Team Middaugh takes major step to playoff berth at Home Hardware Road to the Roar

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — There have been a few highlights this week for Sherry Middaugh and her team from Coldwater, Ont., at the 2017 Home Hardware Road to the Roar Pre-Trials.

Sherry Middaugh and her team picked up another win on Thursday and are co-leaders in Pool B. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Wednesday night? It was seafood pasta. Two nights ago, it was a lobster feast. Later tonight, it will be pork tenderloin. And, yes, when Middaugh, vice-skip Jo-Ann Rizzo, second Lee Merklinger, lead Leigh Armstrong, alternate Kim Tuck and coach Bob Turcotte are on the road together, chances are very good there will be a nice glass of wine or two enjoyed by all.

And, oh yes, the team is 3-1 and tied for first place in Pool B of the women’s competition heading into the final day of round-robin competition at Credit Union Place.

“We’ve actually had no evening games, which we love,” said a smiling Middaugh, moments after a dramatic 7-5 win over Krista McCarville (2-2 of Thunder Bay, Ont. “We rented a house a half hour away, and we’re comfortable. It’s perfect.”

Those evening dinners with friends, family and sponsors have been made better by the team’s success here — the lone blemish was a sloppy loss to Winnipeg’s Briane Meilleur on Tuesday, but Middaugh and Co. have put together two solid wins since then to sit in top spot, tied with Kerri Einarson of East St. Paul, Man.

“When we looked at the schedule, you want to get off to a good start; you don’t want to start dropping early. We won our first game, but lost our second, and worse, we didn’t play well. We were really flat, and that’s the scary part,” said Middaugh. “If you play well and lose, you think, well, not a big deal, right? One or two shots. So, it was big for us to come out strong yesterday, which we did, and we came out strong again today. I felt like we’re playing well, we’re reading the ice really well. It’s important that we’re 3-and-1, but we still have two really good matches tomorrow.”

It was a crucial game for both teams on Thursday, and it went down to the wire. A rare miss from Middaugh in the ninth, when she was wide on a takeout attempt, opened the door for McCarville to hit for three and take a 5-4 lead into the 10th end.

But McCarville returned the favour in the 10th, coming up heavy on a draw attempt, giving Middaugh an open hit for the victory.

The top three teams from each pool will advance to the playoffs beginning on Saturday, with the first- and second-place teams crossing over to meet each other in the first round of the A-side. The winners will then meet for the first available 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings berth.

The first-round losers, meanwhile, will drop to meet the third-place teams in each pool in the first round of the B-side. The winners of the two games will then meet, with the winner taking on the A-side final loser for the second Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings berth.

“It’s nice to be here, knowing that with one or two wins tomorrow, we’re playoff-bound,” said Middaugh. “But it’s important, as you know, to get into the one-two spot.

Skip Briane Meilleur, right, and vice-skip Breanne Knapp watch intently during their win over Team Robertson. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Einarson, meanwhile, rebounded nicely after taking her first loss on Wednesday; she scored threes in the fourth and sixth ends and cruised to a 9-4 win over Jacqueline Harrison (2-2) of Mississauga, Ont. Einarson and Middaugh will meet on Friday morning (8 a.m. AT), with a win all but locking up first place in the pool.

In other action, Team Meilleur kept pace in Pool B with Middaugh and Einarson, improving to 3-2 with a 10-6 win over Winnipeg’s Darcy Robertson (1-4).

In the lone Pool A game, Halifax’s Theresa Breen (3-2) boosted her playoff hopes with a 6-4 win over Winnipeg’s Shannon Birchard (2-3). Team Breen is in second place in Pool A, behind only Julie Tippin (3-1) of Woodstock, Ont.

The 14 men’s teams had byes in the afternoon draw.

The Home Hardware Road to the Roar is the final qualifying event for teams to reach the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, Dec. 2-10 in Ottawa, where Canada’s four-player curling teams for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will be decided.

The 2017 Home Hardware Road to the Roar continues on Thursday with draws at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. (all times Atlantic). On Friday, draws are set for 8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

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TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the 2017 Home Hardware Road to the Roar beginning on Saturday.