Ontario, Saskatchewan maintain Scotties pace

The two frontrunners at the 2011 Scotties Tournament Of Hearts in Charlottetown stayed that way Monday morning. Ontario’s Rachel Homan and Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland both retained spotless record’s and sit atop the table at 4-0. Homan, the 21-year-old human kinetics student from Ottawa U again showed her relentless nerves of steel, jumping out to an early 4-0 lead on hometown favourite Suzanne Birt en route to a 8-2 win. For Homan, who wrote an exam Sunday morning, keeping tasks in relative order has been key. Her test had immediate application.

Team Saskatchewan defeats Team Alberta at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts(Photo by: Andrew Klaver)

The intense focus of the young Ontario skip is not lost on the field. “I think you just need the confidence…. and obviously that team does,” said a reflective Birt after the loss. “They’ve made a great transition for sure (from junior ranks to Scotties).” For Birt,  the 2001 World junior champ as Suzanne Gaudet – curling is still a huge part of her life, but she admits life priorities do change. “There are things you have to think about when you get older: Husband, kids and work, but we just have to learn to manage that… and I think we do a good job of doing that.” Birt drops to 1-3, with the afternoon off. The crew looks ahead to a marquee Islander’s Day evening draw against Canada’s Jennifer Jones in what is being touted as the largest P.E.I. single-draw attendance record – a virtual sellout. Meanwhile, Holland’s crew from  Regina kept pace, albeit in more difficult circumstances. A tight contest seemed to sway to Alberta’s Kleibrink, who earned back-to-back steals in ends six and seven to make it a 4-2 contest in her favour. But the Saskatchewan crew responded with several clutch shots in eight, especially from third Kim Schneider and skipper Holland, to put up a four-spot and gain control of the game. Calgary’s Kleibrink responded with a tidy deuce in nine to force Holland to score with hammer the final end to earn an 8-6 win. Alberta’s  record evened at 2-2. The Calgary team plays Newfoundland/Labrador’s Stacie Devereaux tonight (7:30 p.m. AT). Despite the slow start, Holland said her team’s resolve ruled the day. “We just didn’t  find a way to get it done early, we couldn’t find our draw weight,” said Holland, who admitted the ice conditions remain tricky – for both teams. It has added a little guesswork to line and  weight, she said. She shrugged that off as something her crew cannot control. “If you think we are throwing the same draw weight on every spot on that ice, you’re laughing,” she said. “There are different paths, different patches… it’s tricky.” Holland says the conditions have re-inforced a mantra of getting out of the gate quickly, something the team did not do this morning, but came away with a win nonetheless. “We don’t want to be playing a lot of finesses shots later of the game,” she laughed. On the seventh draw today (12:30 p.m. AT), Team Canada plays New Brunswick, British Columbia faces Nova Scotia, Manitoba tackles Quebec and Newfoundland goes against the Territories entry.