Nugget Column #21 – Wednesday February 15th, 2017
Women’s provincial playdown events are now complete and the field for the Canadian Curling Championship is set with the Scotties Tournament of Hearts getting underway this Thursday in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville defeated 7th ranked Canadian women’s team and 2-time Scotties participant, Tracy Fleury, to punch her ticket to an event that she missed winning by a single point in 2016.
This will be the third national women’s championship that features a separate entry from Northern Ontario and the evidence to support it will be difficult to ignore when Team McCarville arrives at a southern Ontario airport to compete in a home-province event. It’s that or take a drive equivalent of that from North Bay to Prince Edward Island.
If unfinished business is a motivator worth flagging, then be sure to keep an eye on British Colombia’s Marla Mallett who is back for the first time since 2009 when she completed the round robin in first place and lost the final to Jennifer Jones.
Interestingly only two participating teams have won the Tournament of Hearts previously and they will face each other in the opening round robin game. Be sure to catch Ontario’s Rachel Homan against the defending champions, Team Chelsea Carey, on February 18th at 2:30pm ET.
While Team Homan will be a great home crowd favourite, there is a North Bay connection to the Ontario runners-up that had local fans cheering for a Team Harrison victory in Cobourg a couple of weeks back. Congratulation to Melissa Foster on a great season. Foster is a graduate of Widdifield Secondary School, competed on Nipissing University’s Curling team and is married to Scott Foster who was, in a past life, the Head Ice Technician at the North Bay Granite Club. Melissa and Scott still have family in North Bay and are two-time champions of the club’s HGS Summerspiel.
Manitoba and Alberta will be supplying the championships with a blast from the past as 9-time provincial champion Michelle Englot returns to the Scotties for the first time since 2012, and for the first time with a buffalo on her back. The Saskatchewan native attended her first Tournament of Hearts in 1988 and has a had a successful season taking over the reigns from Kristy McDonald whose team finished runner-up at the Manitoba Scotties in 2016.
Englott did not even need to knock out the provincial favourite Jennifer Jones as Darcy Robertson shocked the curling community by handing Jones a semi-final loss. This marks the first time that Jones has failed to make an appearance at the Scotties in over ten years (since 2004).
Similarly, the 2006 Olympic bronze-medalist Shannon Kleibrink leaned on her experience from four previous Scotties appearances to emerge from one of the toughest province’s in the country. Kleibrink won Alberta fair and square with two wins over the 4th ranked Canadian team skipped by Val Sweeting.
Other teams competing in St. Catharines include: Saskatchewan’s Penny Barker, Quebec’s Eve Belisle, Nova Scotia’s Mary Mattatall, New Brunswick’s Melissa Adams, PEI’s Robyn MacPhee, Newfoundland’s Stacie Curtis, Northwest Territories’ Kerry Galusha, Yukon’s Sarah Koltun, and Nunavut’s Geneva Chislett.
Bobby Ray General Manager North Bay Granite Club