It’s the kind of championship matchup no one could have predicted. The defending champion versus a team featuring a 21-year-old last-rock thrower representing a province that not only never before has won the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts but never before has placed a team in the final.
“Pretty amazing right now,” said Prince Edward Island skip Kathy O’Rourke in the wake of Saturday night’s convincing 10-6 victory over home-province favourite Krista McCarville and her Thunder Bay aggregation.
Pretty amazing, indeed.
A team that, one night earlier, was afforded sufficient opportunities to defeat the defending champs but lost on account of a mediocre 60-per-cent shooting performance on last rocks, Saturday benefited from a total turnaround from 21-year-old Erin Carmody who strangled Ontario’s hopes with a scintillating 93-per-cent effort on the last shots.
“Erin was on fire,” agreed O’Rourke. “I told her last night that we’d just had a practice game and we’d come back tomorrow and she could do her thing. She said, ‘yeah, that’s what I’m going to do’, and she did it tonight.”
Question: Can this smooth-shooting young lady do it one more time and win was amounts to a rubber match against Jennifer Jones and her Team Canada charges, the winner of three of the last five Scotties who is looking for a third straight crown?
“I think we have the nerves under control and big games under our belt and I hope we feel we have a score to settle with Team Canada,” said the 45-year-old O’Rourke, who throws second rocks.
“I think we can come back against them (Team Canada). I think we were a little nervous (Friday night) and that showed but we know we can play a lot better. I got great comfort and support from my teammates — they did everything the could to pick me up — and that helped me today.”
The Islanders exploded out of the gate with a first-end deuce courtesy two perfect Carmody draw shots, then hammered three on the board for a 5-1 lead after three ends.
McCarville’s group never fully recovered, however they did scrap and claw to within two points after eight panels.
“We tried to think about one shot at a time out there,” said O’Rourke, “and when it was over we were just in a little shock.”
The Islanders defeated Jones during the round robin with a 9-5 effort on Wednesday night, then bowed 8-5 on Friday.
“Hopefully, we have some unfinished business with them, but it still feels good to get into that final and make history,” said O’Rourke. “Now we want to make real history! And to do that we have to think about making as many shots again.
“We’re playing a great team but so are a bunch of others here and we don’t look at the colour of the jackets.”
“They’re obviously pretty good, they’re Team Canada, but I try to always focus on our team and never mind the opposition. If we can just focus on our shots, we’ll be fine.”
Carmody had an open hit for three in the second end against Canada on Friday night and miscued. Everyone agreed a shot there would have changed the game completely.
“If that happens again I might line up a little better and take an extra breath in the hack,” she said with a cheerful laugh.
The McCarville team was slow to get its act together but, trailing 7-2 in the sixth, managed a deuce and coerced another in the eighth to cut the lead to two points. But stationing rocks in the correct places was a tough act all night long.
“It’s disappointing but we’ll learn from it,” said the 27-year-old Lakehead skip.
“They play so well. They just never let us back into it. I was confused on a couple of shots that proved costly.
“We’re a young team. We’ll have a lot more shots at this, I’m sure. Every setback at this level teaches you something.”
Today’s final match goes at 2:30 p.m. ET.
The winner of the Scotties title will represent Canada at the Ford World women’s championship, March 20-28 at Swift Current, SK.