by Al Cameron
January 12, 2014 (ISN) – A busy weekend of curling across Canada has nearly filled the field for the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Montreal And there will be an intriguing blend of youth and experience on the ice when the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship gets underway on February 1 at Maurice Richard Arena.
Of the nine skips who clinched trips to the Scotties with provincial championship victories over the weekend, three will be making their first appearances at the Canadian women’s championship, joining another fresh face, Sarah Koltun of the Yukon, who made history last weekend by being the first player to ever qualify to skip in the Scotties and M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Championships in the same season.
In Manitoba, the absence of perennial champ Jennifer Jones (she will be competing for Canada at the Winter Olympics in Sochi) opened the door, finally, for Winnipeg’s Chelsea Carey. After two runner-up finishes, Carey’s team — third Kristy McDonald, second Kristen Foster and lead Lindsay Titheridge — won the Manitoba title Sunday at Virden with a 6-2 win over Winnipeg’s Kerri Einarson. Carey finished fourth at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials last month in her home town.
In Ontario, meanwhile, former Canadian mixed champion Allison Flaxey of Listowel won her first provincial women’s title on Sunday at Sault Ste. Marie, beating Thornhill’s Julie Hastings 7-5 in the final. Flaxey, who won bronze at the 2009 world mixed doubles championship in Italy with teammate Sean Grassie, will play in Montreal with third Katie Cottrill, second Lynn Kreviazuk (a former world junior silver-medallist as a teammate of Rachel Homan in 2010) and lead Morgan Court.
And in B.C., there was a major changing of the guard as Victoria’s Kesa Van Osch on Sunday in Prince George ended the title run of veteran Kelly Scott of Kelowna. A 5-4 win by Van Osch, the 2012 B.C. junior women’s champion, stopped Scott’s bid to win a ninth provincial title and fifth in succession when Scott was just light on her last-rock draw for the win in the 10th end. Van Osch, who made a clutch draw to bite the button with her last delivery, is backed up by third Stephanie Baier, second Jessie Sanderson and lead Carley Sandwith.
But there will also be a veteran presence in Montreal, led by the likes of Heather Strong of Newfoundland/Labrador, Andrea Crawford of New Brunswick and Stefanie Lawton of Saskatchewan.
Strong won her 11th Newfoundland/Labrador championship on Saturday in St. John’s. Curling out of the Bally Haly Club in St. John’s, Strong, vice-skip (and sister) Laura Strong, second Jessica Cunningham and lead Kathryn Cooper rolled to a 10-3 win over Shelley Nichols of St. John’s in the final.
In the Saskatchewan final at Tisdale, the Lawton foursome from Saskatoon (third Sherry Anderson, second Sherri Singler and lead Marliese Kasner) beat Regina’s Michelle Englot 5-2 for the provincial title. It will be a third trip to the Scotties for Lawton, who also has won three times at the Canada Cup of Curling.
Crawford, meanwhile, won her sixth straight New Brunswick women’s championship, and seventh in total, with a dramatic 8-7 win over Moncton’s Sylvie Robichaud. Crawford’s team from Oromocto — third Rebecca Atkinson, second Danielle Parsons and lead Jodie DeSolla — scored a 10th-end deuce for the victory.
The Alberta championship final at Sylvan Lake featured one of the game’s rising stars taking on one of the most familiar faces in the sport, and it was youth winning the day. Edmonton’s Val Sweeting, who competed at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials in Winnipeg last month, doubled 2010 Olympic silver-medallist Cheryl Bernard of Calgary 8-4 in the final. Sweeting’s team is rounded out by vice-skip Dana Ferguson, second Joanne Courtney and lead Rachelle Pidherny.
At Charlottetown, there was another veteran winner as Kim Dolan won her 10th Prince Edward Island championship, scoring a 6-4 extra-end win over Charlottetown rival Kathy O’Rourke. Dolan will be joined in Montreal by third Rebecca Jean MacDonald, second Sinead Dolan, and lead Michala Robison.
And in the Nova Scotia final at Sydney, Heather Smith of Halifax earned a fifth trip to the Scotties, scoring three in the 10th end for a 6-3 win over Dartmouth’s Kelly MacIntosh. Smith, third Jill Brothers, second Blisse Joyce and lead Teri Lake went unbeaten through the provincial championship.
Homan’s defending champion team from Ottawa — third Emma Miskew, second Alison Kreviazuk (the older sister of Ontario second Lynn Kreviazuk) and lead Lisa Weagle — was the first team to qualify for the 2014 Scotties and will wear Team Canada colours in Montreal.
The last team in the Scotties field will be decided next Sunday, Jan. 19. The Quebec Scotties provincial championship got underway Sunday in Val-d’Or.
Tickets for the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts are available at www.curling.ca/2014scotties-en/tickets/.