Einarson and Fleury both drop playoff opener at Scotties

No hammer, no problem for Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville.

Starting the game without last rock, McCarville’s team stole eight consecutive points over five ends to defeat Tracy Fleury’s Wild Card 1 8-3 in a playoff game Friday night at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont.

In the other Page seeding game, Andrea Crawford of New Brunswick built an early lead then fended off a late charge to defeat Team Canada’s Kerri Einarson 8-6. It was the first loss of the tournament for the two-time defending champion from Gimli, Man.

Northern Ontario and New Brunswick move to the Page playoff 1 versus 2 game Saturday evening. The winner of that game advances directly to Sunday’s final.

Fleury and Einarson meet in the Page 3 versus 4 game Saturday afternoon. The winner of that game faces the loser of the Page 1 versus 2 game in the semifinal Sunday morning.

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Read more: Team Manitoba’s Mackenzie Zacharias eliminated in Scotties tiebreaker

Fleury’s team from the East St. Paul Curling Club in Manitoba finished first in Pool A during the round robin with a 7-1 record, but struggled to make shots against Northern Ontario. McCarville’s team from Thunder Bay made several perfect shots, leaving Fleury facing some difficult situations.

“I’m really happy with the team, we went out there firing and we made every shot,” said McCarville. “We persevered and played our game.”

Fleury said her team was close, but not quite good enough. “We want to learn from it,” she Fleury. “We feel like we were close but not getting the results on some shots, but we weren’t totally far off.

“I think there is a there’s still potential to come back stronger.”

Fleury played her first game Thursday after being forced to isolate following a positive COVID-19 test before the tournament. Third Selena Njegovan took over the skipping duties for the team that leads both the Canadian and world rankings.

For the second night Einarson faced an early deficit. She trailed 4-0 after three ends, but erased that with three in the fourth end then a steal in five.

Crawford countered with a point in six and a steal in seven. She still needed a draw to the button on her final shot to seal the win.

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“We knew with a four-point lead, there’s so much game left, it’s really hard to maintain that lead,” said Crawford. “Even though they snuck back on us we still kept that mindset of fighting. We really stayed focused on each shot and each end.”

Read more: Einarson & Fleury win pool, but Zacharias into tiebreaker at Scotties

Einarson trailed Manitoba’s Mackenzie Zacharias 6-1 in Thursday’s final round robin game before rallying for a 10-7 win. Team Canada led Pool B with a perfect 8-0 record.

Earlier Friday, McCarville leaped into a 5-1 lead then held on for a 11-8 win over Nova Scotia’s Christina Black in one of the Page qualifier games.

Crawford defeated Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories 8-6 in the other game.

McCarville looked to have her match under control when she scored four points in the third end then stole four more in the fourth. Black battled back with four points of her own in the fifth, then steals of one in the sixth, seventh and eighth ends to make the score 9-8.

McCarville stopped the bleeding with a draw for two in the ninth end. Her team didn’t lose focus and stayed mentally strong, said McCarville.

“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.

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“Even though there was some missed shots you have to stay positive because it’s a long game and anything can happen.”

In her game, Crawford trailed 5-3 after five ends. She scored two in the sixth then stole a pair in the seven. She used a hit and roll on her last shot to score a point in the final end.

“We just hung in there,” said Crawford, playing in her first playoffs after 10 Scotties appearances. “We we’re playing well, we just weren’t catching the breaks at the right time.”

Crawford finished the round robin second in Pool A with a 6-2 record. The last rink from New Brunswick to reach the Scotties playoffs was Heidi Hanlon, who lost the 1991 final to B.C.’s Julie Sutton.

McCarville, who was third in Pool A with a 5-3 record, lost in the final of the 2016 Scotties to Chelsea Carey’s rink from Alberta.

Black finished second in Pool B with a 5-3 record. Galusha defeated Manitoba 8-6 in a tiebreaker game Friday morning to advance to the playoffs. Both teams had finished the round robin with 5-3 records.

The last playoff appearance for a team representing N.W.T. at the Canadian women’s curling championship was Skelly Bildfell’s rink from Whitehorse in 1983.

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At that time, the Yukon and N.W.T. were represented by one rink. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the round robin portion of the tournament was held in an empty Fort Williams Gardens 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 in the building Friday.

“That was awesome,” said McCarville. “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 Scotties champion will represent Canada at the 2022 Women’s Curling Championship in Prince George, B.C., from March 19-27.

Click to play video: 'Moose Jaw’s Penny Barker to represent Saskatchewan at the Scotties'
Moose Jaw’s Penny Barker to represent Saskatchewan at the Scotties

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