ALTONA -- If Chelsea Carey goes on to win the 2011 Manitoba women's curling championship Sunday, history may very well record that her title run began in earnest on Sheet A Thursday afternoon in a game against Karen Rosser.
It's been awhile since we have heard from Rosser in these parts -- so long, in fact, that the last we'd heard from her in a notable way was under an entirely different name, Karen Young, the 2001 Manitoba women's champion.
Rosser has a different name and a different look these days, but she can still on occasion huck them with the best of them.
And that was exactly what Rosser was doing against Carey, making shot after shot, bailing her team out at every turn and forcing Carey to conjure magic seemingly end after end as a full house sat engrossed at the Millennium Exhbition Centre.
If they kept stats at this thing, Rosser was shooting 90s against Carey. It was precisely the kind of game, in other words, that has derailed more than a few championship runs at this event over the years -- an unexpected stand-on-your-head performance from an unexpected opponent and, bingo, suddenly one of the event favourites is questioning their own confidence.
Except the opposite occurred. Because rather than fold to Rosser, Carey found some world-class game and simply outduelled her. A tit-for-tat sixth end of bumps and taps concluded with Carey masterfully surrounding two of her counters on the four-foot with an envelope of granite, leaving Rosser no shot with her last as she surrendered a steal of two.
And then in the ninth end, with Rosser looking like she might steal her way back into the game as the two skips once again surrounded the button with rocks, it was Carey slashing one of her own into the pile to somehow claim a deuce from the rubble.
They were big-time shots that rescued a deceptively lopsided 7-4 victory from what might have been a debacle for Carey and which, thanks to an 11-3 win over Swan River's Bev Lumax later in the day, had her at 4-0 heading into play Friday, alone in first atop her eight-team pool. A game behind at 3-1 are Rosser and Kim Link.
In the other pool, defending Canadian champion Cathy Overton-Clapham, two-time Manitoba women's champion Janet Harvey and Fort Rouge's Kerri Einarason are all tied for first at 4-0, followed by former provincial finalist Joelle Brown at 3-1.
There was never any doubt coming into this event that Carey had the necessary horses to win a title. Third Kristy Jenion, while doomstruck in losing two finals as a skip at this event, can conjure all the shots. And the Carey front end of Lindsay Titheridge and Kristen Foster can both set up ends and sweep away throwing mistakes.
What wasn't so clear is whether Carey had the makeup of a championship skip.
Until, perhaps, Thursday, and what was the kind of performance that showed a side to Carey that we haven't seen from her in a handful of previous also-ran performances at this event -- a glimpse that the 26-year-old Winnipeg sales rep may have now acquired that rare combination of poise and shotmaking that separates the elite female skips from everyone else.
"I've felt progressively better with each game so far," Carey said. "Making some big shots, some clutch shots for extra points is huge for your confidence."
If there is a danger with Carey, it might she becomes too confident. The daughter of a Brier champion -- Dan Carey won the Brier in 1992 as third for Vic Peters -- she sometimes plays more like a man than is perhaps wise in the women's game.
"I like rocks and angles and stuff like that. I grew up watching men's curling," says Carey.
It was, to be sure, just one game. And the top teams finally start playing each other here today, promising to very quickly separate contenders from pretenders.
I've covered many of these events over the years and I couldn't help but get the feeling I was seeing something special watching Carey play Rosser, like perhaps we are all witnessing a coming-out party of sorts.
montford loves dad's ice C2