Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Carey 'dodged a bullet' to steal four

Manitoba now 3-1 after cashing in on big N.S. miss

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MONTREAL, Que. -- There are some games a curler finds a way to win, and some games where a win finds them, hurtling back like a boomerang once thrown away.

Yeah, it was mostly the latter for Chelsea Carey's Manitoba foursome at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts on Monday, where they beat Nova Scotia skip Heather Smith 7-3 despite so many things gone wrong. Despite the grip tape coming off Carey's shoe, despite missing some gimme shots, despite spending the first eight ends fighting to hang on. Because in the ninth, with the teams tied 3-3, Smith missed. Badly.

Here's the shape of it: The end of the ninth was perhaps the Carey rink's best. They clogged the rings with their own red rocks as they looked to force Smith to take a single, so they could wield the hammer coming home. But on the Nova Scotia skip's final throw, a simple draw, the granite slid hot and heavy. Manitoba third Kristy McDonald watched it sailing, saw the sweepers pulling up. "My bunny ears perked up," she said, and she felt a rising flutter in her chest.

The rock flashed past, handing Carey a steal of four and a 7-3 lead. The teams stood stunned, and fans perched above the ice at Maurice Richard Arena groaned.

"When it was done, don't get me wrong, I was relieved," McDonald said. "But I wouldn't want to celebrate something like that. They're a better team than that, and things like that happen... the ice was getting pretty slick, a little bit of adrenaline, we all overthrow a few draws. I can see how it happened."

The teams shook hands a little bit later, after the Manitobans ran Nova Scotia out of rocks. "One bad shot," Smith said minutes later, the heartbreak clipping her words. "I had my draw weight... just one bad shot. We played great. Probably out-curled them. Managed the scoreboard well, all those things... If we keep playing like that, I'm not going to miss those shots too many times."

For Carey, it was a "lucky" victory, she nodded, her third straight and a key one to lift her up to 3-1 on the week, right in the heart of the emerging playoff race. After she had a chance to exhale, the 29-year-old skip shouldered up the blame: too much in her own head, she said. "I was terrible," she said bluntly. "My team... made enough shots to win, but I worked really hard to give that game away. They gave it back to us. We really dodged a bullet."

Getting busier

Well, it's not a bad day to do it, as the Carey rink played just a single game on Monday. Things get busier starting today, when they play a morning match against Newfoundland's Heather Strong, who was also 3-1 through four, and then an evening game against spunky 20-year-old Yukon skip Sarah Koltun. The rest, Carey figured, would come in handy: they planned an athletic massage and a solid sleep.

On a curious note, three of the Manitobans' first four matches were TSN's featured game. Though the skip expected her Scotties opener, a loss to defending Canadian champion Rachel Homan, to be televised, the others -- Sunday's morning game against Stefanie Lawton, Monday's Nova Scotia misadventure -- came as more of a surprise. Fun fact: that game against Lawton was the first time Carey has won on TSN, she said.

"I think TSN feels bad that we lost so many finals, and they're trying to make up for lost time for us," she said, laughing, though she added it's a balancing act to forget her every move is live, nationwide. "That's a neat thing. We're probably still learning a little bit about how you have to account (for being on TV), but it's cool, it's lots of fun."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2014 C4

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