Andrea Kelly upsets Suzanne Birt after draw one

The hometown heavy favourites in the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts tripped leaving the starting gate Saturday afternoon, allowing back-to-back thefts of deuces to New Brunswick’s Andrea Kelly in an eventual 9-7 defeat. Suzanne Birt’s Charlottetown unit cracked a promising three-ender in the first end but Kelly bounced back with deuces in the second and fourth to square the account. The thefts of two in the fifth and sixth ends decided the issue. “We made a few great shots and had a couple of bad misses and maybe some missed communication on one or two,” said Birt, a former two-time Canadian and one-time world junior champion.

Team New Brunswick at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts (Photo By: Andrew Klaver)

“The second steal of two really hurt us. There was missed communication. It was a wide open shot and it was really too bad.” Birt was attempting a hit and stick to count but her shooter over-curled and rolled too far. “We have to come out tomorrow in the next game and play better. We’ll be fine,” said the 29-year-old native of Summerside, P.E.I. In other first-round games, Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland hit for three in the second end and stubbornly kept control against Winnipeg’s Cathy-Overton Clapham to record an 8-6 win. Saskatchewan led 7-2 after six ends and succeeded in warding off a couple of late Manitoba rallies. Overton-Clapham, of course, was a part of defending champion Jennifer Jones’s lineup but was dropped from that team at the end of last season. “It was really important to get that first win,” said Holland. “We found out how important last year when we didn’t get it and didn’t play well, to boot. Playing well is the most important aspect.” The same team from Kronau finished 6-and-5 at Sault Sre. Marie. “We weren’t happy with how we finished last year so we’re determined. We are going to be better. I think we’re working harder, everybody’s a year older and a year wiser.” Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary, he 2008 Scotties runnerup, clobbered Kerry Galusha of Yellowknife 9-2 and Ontario’s Rachel Homan of Ottawa hung a 9-3 whipping on Heather Smith-Dacey’s Nova Scotia entry. “I think the ice will get pretty good after a couple of draws but right now draw weight is pretty patchy,” said Kleibrink, who played in he Canadian mixed champion here in 1986 with Mike Sali of Calgary. “I suspect the ice is a bit green and I think you’ll see us hitting for the first couple of games, anyway. It looked like a struggle for everyone when you looked around. This is normal. It always gets better after a couple of games. The good news is it’s curling nicely so you can bury rocks.” The 21-year-old Homan, the youngest skip in the tournament, admitted to a slight case of nerves stepping on the Scotties ice for the first time. “It was the same in the provincial championship,” she said. “There were nerves, but good nerves. It’s pretty exciting. “At least we know we’re not going to go 0-and-whatever. We weren’t really worried about it but it’s no fun when you get on a losing streak.”