Defending champions fall short of playoffs at Tournament of Hearts
RED DEER, - Amber Holland's team will not defend their Canadian women's curling championship.
Her team from Kronau, Sask., was eliminated from contention in the final draw of the preliminary round Thursday night.
Holland's foursome was among the leaders in the early days of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, but tumbled out of the running by losing four of their last five to finish 6-5.
Their bid for a repeat ended with an 11-5 loss to another Saskatchewan team skipped by Michelle Englot.
"It kind of sucks," Holland said.
Manitoba's Jennifer Jones (9-2), B.C.'s Kelly Scott (8-3) and Quebec's Marie-France Larouche and Alberta's Heather Nedohin (7-4) made the Page playoffs.
Holland lost to two teams that finished under .500 in the tournament — Nova Scotia and Yukon/Northwest Territories — during their skid.
The skip missed her last shot of the morning draw against Kerry Galusha's team from Yellowknife to give up a steal of two points and the win.
Holland was without second Tammy Schneider for four full games and parts of two more. Schneider injured her knee earlier in the week. A stomach ailment sidelined her for all but two ends the last two days of the round robin. Alternate Jolene Campbell played in Schneider absence.
Holland said her own shotmaking at times was more of an issue than uncertainty in the lineup.
"The last couple losses I didn't play well," Holland said. "I think the team played fairly well. I just didn't figure things out. The odd time I had the opportunity to make some shots for points and I didn't, so I don't think it was the lineup change.
"I'm there to make the last rock. That's my job as a skip, so it is difficult."
Manitoba and B.C. will meet in a playoff game between the top two seeds Friday. It's a battle of former national and world champions.
Between the two skips, they won all Canadian championships from 2005 to 2010. Jones won four and Scott two.
Manitoba stole two in an extra end to beat B.C. in the round robin.
"We had a great game against B.C. in the round robin and I expect nothing less tomorrow night," Jones said.
The loser plays in Saturday's semifinal of the playoff between Alberta and Quebec.
After opening the tournament 1-2, Nedohin's Edmonton team won five of their last six to secure the last playoff berth.
"Yippee, Yippee, Yippee," Nedohin crowed. "I'm over-the-top proud. Our team came here to playoffs and we did it in Alberta."
Jones has taken both the long and short playoff roads to her four previous Canadian titles. She won her titles in both 2005 and 2010 via wins in the one-two game.
In 2008 and 2009, her teams battled through four games in a row starting with a tiebreaker to wear the Maple Leaf.
"Experience never hurts. We've been here before," Jones said Thursday. "We know to expect."
Manitoba will start Friday's game with last-rock advantage and their choice of rocks.
"You just want to make the playoffs, but we'll take it," Jones said. "We've played the one-two game before and we haven't. You just have to go and play well and you just really want to get in the playoffs.
"That's all you want and we're in and we're thrilled."
Scott stole a point against New Brunswick's Rebecca Atkinson in the final end Thursday night to win 7-6 and secure the second seed.
"Awesome. Right where we want to be," Scott said. "We've been hoping for this all week long and here we are, so we're going to embrace it. (We're) so up to come out and play a good game tomorrow night."
Sasha Carter was back in B.C.'s lineup Thursday after missing two separate days earlier in the tournament with a stomach ailment.
Carter, who throws third stones, is four months pregnant. She needed fluids replaced intravenously the previous day before she was ready to play again.
"On the mend, definitely," Cater said. "I just couldn't get hydrated no matter what I drank. It was crazy. I've never been that sick in my life.
"Everything I was taking was going to other people in my body and not to me."
Like Alberta, Quebec won five of their last six to earn the right to play into the weekend.
"We're just confident enough right now," said Larouche, a finalist when the Scotties was last held in Red Deer in 2004.
"Our first goal is to play again tomorrow and we are there. We are able to play better than that, so it's good for us. Maybe we (get) revenge against her."
Saskatchewan's Michelle Englot and New Brunswick's Rebecca Atkinson finished 5-6. Ontario's Tracy Horgan, Heather Strong of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Territories and Nova Scotia's Heather Smith-Dacey posted 4-7 records. Prince Edward Island's Kim Dolan finished 3-8.
Injuries and illness have been a theme at this Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Galusha's team was down to three players for a game earlier in the week.
New Brunswick lead Jodie deSolla sat out her fourth straight game Thursday with a pulled muscle from sweeping.
Alternate player Candace Chisolm started to play for Saskatchewan on Thursday night, but abruptly left the ice because she was unwell.