Tough night for Fleury, Einarson

Manitoba rinks to face each other in must-win game after playoff losses

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Tracy Fleury owned the hammer for seven consecutive ends Friday night. Never a good sign.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/02/2022 (308 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Tracy Fleury owned the hammer for seven consecutive ends Friday night. Never a good sign.

The East St. Paul team, still ranked No.1 on the global curling stage, was reduced without warning to a shell of itself at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women’s championship in Thunder Bay.

Earning last-rock advantage to start a playoff game against home-town favourite Krista McCarville, Fleury posted a blank in the opening end — a solid start, in retrospect. After that, the squad (with Selena Njegovan at third, Liz Fyfe at second and lead Kristin MacCuish) surrendered steals of two, one, one, two and two over the next five ends before finally scoring a single in the seven for an 8-1 deficit.

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson watches a rock as they play New Brunswick in playoff action at the Scotties on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Team Wild Card 1, as Fleury’s crew is labelled, stole singles in the eighth and ninth ends before calling it quits, falling 8-3.

“No, not really what we wanted, giving up so many steals,” Fleury said, with a chuckle. “But gotta give credit to Team McCarville. They played really well and put their rocks in good spots to put a lot of pressure on us to make our shots difficult.”

McCarville vaulted into the Page playoffs’ 1 vs. 2 game, set for Saturday at 6 p.m. at Fort William Gardens, against Andrea Crawford of New Brunswick, with the survivor qualifying for Sunday’s national final at 6 p.m.

The Fleury foursome, which went 7-1 during round-robin play to lead Pool A, dropped into the must-win 3 vs. 4 contest Saturday at 1 p.m. and meets — wait for it — Gimli’s Kerri Einarson (Team Canada), the two-time defending champion. The winner collides with the 1 vs. 2 loser in the Scotties semifinal Sunday at 11 a.m.

Indeed, Friday was a lousy day on the ice for Manitoba’s triple threat.

Einarson trailed Crawford 4-0 after three ends but struck back with a big three in the fourth and a steal of one in the fifth to pull even at the midway point. By the 10th, however, Crawford held a one-point cushion and hammer.

Facing a buried Canada counter in the eight-foot, Crawford — a former Canadian junior champion — coolly draw the button for an 8-6 decision.

“Yeah, we got off to a little bit of a slow start,” said Einarson, who is supported by third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur. “Like, we’re playing really good and we played good that game. We just got a little unfortunate on a few shots. But we’re still playing really well.”

Earlier, Mackenzie Zacharias from Altona was eliminated a step short of the playoffs, losing 8-6 to Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories in a morning tiebreaker.

Fleury and Einarson (8-0 in Pool B) had playoff byes earlier in the day.

Fleury only played her first game of the Scotties on Thursday after being forced to isolate following a positive COVID-19 test prior to the event. Njegovan took over the skipping duties for the team that leads both the Canadian and world rankings.

“That’s a game we want to learn from and just come out stronger (Saturday),” said Fleury, who hails from Sudbury, Ont. “I feel like we were close and not quite getting the results on some of our shots, but weren’t totally far off.

“So, there’s potential to regroup and come back stronger.”

On Friday’s afternoon draw, McCarville took a 5-1 lead and held on for an 11-8 win over Nova Scotia’s Christina Black to begin the playoffs, while Crawford defeated Galusha by an 8-6 count.

Remarkably, McCarville went through much the same scenario as Fleury but endured.

The 2016 Scotties runner-up looked to have her game under control when she scored four points in the third end then stole four more in the fourth. But Black battled back with four points of her own in the fifth, then steals of one in the sixth, seventh and eighth ends to cut her deficit to 9-8.

Wild Card 1 skip Tracy Fleury watches a rock as they play Northern Ontario in playoff action at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ont, Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

McCarville stopped the bleeding with a draw for two in the ninth end. She said her team never lost focus and remained mentally strong.

“When you’re giving up steal after steal it can get to you a little bit,” she said. “After every single end we’d get together and stay really positive.

“Even though there was some missed shots you have to stay positive because it’s a long game and anything can happen. We were still in control. We just focused on making those shots and not really looking at what happened the end before.”

Crawford finished the round-robin second in Pool A with a 6-2 record. The last team from New Brunswick to reach the Scotties playoffs was Heidi Hanlon, who lost the ‘91 final to B.C.’s Julie Sutton.

Due to COVID-19 concerns the round-robin portion of the tournament was held in an empty arena without fans or media in the building. A limited number of volunteers registered for the competition and junior curlers from the area are allowed to attend the playoffs.

Each of McCarville’s shots drew loud cheers from the crowd of around 200 fans in the building Friday.

“That was awesome,” said McCarville, a school teacher. “It’s pretty uplifting when you make a good shot and you have a lot of cheers, especially when you hear people you know yelling your name.”

The 18-team field was divided into two pools, with the top three rinks from each pool advancing to an expanded Page playoff field.

The Scotties champion will represent Canada at the 2022 world women’s curling championship in Prince George, B.C., from March 19-27.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

– with files from Canadian Press

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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