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Team Canada opens with win over host province at Scotties

PENTICTON, B.C. – Michelle Englot has worn the iconic green of her native Saskatchewan seven times at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Last year it was the yellow of Manitoba. Saturday, though, was the first time she wore red and white, and she made a successful debut in Team Canada colours, skipping her Winnipeg team to a 6-2 victory over British Columbia in the opening draw of the 2018 Scotties.

Englot, third Kate Cameron, second Leslie Wilson, lead Raunora Westcott, alternate Briane Meilleur and coach Ron Westcott lost the 2017 Scotties final to Ontario. But when Rachel Homan’s Ottawa team qualified to represent Canada at the 2018 Olympics, Englot et al were invited by Curling Canada to be Team Canada.

“It’s pretty special actually. We really want to wear it with pride and play our hearts out,” said Englot, although she admitted she’s not totally comfortable just yet with being Team Canada. “We’re the token Team Canada.

“It’s just a jacket, right? So the goal here is to come out and play strong and make the playoffs and then win this thing and earn our own jacket.”

The eighth end was key to breaking open what had been a close game. B.C. skip Kesa Van Osch left a Manitoba stone in the house on an attempted double takeout, leaving Englot with an open draw for two and a 4-2 lead. In the ninth, with Canada having three surrounding the button, Van Osch was only able to get rid of one, giving up a steal of two to fall behind 6-2

“We stayed patient, and once we did have chances later on we capitalized,” said Englot. “They played really well and stuck with us, but we made some key shots to get our deuce in eight and that was big.

“I need to get a little bit better handle on the ice and get off to a quicker start, but other than that the girls played really well and feel good about how things are looking.

For Van Osch, whose first Scotties appearance came four years ago in Montreal, it was special for her Nanaimo team of third Marika Van Osch, second Kalia Van Osch, lead Amy Gibson, alternate Rachelle Kallechy and coach Bill Tschirhart to represent the host province.

“It’s awesome. I can’t think of being anything better than being the home team. It’s awesome,” said Kesa Van Osch. “We felt pretty good. A little nervous starting the game because it’s been a while since we’ve been to a Scotties, so we were a little nervous starting but I think we got it under control pretty quick. I thought we played pretty good for our first game out there today.

“They’re a great team and just got the better of us.”

Quebec skip Émilia Gagné takes aim during her team’s win over Nunavut on Saturday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

All the action in Saturday afternoon’s draw was in Pool B of the new 16-team format. The group’s top-seeded team from Alberta edged Ontario 6-5 thanks to skip Casey Scheidegger (Grande Prairie/Lethbridge) delivering a draw that barely reached the button for the win over Hollie Duncan of Toronto.

Despite giving up a four-ender in the third end to trail 4-1, Newfoundland/Labrador skipped by Stacie Curtis (St. John’s) scored in bunches down the stretch to take out Robyn MacPhee of Prince Edward Island Charlottetown) 11-6.

Nunavut, in its first appearance in the main draw of the Scotties, suffered a 9-2 defeat in eight ends to Quebec’s teenage champions skipped by Émilia Gagné of Alma. The biggest applause of the opening draw came in the fourth end when Nunavut skip Amie Shackleton, with her team from Iqaluit trailing 5-0 and facing four Quebec counters, drew the button for a single point.

The 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts continues with a draw today at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times PST).

Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts are available at www.curling.ca/scoreboard/

TSN and RDS2 (streamed on ESPN3 in the United States) will provide complete coverage of the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Go to www.tsn.ca/2017-18-curling-broadcast-schedule-1.593081 for the complete schedule.

For ticket information for the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, go to www.curling.ca/2018scotties/tickets/

This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2018scotties/category/nouvelles/?lang=fr