MONTREAL -- The crowd was brewed up loud already on the first night of the Scotties, so Chelsea Carey had a rowdy welcome to her first national campaign.
The Manitoba skip was sitting in the hack Saturday evening, early in her 8-3 loss to defending Canadian champion Rachel Homan, when the shouts started rolling from the stands. The rowdies were hockey players or something, Carey grinned, friends of Homan's and -- apparently -- adult-beverage enthusiasts.
"They were heckling me, and she was like, 'I'm so sorry,'" Carey laughed, shaking off the ache of the loss. "It was quite funny."
The hecklers, she assured, didn't rattle her. Maybe a flutter of nervous energy did, she agreed, given that it was her first game in the Tournament of Hearts, under the lights of Montreal's quirky Maurice Richard Arena and under the lens of TSN.
Whatever it was, the Manitobans missed a handful of key shots early and gave up three points in steals before the break. They righted the ship but couldn't light a fire, and shook hands after eight.
So that is how Carey will remember her Scotties debut: "Not the most fondly, but it's a great team," she said. "That has the potential to happen. We got it figured out, got our rocks in some better spots later... We came back, for sure, but it was a tough start. You just can't miss those shots."
The percentages bear out that tale: By the numbers, Homan's rink was lights-out where the Carey rink was unsettled. Homan curled 98 per cent, her third Emma Miskew sniped for 97, and her second Allison Kreviazuk was close behind with 94. By contrast, while Manitoba lead Lindsay Titheridge curled a strong game with a 92 per cent shot rating, the other Manitoba curlers' percentages couldn't escape the 70s.
For the Carey foursome, it started to unravel on the final rock of the second end. All Carey needed was a straight-up peel to blank it and carry the hammer forward with the scoreboard still uncracked. But she slipped coming out of the hack and her hammer glanced too lightly off Homan's red shot rock. The shooter rolled out but the red just slid across the house, handing Homan a steal of one.
In the very next end, the hurt came on the hammer again. Facing three red counters, all Carey wanted was a simple draw to take a single. But she and her sweepers could put it no further than the top of the 12-foot paint, and the Canadian champs stole again.
"I just over-thought, I just out-thought myself," Carey said. "I had my draw weight after that... I had it then; I just didn't throw it the way I needed to. Once I started trusting myself, it was fine."
The Manitobans did rally then. They blanked the fourth and tried to make a hit-and-roll for a deuce in the fifth.
But Carey's shooter rolled right out, so she settled for the single, and the teams went into the break with Homan up 3-1. Carey kept her to a single in the sixth, then picked up a seventh-end deuce to pull to 4-3. But in the eighth, Homan drove the killing blow, setting up a minefield of red rocks and making a pretty shot to score four.
Still, it's only one game, and there are 10 round-robin tilts yet to play. And the most fearsome opponent in competition is now out of the way.
Not that it gets a lot easier. This morning, Carey will face tough Saskatchewan skip Stefanie Lawton before taking on B.C. rookie Kesa Van Osch in the afternoon.
"You just gotta try to win the next game," Carey said. "If you can keep your head in that space, you'll do OK."
The Manitobans didn't play in the first draw Saturday afternoon, where young Yukon skip Sarah Koltun lost a valiant 7-5 match against Alberta's Val Sweeting and B.C.'s Van Osch toppled veteran Prince Edward Islander Kim Dolan, who is on her 13th trip to the Scotties show. In the battle of the Heathers, Newfoundland's Heather Strong soared 8-1 past Nova Scotia's Heather Smith, and New Brunswick skip Andrea Crawford put Quebec's Allison Ross away 6-1.
Strong would go on to win her evening match against Ross 5-4, and Sweeting beat Van Osch 8-6 to become the first teams in the field to go 2-0.