Rachel Homan started defence of her Scotties Tournament of Hearts title in style.
Homan and her Team Canada (1-0) rink from Ottawa scored four in the eighth end for an 8-3 victory over Manitoba’s Chelsea Carey (0-1) on Saturday night at the Maurice Richard Arena.
“The team played really well in front of me,” said Homan, the winner last year in Kingston, Ont. “It was a tough battle. It was 4-3 and then one big end kind of ended it. My team just really had it today.”
It was a nervy but successful start for Val Sweeting’s Alberta rink.
The Sweeting team (2-0) with lead Rachel Pidherny, second Dana Ferguson and third Joanne Courtney scored three points in the ninth end for a comeback 7-5 victory over 20-year-old newcomer Sarah Koltun (0-1) of the Yukon and Northwest Territories in the opening draw.
In the evening, Sweeting took the early lead, wasted it, and then scored two in an extra end for an 8-6 win over 22-year-old Kesa van Osch of British Columbia (1-1).
Heather Strong (2-0) of Newfoundland used the shot of the day to edge the home team, Quebec’s Allison Ross (0-2), 5-4 with a raised angle takeout on the final shot.
Stefanie Lawton (1-0) of Saskatchewan downed Allison Flaxey’s Ontario rink (0-1) 8-6.
Koltun looked ready for an upset when she stole a point for a 4-1 lead in the fifth end to throw a scare into 26-year-old Sweeting, a youngster herself in only her second Scotties.
“They were outplaying us for sure,” said Sweeting. “We set up some good ends and she made some good draws to save them, but we stayed patient and had an opportunity in the ninth and took advantage.
“I’m happy to get out of that one with a win, but we definitely have to sharpen up. We knew we couldn’t take them lightly. It’s their first time here and they have nothing to lose.”
A miss by Koltun with her first stone in the ninth set up the decisive steal by Alberta. Sweeting’s rink kept the house clear in the 10th and left no chance for the Whitehorse skip to force an extra end.
Koltun is the youngest skip ever to play in the Scotties and is the first to skip at the Canadian junior and Scotties championships in the same year. She went 5-4 at the juniors two weeks ago in Liverpool, N.S. with two of her three teammates at the Scotties.
She skipped a record seven times at national junior championships and is considered among the rising talents in the sport.
But she may have let one get away in her debut.
“We were in control at the beginning and it was just that one bad end, but it’s our first game at our first Scotties so we’ll take what we can from it,” said Koltun. “We are happy to be here, but we want to contend and be competitive and I think we showed that in this first game by putting up a really strong fight.”
Quebec’s Allison Ross had a disappointing start as she failed to score until she picked up one point in the eighth end. After scoring, Ross conceded a 6-1 victory to New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford. The Quebec side from Montreal curled only 64 per cent as a group, lowest of the day.
She found her draw weight in her evening match against Strong, which had the crowd of 1,825 roaring, but fell short when the Newfoundland skip pulled off her winning takeout.
“I was reading the ice better,” said Ross. “It’s a disappointing loss, but Heather made an amazing shot. You want to leave the other team a hard shot, and she made it.”
Strong had won the Hot Shots competition — a pre-tournament skills exhibition — on Saturday morning and it may have helped her against Quebec.
“A lot of the (Hot Shots) are indicative of what you face in game, so I referred back to that a lot,” she said. “I felt good when I threw it, but I was coming off missing the one right before it, so I was a little torn.
“We were exhausted. It was late back home. There were the opening ceremonies, we were in the Hot Shots right through. It was a long day, so to pull off that second win was awesome.”
Strong had won her first match as she took a 6-2 lead after six ends, then had to hold off a charge from Nova Scotia’s Heather Smith (0-1) for an 8-5 victory.
Van Osch needed an extra end to defeat Kim Dolan’s Prince Edward Island rink 7-4.
The 22-year-old from Victoria admitted to feeling nervous in her debut match, but settled down as it went on against the veteran Dolan, who is in her 10th Scotties.
Van Osch said she hasn’t set any goals for the tournament.
“We’re a first-year team,” she said. “It was a bonus just to make it to the Scotties this year. We’re taking things as they come, game by game.”
There are three draws scheduled for Sunday, including Team Canada against both Ontario and Quebec.