VIRDEN, Man. -- When Chelsea Carey won the penultimate game of her Scotties round robin on Friday, it didn't just clinch the skip at least a tiebreaker -- it was a chance for her team to feel themselves again.
Carey, who came into the provincial women's tournament as top seed, rode a four-point eighth end en route to beating Darcy Robertson 7-5 on Friday night, a win which put her 5-1 and sitting second in her round-robin group coming into her final game today, against undefeated Kerri Einarson.
"It feels great to be (in at least a tiebreaker)," Carey said in the moments after the win. "I mean first place is great and we have a chance at that tomorrow if we win. But as long as we're in something, that was step number one. As long as that's crossed off the list. It looked a little dicey earlier today so it's nice to have that locked up."
There is still much to be decided today, a chance of tiebreakers and one last round-robin game for curlers to try and jockey into position heading into the playoffs tonight and Sunday. But this much was clear, after four draws were done Friday night there are still a passel of teams with a shot at the provincial women's championship.
Einarson and Janet Harvey were guaranteed at least a tiebreaker game at Tundra Oil and Gas Place, while Carey has a chance to grab her sixth win when she meets Einarson (6-0) in today's final round-robin draw. The five teams below them in their Asham Black round-robin group were out of the equation, having run out of games to catch a top-two spot.
The other round-robin group's standings were murkier coming into today, with only two of eight teams -- Dauphin's Lisa Menard and Granite skip Shannon Birchard, both at 1-5 on the week -- officially blocked from any chance at playoff play. While Harvey's record clinched her at least a tiebreaker, the other five skips were hanging on, hoping for luck and skill to conspire to earn them a chance at a tiebreaker game.
Michelle Montford was one of them, which was a better ending to Friday for the Winnipeg skip than how the day began.
After starting the tournament with three straight wins, Montford's rink stumbled on Thursday night, falling in an 8-7 upset to Brandon's Kortney Teale. On Friday morning, they struggled again, taking a heartbreaking 6-2 defeat to Harvey. The team, which includes third Lisa Deriviere, second Sara Van Welleghem and lead Sarah Neufeld, might have crumbled there.
Instead, the Montford rink rebounded, eking out a razor thin 7-6 win over veteran and fellow Assiniboine Memorial skip Barb Spencer. With the teams tied 6-6 coming home, Montford threw a pretty takeout and a buttery draw to the four-foot to stone Spencer's steal attempt. The skip applauded her teammates for the winning scouting report. "My team told me that the ice was still the same as I threw on my (pre-game) draw to the button," she said. "So I thought 'OK, just throw it like that.' "
The win put Montford back in the playoff conversation, tying her and Spencer at 4-2 on the week, just one win behind Harvey.
Today, Spencer and her old junior teammate Harvey play each other in their final match, while Montford will face Fort Rouge Curling Club skip Joelle Brown, who at 3-3 is hunting for a crack at a tiebreaker game. For that matter, if Spencer and Montford were both to lose today, and Brandon's Kelsey Russill and Kortney Teale both won their games -- Russill will play Birchard, Teale faces Menard -- then there would be five teams tied 4-3 on the round robin.
And Spencer, oh, she knows what's at stake today. "We have to come out and play strong," she said. "We know what we have to do. We've been around long enough."
Friday morning offered a little breathing room for Carey too, after she orchestrated a key comeback to keep her Scotties fate in her own hands.
The Winnipeg skip was unsettled on Thursday night, after dropping an ugly 10-3 tilt to East St. Paul's Kim Link. So she and her teammates went out to dinner, talked it out, and tried to put it behind them as they readied to face Cameron on Friday morning.
At first, it looked like they might stumble again, as Carey trailed 4-1 after four. But after she picked up a deuce in the fifth end, the shots started to roll. "We came out in the second half and said 'OK, let's just relax and make some shots,' " Carey said. "We did, and put a little pressure on them, and got some misses... early in the game they weren't missing anything."
After limiting Cameron to a single in the sixth, Carey scored another deuce in the seventh and then stole singles in two ends in a row to carry a 7-5 lead into the final frame. Although Cameron held the hammer, Carey threw a magnificent raise double-takeout with her first stone, clearing Cameron's yellows from the house. All it took with her last throw was a simple takeout to run the Balmoral skip out of rocks and bring on handshakes.