courtney, lead Lisa Weagle, alternate Cheryl Kreviazuk and coach Adam Kingsbury. “I think that was the most exciting thing about the whole game. Every shot they were on their feet screaming for us. That was great motivation to keep playing well.”

There were more than 3,600 in attendance.

Homan said playing Team Canada right off the bat was a good thing.

Team Northwest Territories celebrates its victory on Saturday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

“You have to snap into it really quick. There’s no easing into things, but really there is no game that is going to be easy out here. (Everyone is) gunning to be in the top four at the end of the week, so we can’t let up at all.”

Carey said it is a long week.

“All we wanted to do was learn about the ice and feel good about going into tomorrow and the next day and the next day,” said Carey, who is backed by vice-skip Amy Nixon, second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Laine Peters, alternate Susan O’Connor and coach Charley Thomas. “To me, the first draw is about trying to get a feel for the ice.”

In the other games, Michelle Englot of Manitoba (Winnipeg) defeated Eve Bélisle of Quebec (Mont-Royal) 7-6 and Mary Mattatall of Nova Scotia (Windsor) edged Marla Mallett of British Columbia (Maple Ridge) 5-4.

In the final of the pre-qualifying competition, Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories (Yellowknife) defeated Melissa Adams of New Brunswick (Fredericton) 5-3 in a heart-stopper. Galusha played four games to get into the main draw.

“I’m shaking,” Galusha said after chipping a partially guarded Adams rock off the four-foot for the win. “I don’t think it ever took me so long to throw a shot.”

Galusha said she is relieved to be back in the Scotties after failing to advance through the pre-qualifying events in 2015 and 2016.

“Relief is something our coach (John Epping) said we shouldn’t feel, because now we have to go out and play against P.E.I. right away. I am so happy right now; my girls played amazing.”

TSN/RDS2, the official broadcaster of Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide extensive coverage of the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

For ticket information, go to: www.curling.ca/2017scotties/tickets/

For schedule information, go to: www.curling.ca/2017scotties/draw/

Live scoring for the 2017 Scotties is available at www.curling.ca/scoreboard/#!/competitions/2236

This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2017scotties/?lang=fr