RIGA, Latvia - Faced with a make-or-break shot with the game on the line, Canada's Rachel Homan approached her final throw Monday morning just like any other.
She settled into the hack and coolly delivered a perfect draw inside the four-foot ring for a 5-4 victory over Russia. It was another example of the poise Homan displays on the ice, all the more impressive considering it's her first appearance at the world women's curling championship.
The 23-year-old Ottawa skip thrived in the high-pressure moment at the Volvo Sports Center. Make the shot and you remain near the top of the standings. Miss it and you fall into the middle of the pack.
Homan came through to give Canada the victory over Anna Sidorova and the European champions.
"I think it's a sign of all great skips that that's what they can do," said Canadian coach Earle Morris. "That's why there's only a certain number of people that are successful and continue to win year after year. Those people that are comfortable in that skip's position and like to play the high-pressure shots.
"They enjoy being in that environment, they embrace it and she has that quality. She's able to do that and that's what you saw this morning."
The comfort level of Homan and her Ottawa Curling Club teammates was evident in the final end. They made the shots when it mattered and put themselves in a great position to win the game.
Homan didn't stray from her usual business-like demeanour and seemed downright casual as she came through with the clutch throw.
"We knew all end what the weights were and the sweepers were watching all (the Russians') draws as well," Homan said. "We definitely prepare more than just in that one moment we have to make it, to build up that confidence to be able to make that final shot."
The victory became even more important later in the day as the Canadian side dropped a 5-4 decision in an extra end to Erika Brown of the United States. Homan will take a 3-2 record into an afternoon matchup against Italy on Tuesday.
Both games Monday were long defensive battles. The teams were content to wait for the other side to make errors.
Canada started off strong against Russia by stealing a pair in the second end. Sidorova cut into the lead with a tapback for one in the third and added singles in the fifth and seventh ends on steals.
Homan took the lead again in the eighth end. Sidorova's final stone was a touch heavy and ended up outside the eight-foot ring. The Canadian rock was just inside and Homan hit a draw for one more to regain the lead.
Sidorova hit a takeout for one in the ninth but Canada used its last-rock advantage for the win.
A few dozen fans were in attendance for each draw at the 1,000-seat venue. A handful of Canadian fans did their best to provide a sporting atmosphere by waving flags, cheering and shaking cowbells.
The Canada-United States game was a rather plodding defensive affair with few rocks in play. The teams exchanged single points through the game with Canada pulling even in the 10th to force an extra end.
Brown hit a takeout for the victory to join Canada in a six-way tie for third place at 3-2.
"It's like we're still trying to figure out the ice and the rocks a little bit," Morris said. "But we just weren't as sharp as you need to be. That was a good game but we need to be playing better than that in order to be successful."
Sweden is the only unbeaten team at 5-0 and Scotland is next at 4-1. Germany, Switzerland, Russia and Japan are the other teams in the third-place logjam.
"We're still in playoff contention," Homan said. "We've got a lot of tough teams to play so we've got to pick it up a little bit."
Round-robin play continues through Thursday night and the medal games are scheduled for Sunday.
Homan, who skipped Canada to a silver medal at the 2010 world junior championships, is hoping to win Canada's first world women's title since Manitoba's Jennifer Jones won in 2008.