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Northern Ontario ousts defending champs at Scotties

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – Krista McCarville and her team from Northern Ontario didn’t need the hammer to eliminate defending Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Chelsea Carey from gold-medal contention Saturday afternoon.

The Thunder Bay team stole the first seven points of the game en route to the one-sided 8-1 victory at the Meridian Centre. By the time Northern Ontario got last rock in the ninth end, the game was long over.

After Carey’s Calgary team blanked the first two ends, the Northern Ontario team went to work, stealing singles in the third and fourth ends, two in the fifth end and three more in the sixth end to take a 7-0 lead.

The steals were set up, end after end, by perfectly placed draws from the McCarville team. Three times Carey had to attempt to draw the corner of the button to salvage points. The other steal was when Carey came up light on a draw to the eight-foot. Drawing the edge of the button cold turkey is a lot to ask of any skipper.

“Definitely the girls had their draw weight early and that’s really key, especially with one game going on out here,” said McCarville, who was back vice-skip Kendra Lilly, second Ashley Sippala, lead Sarah Potts, alternate Oye-Sem Won Briand and coach Lorraine Lang. “I figured conditions change a little bit so we knew we had to pick up on the ice early. The girls had amazing draw weight the whole game, but in that first five (ends) especially.”

Team Canada got on the scoreboard in the eighth end with a single point, giving McCarville the hammer for the first time in the game. Carey threw her hands into the air when her rock stopped near the button in the eighth. She was facing two McCarville stones, but this time they were in the 12-foot.

“They had pressure on us all game,” said Carey, who was backed by vice-skip Amy Nixon, second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Laine Peters, alternate Susan O’Connor and coach Charley Thomas. “I have to be making those draws for one. It is pretty unfortunate it happens then, but what can you do?”

Team Canada’s Chelsea Carey and Amy Nixon ponder the situation on Saturday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

McCarville said she could sympathise with Carey when it comes to struggling with draw weight.

“Sometime you just have that not-great feeling and you’re not really sure. I know her feeling. It’s frustrating.”

When McCarville scored one in the ninth the teams shook hands.

“We just didn’t have things set up from the get-go and that just makes it tough, right?” said Nixon. “We were behind the eight-ball and had to make some pretty exact shots early in the game that we missed barely. It happens.”

Nixon told reporters after the game that she might not be part of the Carey team next year as it embarks on the road toward the 2018 Olympics.

“I think that’s tough for me because I’m not sure for sure I will be playing to be honest with you. I’m not thinking that way. All I’m doing is going and having a beer and spending time with my family and trying to play well tomorrow.”

It didn’t come as a complete surprise, given Nixon’s efforts to balance a busy curling life with family and her career.

Carey said she enjoyed her year as Team Canada.

“It’s been amazing. It’s been an honour. We are so grateful and so thankful,” she said. “We were hoping for the opportunity to get to do it again, but it’s been an incredible year.”

Nixon also said it was a wonderful year.

“It’s an incredible honour and privilege. It was the last thing on our bucket list. I said before that I truly never thought I would get in the game and feel truly honoured to wear the Maple Leaf here.”

McCarville, who has competed at the Scotties five times, will face Ontario’s Rachel Homan in an all-Ontario semifinal at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight at the Meridian Centre. McCarville has previously won silver and bronze medals.

Carey will play in the bronze-medal game, Sunday at 2:30 p.m. against the loser of tonight’s semifinal. The final will be played Sunday night at 7:30.

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