Canada is on the playoff bubble entering the final two days of round-robin competition at the world women's curling championship.
Rachel Homan's rink has been brilliant at times and inconsistent at others over the first few days at the Volvo Sports Center. The national champs from the Ottawa Curling Club team have a mediocre 4-3 record to show for it, leaving them in a pack of teams tied for fourth place.
However, optimism reigned after Homan dropped an 8-4 decision to Sweden's Margaretha Sigfridsson on Tuesday in a game that was much tighter than the score suggested. It was a breakthrough performance by the Canadians even though they came up short.
For the first time, they displayed the form they used to win their first Scotties title last month. Canada shot at an impressive 89 per cent clip against the 2012 world silver medallists, who fired an 88 per cent overall but were just a touch better when it counted.
"If there's such a thing as a good loss, that was one," said Canadian coach Earle Morris.
The back-and-forth battle saw plenty of rocks in play, but little scoring until the 10th end. Sigfridsson got around a guard and knocked Homan's stone from the four-foot ring for the win, with three other stones in the house beefing up the score.
"It was very frustrating to lose that one because we definitely outplayed them," Homan said. "But that happens sometimes, that's curling. You just move on and take the good from that game and keep doing it."
The team's early jitters at the tournament were replaced by frustration with the ice and inconsistent weights over the last couple of days. The Canadians focused on the positives Tuesday evening and it paid off with a performance they can build on.
Morris was very pleased and Homan was in good spirits as well.
"We definitely took a step forward today and really found how we need to play," Homan said. "The ice is tough out there but we just have to keep playing like we did tonight and we should be fine the rest of the way."
Homan edged Italy 7-6 in the afternoon session. Canada will play Germany and Switzerland on Wednesday.
Morris said he was particularly impressed with the team's cohesiveness.
"I'm really happy — we finally played a good curling game," Morris said. "We had some great energy, we made a lot of shots, we just didn't win it.
"I'm feeling really good all of a sudden."
After 11 draws, Sigfridsson and Scotland's Eve Muirhead share first place at 6-1, with Russia's Anna Sidorova third at 5-2. The United States, Switzerland and Japan are tied with Canada at 4-3.
The top four rinks in the 12-team field make the playoffs.
"We were in it together and in it right to the end," Homan said. "So lots to take on from that game and bring to the next game. We should be fine.
"If we keep playing like that, we should be fine the rest of the way."
This is Homan's first appearance at this tournament. She's hoping to win Canada's first world women's title since Jennifer Jones was victorious in 2008.
The Canadian side was tested in the afternoon, with Homan hitting a draw with her final throw for a win over a plucky Italian outfit.
"It was a great last judge by my front end and a great team end," she said. "We made eight shots that end, so it was good."
The Canada-Italy game was delayed for a few minutes after the halftime break due to an ice issue. Drops of water were occasionally falling in a spot about six feet from the top of one of the 12-foot rings.
The affected area was about the size of a yo-yo in diameter. The icemaker shaved down the ice after each end and pebble was applied before the area was smoothed over with a stone.
Canadian second Alison Kreviazuk first noticed the problem when a drop landed on her head while she was sweeping. The players were advised of the issue and play continued without additional delay.
"You just have to play with what's given," Homan said. "I mean we've played on really bad ice before where it's really tough as well. But it was just one side of the sheet that you couldn't really play unless you were throwing hits.
"A couple of our sweepers almost wiped out on it as well. But we pulled through, it's fine. It happens sometimes."
It wasn't immediately clear whether the water issue was due to condensation or a leak from the roof.
Tournament officials discussed the issue with the curlers and it was decided that play would continue since player safety was not a concern. The problem was rectified in time for the evening draw and the ice was back to normal for the U.S.-Japan game.