MONTREAL, Que. -- With three games done at this Scotties Tournament of Hearts and eight yet to play, Chelsea Carey only needs to know one thing about each day.
Just tell the Manitoban skip when she has to be at the arena and when she's gotta play.
That's it, that's all. See, for their first three opponents in the women's curling championship, Carey and her teammates knew the names and came prepared. But late Sunday afternoon, hanging around the edge of the Maurice Richard Arena after her second straight win, the Manitoba skip didn't know who she was set to face next. "We call it the paper-bag theory," she said. "Just pretend they're all wearing paper bags on their heads, and it doesn't matter who it is."
For the record, Team Manitoba's fourth opponent of the round robin is Nova Scotia's Heather Smith, set for 1 p.m. today.
But like the skip said, it doesn't matter who's on the other side of the draw, not really. Because anyone can win, because there's no one in this field the Carey foursome can afford to take lightly. They got a reminder of that in their second game on Sunday, when 22-year-old British Columbia rookie Kesa Van Osch gave 'em a run for their money. It came down to the last shot of the 10th end, score tied at six, and even that was a triumph. The Manitobans had trailed 5-3 after seven.
As Carey, third Kristy McDonald, second Kristen Foster and lead Lindsay Titheridge so often do, they slung themselves out of a tough spot, scoring three in the eighth to take the lead, then holding off the British Columbians' valiant steal attempt in the 10th to take the game-winning single on Carey's final shot. And maybe they wouldn't have expected that sort of resistance from a 22-year-old who just competed in her first women's provincials, but -- well, see the point above.
"This game was a battle," Carey said. "We sort of didn't really wake up until the eighth end. This morning's game was emotionally exhausting. We didn't do a good enough job of recovering from that... So we were real sloppy early for the first five or six ends and then finally started to make some shots late. But they were throwing with a ton of confidence, because we hadn't made them have to make anything."
The morning game she referenced was a killer against Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton, one of the most fearsome opponents curling in Montreal this week. Having lost on Saturday night to defending champion Rachel Homan, Carey and crew hoped to at least split against the tournament's top two. Knowing they could well meet either of those teams again this week, and if they do, a loss will no longer be an option.
They beat Lawton on Sunday morning in a taut and patient game. They stole one in the third and recovered from a Saskatchewan triple in the sixth to trail by only 4-3 coming home. There, facing a crowded sheet and with a possible Lawton steal staring the Manitobans in the face, McDonald threw a beautiful shot to get them out of an ugly spot that took one of Lawton's yellows out and pushed the other to the back of the 12-foot paint.
From there, Carey used her first throw to push one of Lawton's yellows to the back of the house, then threaded a laser-beam peel to take out Lawton's second shot and take a winning deuce. It was her first win ever on a Scotties stage. "At the beginning of the day, we said, 'We need a win today,' " Carey said after that one. "Getting it on the first one is a bonus... it feels good to get that, and do it the way we did, to hang in there after one bad end."
So that was Carey's day, on a busy one around the Maurice Richard Arena. The morning draws were mostly blowouts -- two games saw five-point ends, one from Team Yukon and the other by Team Nova Scotia -- and the afternoon matches mostly came down to the wire. By the time the first two of the day's three draws were done, Canadian champion Homan was still undefeated through three, while Carey and three other rinks were tied at 2-1. But it's early yet. There's a lot more curling to be done.
It was also a day of legacies and memories, as curlers worked the phones at the annual Sandra Schmirler telethon. Even before Sunday's second draw, the event had raised almost $100,000 for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, which raises funds for premature and seriously ill newborn babies in tribute to the late curling legend.
Helping to share the message was Team Alberta third Joanne Courtney, who inked a Twitter hashtag -- #SchmirlerChallenge -- on her signature white headband. "Anything that we can do to help," said Courtney, herself a nurse. "I was really young when (Sandra) was on TV, and I saw her curl after she had been battling cancer, and she was just a great person out there. Someone you can really look up to and hope that you can take some of what she put into the game."