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Ontario is playoff-bound at 2017 Scotties

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – Ontario’s Rachel Homan isn’t thinking about running the table for a second time at the Scotties Tournament Hearts.

At 9-0, Homan is now two round-robin games and two playoff games from going undefeated. She faced a tough test Wednesday afternoon, beating Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville 7-6 in an extra end. The win clinched a playoff berth for Homan, but the battle for first place is far from over.

On the other hand, Homan is just one win ahead of Manitoba’s Michelle Englot. The two clash on the evening draw on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Meridian Centre. Not to be forgotten is defending champion Chelsea Carey, who also has one loss, but has played two fewer games.

Homan went unbeaten during the 2014 Scotties in Montreal, but the prospect of a 13-0 run is thinking too far ahead, suggested Homan, who wrapped up a playoff spot with Wednesday’s victory.

“You’re bound to lose a game. It’s sport; you are bound to lose a game,” said Homan, who was backed by her usual crew of vice-skip Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney, lead Lisa Weagle, alternate Cheryl Kreviazuk and coach Adam Kingsbury. “It’s really tough to go undefeated.”

Homan made a spectacular halfway across the house double takeout in the fourth end to score three grab a 4-1 lead over McCarville (Thunder Bay). It was one those up-weight hits that Homan so often throws and makes, and the home-province crowd loved it.

After counting one in the fifth end, McCarville made a highlight-reel shot herself in sixth. With shot rock hidden behind two Homan rocks positioned side-by-side in the top eight-foot and two long guards, the Northern Ontario skip put a perfect freeze on her own stone. Homan was forced to play a low-percentage shot through a port to save the end. When she rubbed the guard, the game was tied 4-4.

Homan came back with two in the seventh when McCarville’s last-rock attempt at a short guard over curled, leaving Homan room to pound a McCarville rock off the button for two. Northern Ontario missed a couple of chances to put the heat on Homan in the eighth and had to settle for a single point.

After Homan blanked nine, McCarville stole a point in the 10th when Homan’s last-rock draw to the four-foot came up just short after two measurements.

McCarville made a hit-and-roll behind cover with her final rock in the extra end to force Homan to draw the four-foot. The skipper put it on the tee-line for the win.

Her sweepers got a good workout in the game. While the media were interviewing Courtney, Homan came up to the podium and squeezed her right bicep.

“We feel great; we train for it,” Courtney said. “That’s what being front end is all about so sweeping a rock for the win in an extra end is what gets the heart rate going.”

Saskatchewan skip Penny Barker watches her shot during Wednesday’s game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

The team had played in four straight draws, but Courtney wasn’t feeling any excess strain, she said.

“I had lots left in the tank and am really happy for the skipper. She threw it perfect.”

Ontario will be in the playoffs, but the position is yet to be decided.

“The goal at the start of the week is to make playoffs, whether it is one, two, three, four,” Courtney said. “We’re happy with that and still working on building toward the weekend, and sharpening up all our processes out there, keep everything light and have some fun. The crowd has been amazing. I’ve never been the home team and having a great time.”

The loss dropped Northern Ontario to 4-3.

Englot ran her record to 8-1 with an easy 8-3 victory over Nova Scotia’s Mary Mattatall (1-6: Windsor). The Winnipeg team scored three-enders in the fourth and sixth ends.

Carey was in a tussle with Quebec’s Eve Bélisle (6-3, Mount Royal), but eventually prevailed 7-5 win. The victory put Team Canada, perfect since losing its opener on Saturday against Ontario, at 6-1, and ended Quebec’s six-game winning streak.

In the other game, British Columbia’s Marla Mallett (1-8; Maple Ridge) defeated Saskatchewan’s Penny Barker (0-7; Moose Jaw) 7-6 in an extra end. It was the first win for B.C. after eight losses.

Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink (4-3; Okotoks), Northwest Territories’ Kerry Galusha (3-4, Yellowknife), Prince Edward Island’s Robyn MacPhee (2-5; Charlottetown), and Newfoundland/Labrador’s Stacie Curtis (2-5; St. John’s) had byes.

There is another draw at 7:30 ET this evening.

TSN/RDS2, the official broadcaster of Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, is providing 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