Playoff pairing set at 2017 Scotties

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — It’s a final four that will feature no shortage of compelling Page playoff matchups at the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville rolled to a 10-6 win over Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories (5-6; Yellowknife) on Friday morning at the Meridian Centre in the final round-robin draw to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot.

With the win, McCarville, vice-skip Kendra Lilly, second Ashley Sippala, lead Sarah Potts, alternate Oye-Sem Won Briand and coach Lorraine Lang advance with their 8-3 record to Saturday’s Page playoff 3-4 game (2:30 p.m.; all times Eastern).

And awaiting them there will be the defending champs — Chelsea Carey’s Team Canada foursome from Calgary, who finished third in the round robin with a 9-2 record thanks to their 7-4 win over Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink (5-6; Okotoks).

That game, of course, would be a rematch of last year’s Scotties gold-medal game in Grande Prairie, Alta., where Carey, vice-skip Amy Nixon, second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Laine Peters, alternate Susan O’Connor and coach Charley Thomas prevailed in a thrilling final.

This time, the stakes will be a berth into Saturday’s 7:30 semifinal.

Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink bowed out of the Scotties on Friday morning. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

“We obviously wanted to get into the playoffs, so we’re happy and we’re playing well,” said McCarville. “This is what we’re really looking forward to, playing the top teams in the Scotties, playing at this elite level and feeling the excitement of the fans.”

Northern Ontario won the round-robin roundup on Thursday over Team Canada, 8-4 on Thursday, but Carey said Saturday was a new opportunity for her team.

“I think it’s a fresh start; the ice is way different than it was yesterday and we’re excited to get out and play,” said Carey. “We know they’re a good team, and we’ll have to be at our best, but we feel like we’re playing pretty good.”

“We know its coing to be a close game, we know they’ll probably play better against us than they did yesterday,” added McCarville. “But it’s all we can ask for. We’ll just go out and play our own game.”

Leading off the playoff matchups later tonight will be a rematch of the top two teams from the round robin — Manitoba’s Michelle Englot (Winnipeg) and Ontario’s Rachel Homan (Ottawa). Both teams finished at 10-1, but Manitoba was awarded first place based on its victory over Ontario Thursday night.

Manitoba will have last-rock advantage in the 1-2 game (set for 7:30 p.m.), with the winner going directly to Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. gold-medal game, while the loser will take on the winner of the 3-4 game in the semifinal.

Alberta’s loss likely ended the Scotties career of Kleibrink. A five-time Alberta champ who won Hearts silver in 2008 and Olympic bronze in 2006, Kleibrink’s participation in 2017 was very limited due to a back injury. After sitting out most of the games here, she started Friday morning’s game against Team Canada before giving way to Heather Nedohin in the early ends, leaving the game to a round of applause from the fans.

In the other Friday morning games, Prince Edward Island’s Robyn MacPhee (3-8; Charlottetown) defeated Saskatchewan’s Penny Barker (1-10; Moose Jaw) 9-5; and Newfoundland/Labrador’s Stacie Curtis (5-6; St. John’s) was a 7-4 victor over Nova Scotia’s Mary Mattatall (2-9; Halifax).

TSN/RDS2, the official broadcaster of Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, is providing extensive coverage of the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

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