Einarson dazzles Monday in Moose Jaw

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MOOSE JAW, Sask. — The night before Kerri Einarson’s big day, after a nailbiter extra-end win over a rookie Nunavut team that shouldn’t have been so close but was anyway, the skip and her Manitoba champion teammates took a close look at what happened.

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This article was published 17/02/2020 (1022 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — The night before Kerri Einarson’s big day, after a nailbiter extra-end win over a rookie Nunavut team that shouldn’t have been so close but was anyway, the skip and her Manitoba champion teammates took a close look at what happened.

They have a few goals this week at the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Obviously, the big one is to seize the maple leaf, but there are many things that will have to go right for them along the way. In the meantime, their basic goal is simple, second Shannon Birchard explained: just to get better every game.

So when Sunday morning’s game was so close, they re-evaluated, made a few adjustments. They knew that Monday would be the biggest day of their round robin, with back-to-back games against their two most daunting round robin opponents, and in a Scotties field this high-powered, every loss will hurt.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward Team Manitoba skip, Kerri Einarson makes a shot during draw 6 against team Northern Ontario at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Monday.

Well, those adjustments clearly worked. The buffalo gals dazzled on Monday, executing beautiful curling in wins over Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville in the morning and Team Canada’s Chelsea Carey in the afternoon. One curling fan on Twitter said Einarson was “playing out of her mind.” It’s as good a description as any.

That explosion of good play lifted them to 4-0 on the week, firmly in the driver’s seat.

“I’m ready for bed now,” Einarson joked, after the second win.

Pretty shots? There were many, on both sides and in both matches. The 8-7 win against McCarville, who is one of the most dangerous skips in the field, was a delightfully well-thought and well-curled game. It’s one of those where the stats don’t tell the story: Einarson shot 69 per cent, and the team 76, but that’s because they were tested.

With just a couple of hours between games, the team looked to refocus. Their fifth, veteran Jennifer Clark-Rouire, picked up some lunch; they took a rest in the change room. They were eager to face Carey, and there’s plenty of history there: Sweeting used to be Carey’s teammate, and the skips were once Manitoba rivals.

When they marched back out onto the sheet, they were ready.

The afternoon game was razor-tight, with both teams shooting well: for seven ends, neither managed to score more than a single. In the seventh end, Einarson tried to hit for the blank, but her shooter stuck in the house; Canada took that hammer for a deuce in eight, but Manitoba responded with one of their own for a 5-4 lead coming home.

‘It went to the wire. In the 10th, Einarson threw a buttery freeze with her last to get shot rock, leaving Carey a tricky tap attempt for the win. She got the hit, but the shooter didn’t hang around to get a second point; so Canada took a single, and handed Einarson the hammer going into the extra.

There, Einarson made no mistake. In the end, all she needed was a draw past full eight for the game-winning point.

“Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t,” Carey said, after. “We had a shot to win in 10, if that curls any more or has a pound less weight, we win. Then you gotta expect her to make the draw to the eight-foot in 11. We needed them to miss a tick, and they didn’t.”

For fans, they were both delightfully intense games to watch. Carey said that her match against Einarson was “awesome,” and “felt like playoffs.” Despite the loss, she thought it was the best her team has played all week.

So which of the two was better to play in for the Manitoban victors?

“They were both fun to play in, I would say, but probably the second game against Canada,” Birchard said. “They’re both pretty similar, but the first game was so back and forth with giving up deuces and taking a deuce, so it’s a little bit more of a rollercoaster. This one, we just remained super focused throughout.”

After a rocky Sunday — Einarson had also, very unexpectedly, struggled early against Nunavut — the pair of major wins was a declaration. She came into this Scotties as top seed after a fierce run through the Manitoba playdowns. Monday’s performance shows why she earned it — and it could be some of her best play all season.

“I’m feeling really comfortable, and really confident,” Einarson said. “And my team is throwing really well, so it makes my job easy… we just love being here, and these crowds have been amazing. We just love it.

Now, Team Manitoba will be looking to keep their foot on the gas. They have two games on Tuesday, starting with a 1:30 p.m. match against New Brunswick, followed by a 6:30 p.m. game against Saskatchewan’s Robyn Silvernagle. That one should be a delight: the bustling Moose Jaw crowd bring the energy for their home squad.

Manitoba will close their round robin in the Wednesday evening draw against Alberta’s Laura Walker.

After that, the top four teams in each round robin pool of eight will head to the championship round, where they will face the other pool’s four best. At the end of the week, the four teams with the best overall record will advance into the weekend playoffs.

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin
Reporter-at-large

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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