Polars play giant-killer at Scotties

Six teams remained in contention for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts title on Thursday morning but defending champion Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., was facing must-win situations tonight against Saskatchewan and in any future tiebreakers. Holland, continuing to play dangerously in the national championship, missed a last-rock runback and bowed 7-6 to Kerry Galusha’s Territories team from Yellowknife.

Kerry Galusha watches a play at the 2012 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. (Photo by: Andrew Klaver)

Galusha had executed a last-rock runback takeout of her own to confront Holland with a pair but Holland’s attempt over-curled by a thin margin leaving the Territories with a winning steal of two. Holland now sits at four losses, tied with Alberta’s Heather Nedohin who won easily on the morning draw — 10-3 over Heather Strong of Newfoundland, and New Brunswick’s Becky Atkinson who still has two games to play today. “I missed a couple of opportunities early in the game but I still had a shot for the win and it curled up too much,” said Holland with a near-imperceptible shrug. The Kronau unit again was without injured second Tammy Schneider but Holland waved off that absence as an insignificant problem.(Continued Below…) Draw 15 Photos
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“The team played well today,” said Holland. “It would help if I made a last shot.” Holland has missed three last rocks to lose Scotties matches this week. “I think we just needed to get on the brushes a bit quicker on that last one. I thought I threw it close,” said last year’s winner. It was the second time in Galusha’s eight-year Scotties skipping history that she’d managed to defeat the defender. It happened previously in 2009 against Jennifer Jones. “I was still trying to play through remnants of that flu,” allowed Galusha, who pointed 76 per cent, one point better than Holland’s 75. Galusha’s teammates have been calling her Hot Shot all week as a result of her victory in the skills competition Saturday. “I seem to make the big shots and lose focus on the easier ones,” the Polar skip admitted. “I just have to learn to focus the same on all of them. I’ll be a much better curler when I do that.” She said she feels her current flu-ravaged team, struggling with a 3-7 record, “is one of the betters teams I’ve had”. “We had high hopes here. This is the hardest we’ve ever worked to get here.” Elsewhere, British Columbia’s Kelly Scott and Quebec’s Marie-France Larouche extended their records to 7-3, a half-game behind idle leader Jones of Manitoba. Scott, with regular vice-skip Sasha Carter back in action after a bout of the flu, stole the margin of victory midway through a match that ended 8-5 in favour of B.C. over Kim Dolan (2-8) of P.E.I. Larouche won her fifth in a row, stealing two points in a 7-5 win over Ontario rookie Tracy Horgan (4-6) of Sudbury.(Continued Below…) Draw 15 Media Scrum

Larouche faces Manitoba (7-2) in a key tussle at 1:30 p.m. MT that could go some way to determining playoff berths. Scott faces New Brunswick at 7:30 p.m. “I think our lineup is set now,” said Scott. “It’s like a brand new tournament for us. Looking ahead to playoffs we needed to have two games today with the same team.” Scott said she wasn’t worried that Carter, who spent Wednesday on IV in hospital, would be missing any more games. “We really don’t know what’s happening other than it’s all about coming out and trying to win every game,” said Scott, who admitted she’s never navigated her way through such a bumpy week. Why is Larouche, who had a bad tournament a year ago but previously was a fixture in playoffs, having such a successful run right now? “We make all the shots,” she said. “And we know we are able to make all the shots. At the beginning we struggled a bit but now we have so much confidence. “I love the ice here because I know I can trust it. That knowledge builds over a week like this.” Nedohin, like Holland, can’t afford another loss and plays Nova Scotia’s Heather Smith-Dacey in her final assignment on the last draw.