Chelsea Carey raises her broom after securing her first GSOC title at the Meridian Canadian Open. (Anil Mungal)

Carey shakes off heartbreak by rolling through Canadian Open

January 26, 2018, 12:48 PM

CAMROSE, Alta. — Chelsea Carey steadied herself in the hack ready to deliver the dagger in Sunday’s championship match of the Meridian Canadian Open.

The tight back-and-forth battle with Michelle Englot came down to the last shot of the game with Carey holding the all-important hammer advantage. Although Carey was already up by one point, Englot sat two stones to set up a possible steal scenario. Carey eyed a double takeout to capture the title in emphatic fashion.

As Carey lined it up, second Jocelyn Peterman offered her token words of reassurance: “You’ve got it, Chels.”

That she did. Carey connected on point knocking out both of Englot’s stones and score four herself to secure the Meridian Canadian Open. Carey doubled out Englot and doubled up the scoreboard 10-5.

It was the first title for Carey in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling and followed a month-and-a-half stretch that could be summed up with one word: heartbreaking.

The Calgary-based crew of Carey, Peterman, third Cathy Overton-Clapham and lead Laine Peters were flying high at the Roar of the Rings trials in December running through round-robin play undefeated and one win away from representing Canada at the upcoming Winter Olympics. It was not to be though as Rachel Homan bested Carey in the final and the Ottawa club is now the ones preparing for the Pyeongchang Games.

Carey and Peterman had another Olympic opportunity at the start of January via mixed doubles — Carey with Colin Hodgson and Peterman with Brett Gallant — but both came up short of that goal as well. Carey/Hodgson just missed the Page playoffs while Peterman/Gallant lost to eventual champs Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris in the semifinal.

There was little rest before they re-joined Overton-Clapham and Peters for provincial playdowns the following week. Another strong start resulted in Carey qualifying for the playoffs A-side through the triple knockout but the team couldn’t quite cash in. Carey lost in the Page A-B playoff match to Casey Scheidegger 8-7 and was eliminated in the semifinal to Shannon Kleibrink 7-6. Carey held the hammer in the last end in that game, all tied up, but misfired her last to concede a steal.

Carey, who won the Alberta and Canadian championships in 2016, has one more chance to qualify for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts via the all-new wild-card game. The top two teams from the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) who haven’t already qualified, in this case Carey and Winnipeg’s Kerri Einarson, face off for the 16th and final spot on the eve of the event Friday.

“We’re disappointed about the Alberta Scotties but we’re looking forward to the wild-card game so we want to use this event to ramp up for that,” Carey said towards the start of last week’s Meridian Canadian Open. “The ice here is more of like what we’ll see at the wild-card game, our provincial ice is a bit different, so we’re using that experience to hopefully set us up for success at Scotties.”

Coincidentally, Carey and Einarson met in the opening round of the Meridian Canadian Open, itself a rematch of September’s Tour Challenge Tier 2 final. Einarson, who took round one, made it a repeat defeating Carey 6-4 thanks to a deuce in the eighth end. It was the only L on Carey’s record for the tournament though.

Carey dropped to the B event of the triple knockout preliminary round and matched up with South Korea’s EunJung Kim, who will represent the host nation at the Winter Games. Carey made quick work of a Wednesday morning match against Kim picking up seven stolen points in the 9-1 win. They were on and off the ice in less than 90 minutes playing just five ends.

“We were definitely a bit better,” Carey said. “We had a better feel for draw weight, put some rocks in some good spots. Obviously, we’re lucky to get some misses out of them. It shouldn’t have been that big of a runaway. They certainly helped us. We put some rocks in some better spots so we felt good about that.”

Carey wrote in a blog for a few year ago B side isn’t her preferred route to the playoffs — it’s either all-in through A or backs-against-the-walls through C — but in the grand scheme of things it’s not how you get to the playoffs, only that you get there.

“I think any path that gets you to the qualifier, it doesn’t matter,” Carey said post-game. “We’re just going to grind away and hope we can get into the playoffs.”

Carey continued to cruise through the B brackets thumping American Jamie Sinclair 9-2 and future final opponent Englot 8-1 in the qualifier to advance to the playoffs. It was the second consecutive rout for Carey over Englot’s team from Winnipeg following a 10-3 football score in the Roar of the Rings round-robin.

“We never expected them to be lopsided,” Carey said. “They’re a very good team. We always think we’re going to have to play our best.”

That set up a quarterfinal contest versus former teammate Laura Crocker. The see-saw affair was decided in the seventh end with Carey draining a three-pointer and running the Edmonton side out of rocks in the eighth to win 8-5.

“It definitely wasn’t our strongest game as a team but Chelsea and Cathy played really well,” Peterman said. “They helped us get those points for sure.”

The semifinal saw another matchup against Kim, who had turned things around since their B meeting winning three consecutive games in the C event and upsetting Homan in the quarterfinals. It was a closer battle this time, but Carey kept the pressure valve set on high, stealing two in the seventh, to outlast Kim 6-4.

“I don’t think she missed for the first three or four ends and we were going, ‘OK, well if we don’t get some misses out of her we’re not going to win this game,’” Carey said. “But then we started putting some rocks in some better places, putting more pressure on them and we got a couple misses and were able to translate it into a win.

“We weren’t particularly sharp in the first game but we bounced back really well and we did what we wanted to do. Today we had a couple slow starts but stayed patient and made some shots late. Grinding out those wins is a good feeling and that’s what we want to be doing.”

One would think the Team Carey train would be slowing down at this point following back-to-back weeks of mixed doubles and provincials. If they were feeling any fatigue heading into the final against Englot they sure weren’t showing it with a championship opportunity on the line.

“It’s been a lot,” Peterman said. “A lot of playing and a lot of being on the road but the light is at the end of the tunnel. We’re almost done this week and we’re still feeling good physically.”

Carey opened with the hammer and scored a deuce off the bat but a flash in the second opened up the door for Englot to reply with a pair of her own. The third end turned out to be a harbinger for the finish with Carey having to hit two of Englot’s rocks for a momentum changer, this time a three-ender, to take a 5-2 lead.

Englot counted another couple in four (although a matching three was well within reach) and the teams alternated singles in five and six with Carey retaining the slim one-point lead. A blank in seven set up the showdown for the finale and Carey’s clinching four-bomb.

Carey’s team finally claimed a championship in 2017-18 although for Overton-Clapham this victory also represented the one that got away. Overton-Clapham, who just joined Team Carey this season, played in the Meridian Canadian Open final last year as the super-spare third for Silvana Tirinzoni’s Swiss squad. Tirinzoni lost the title on a steal in the eighth to Scheidegger.

“We had a great opportunity to win that and we didn’t, so it was certainly nice to get our name on that trophy,” said Overton-Clapham, who has now won six Pinty’s GSOC titles in her Hall of Fame career. “To win with our team, we had a great season, we lost a couple of really tough finals but to actually win one is going to be pretty special.”

Team Carey entered the Meridian Canadian Open wanting to be as prepared as they could for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts wild-card game and with the trophy in the case it’s nothing but positive vibes heading to Penticton, B.C.

“That’s as good as we could feel coming in against one of the best fields in the world,” Carey said. “Being able to come out on top is all we could dream of as far as going in with confidence. It’ll be a very tough game again against a really good team. We lost to them in the first game here so we know that we’ll have to be really good but feeling good about it.”

team carey

Chelsea Carey, Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jocelyn Peterman and Laine Peters celebrate with the Meridian Canadian Open trophy. (Anil Mungal)