‘Tobans play thieves in upsetting Ontario

Krista McCarville has used up her last mulligan. “No more of those. No more of that. That was bad,” said Ontario’s 27-year-old skip on Wednesday morning at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. “We’ve got to pick up our socks.” “That” was a shocking 10-5 loss to Manitoba at the Essar Centre, a defeat that dropped the round-robin frontrunners back into a two-way tie for first place at the Canadian women’s curling championship. Ontario (6-2) still heads the pack alongside Jennifer Jones’ Team Canada (6-2), which routed Quebec 9-4 on Wednesday morning. Prince Edward Island, which did not play in the 12th draw, is still in good position with a 5-and-2 mark. In other action, Saskatchewan stole a point in the 10th end to edge British Columbia 5-4, while Newfoundland pounded fast-fading Alberta 11-4. Manitoba (5-3) sits fourth in standings, while Saskatchewan, B.C., and Quebec are all clustered in the middle of the pack with identical 4-and-4 log books. McCarville’s Thunder Bay rink looked nothing like a tournament favourite during Wednesday morning’s middle ends on Sheet D. Jill Thurston’s Winnipeg-based outfit had the Ontarians on the run with three straight thefts in the fourth, fifth and sixth ends — and the latter two steals were particularly damaging. In the fifth, McCarville tried to draw to the four-foot ring facing four yellow Manitoba stones, but rubbed on a rock in the eight-foot and gave up a steal of three. One end later, McCarville tried for a hit-and-stick with her final brick, but her shooter rolled out into the edge of the 12-foot and Manitoba took two more. That development gave Thurston’s Deer Lodge Curling Club outfit a commanding 9-2 lead. “I just didn’t feel good with the ice at all. Didn’t feel good with draw weight . . . it was really patchy, and it was curling more, and we just weren’t catching on to it,” said McCarville, whose Fort William Curling Club quartet includes Tara George, Ashley Miharija and Kari MacLean. “We just struggled overall. “That draw, where we gave up a steal of three (in the fifth), I took a lot more ice. I even said to the girls when I was in the hack, ‘Those guards aren’t going to be in play.’ It overcurled by a mile, and I did not think it was going to do that. “So, yeah,” added McCarville, “I wasn’t sure what was going on out there.” While McCarville felt her rink had sorted things out by the end — forcing Thurston into a difficult hit-and-stick in the ninth, facing four Ontario stones — the Manitoba skip said there was no question about her team’s game plan. She was going right after the leaders. “Krista’s obviously a very, very aggressive skip, and she knows the game really well. It really helps when your team is making shots, and they have great draw weight; it’s a lot easier to be aggressive,” said Thurston, whose team includes Kristen Phillips, Leslie Wilson and Raunora Westcott. “And we just agreed this morning that we were going to go out and attack them, and be aggressive. It was great, because everybody on our team had great draw weight.” Jones’ Winnipeg-based Team Canada, meanwhile, started out with a four-ender and cruised to that 9-4 win over Eve Belisle’s crew from La Belle Province. The two-time defending Canadian champions have won three straight after a pair of shocking losses to the Territories and Newfoundland on Monday. “I feel like we’re getting better with each game,” said Jones, a 2008 world champion, whose St. Vital Curling Club rink includes Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin. “I felt we came out pretty sharp today. “We gave up a steal today (one point in the sixth), which is uncharacteristic. We’ve got to eliminate that. But hopefully we’ll just keep getting better and better as the week goes on.” Amber Holland’s Saskatchewan team avoided almost certain playoff elimination with that 10th-end steal against Kelly Scott’s former world championship rink. Holland drew to the button under cover with her final stone. Scott then tried to knock it out with her final brick, but flashed and handed the Kronau Curling Club rink the win. “I don’t think I could have buried it much more. Obviously it was enough to work, and we’re happy about that,” said Holland, whose Kronau, Sask.-based rink includes Kim Schneider, Tammy Schneider and Heather Kalenchuk. “They’re all big wins at this moment in time. But we felt like we figured things out a little bit better that game. Kelly’s got a tough team.” Scott’s miss ended a cat-and-mouse affair — Saskatchewan’s deuce in the third end was the only time either squad scored more than a point in a single end. “We timed it exactly (as) we wanted. It was a 12-second throw, which is about half-weight. I think we just jumped it a bit halfway down the sheet, and took the curl out of it,” said a disappointed Scott, whose team includes Jeanna Schraeder, Sasha Carter and Jacquie Armstrong. “Halfway down, it looked like it was in the right spot. At the hog line, it did. And it kind of surprised us from the hog line to the rock at the ‘T’ line; we just didn’t get the finish we were expecting. “We could probably throw it that way 10 more times,” she sighed, “and make the shot 10 times. In a way, I feel a little bit robbed of those results. But that’s curling.” Valerie Sweeting’s Alberta team, meanwhile, absorbed its fourth straight defeat in falling to 3-and-5 and all but mathematically removing itself from playoff contention. “We just haven’t been as sharp as we were coming in,” said Sweeting, whose Saville Sports Centre team includes Megan Einarson, Whitney More and Lindsay Makichuk. “We’re just not used to arena ice, but I wouldn’t blame the ice or the rocks. We just have to come out and play like we can in the last three games. It’s been a great week, but we’re not too heartbroken.” During Wednesday afternoon’s 13th draw, which begins at 2 p.m. ET, Ontario (6-2) faces the Territories (2-5), Saskatchewan (4-4) squares off against Nova Scotia (1-6), Quebec (4-4) clashes with P.E.I. (5-2) and Newfoundland (3-5) tangles with New Brunswick (3-4).