Rachel Homan shoots a stone during the Boost National in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

Eight Ends: Risk leads to reward for Homan in Ontario Scotties win

February 6, 2017, 6:32 PM

The long road through provincial playdowns comes to a close soon with the remaining men’s championships wrapping up this weekend.

Keep it tuned to Sportsnet on Sunday for coverage of the Manitoba and Alberta playoffs starting at 10 a.m. ET. Other provincial playdowns running this weekend include Northern Ontario, B.C. and New Brunswick to determine their reps heading to the Tim Hortons Brier running March 4-12 in St. John’s, N.L.

Meanwhile, the field is already set on the women’s side for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts taking place Feb. 18-26 in St. Catharines, Ont.

Here are this week’s Eight Ends looking back to the weekend’s top headlines and ahead to what’s in store:

1st End: Risk leads to reward for Homan in Ontario Scotties win

The Scotties Tournament of Hearts lineup is now complete with Ottawa’s Rachel Homan earning the right to represent the host province later this month.

Homan captured her third Ontario Scotties title Sunday defeating Jacqueline Harrison 7-4 in Sunday’s final.

Homan returns to the national championship after a stunning loss to fellow Ottawa native Jenn Hanna in last year’s Ontario Scotties championship game.

That had to be in the back of the minds of Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle, but that’s where it remained as they kept plugging along through the Ontario Scotties. Losses to Harrison and Allison Flaxey didn’t faze Homan, who finished second in the round-robin standings with a 5-2 record and came out swinging in the semifinal posting a 9-3 victory over Cathy Auld.

It was a dicey final that swung in Homan’s favour during the eighth end thanks to a danger close shot. Homan just barely missed clipping Harrison’s guard and her gamble paid off connecting to make a takeout and score two for a 6-4 lead. Harrison’s draw attempt with her last in the ninth slid too deep for a single steal and Homan, with hammer coming home, kept the final end clean to run her out of rocks in the 10th.

Homan, a two-time national champion, will wear the Team Ontario jacket at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the first time since 2013 as her previous pair of trips in 2014 and 2015 were through the Team Canada auto-berth.

Ranked No. 1 in the world, Homan adds star power to a Tournament of Hearts field that appeared to be lacking in that department. The only other previous national champion (not counting alternates) among the field is defending champ Chelsea Carey, ranked 11th on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit. Coincidentally, the marquee matchup between Homan’s Team Ontario and Carey’s Team Canada takes place during the opening round-robin draw of the tournament on Feb. 18.

2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts teams

Team Skip
Canada Chelsea Carey
Alberta Shannon Kleibrink
B.C. Marla Mallett
Manitoba Michelle Englot
New Brunswick Melissa Adams
Newfoundland & Labrador Stacie Curtis
Northern Ontario Krista McCarville
Nova Scotia Mary Mattatall
Ontario Rachel Homan
P.E.I. Robyn MacPhee
Quebec Eve Belisle
Saskatchewan Penny Barker
NWT Kerry Galusha
Nunavut Geneva Chislett
Yukon Sarah Koltun

Note: New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon will play in a pre-qualifying tournament Feb. 16-18.

2nd End: The Wizard of Winter works his magic once again

Glenn Howard is heading back to the Tim Hortons Brier.

Howard defeated Wayne Tuck Jr. 8-6 in Sunday’s Ontario men’s final to successfully defend the Recharge with Milk Tankard title. The 54-year-old from Penetanguishene claimed his record 17th provincial championship and proved once again age is just a number.

Howard was rock solid at the start winning five straight round-robin matches before hitting a three-game losing skid. He rebounded to finish round-robin play at 6-3 and take the second spot in the Page 1-2 playoff. Howard charged back late with a deuce in eight and stole five points over the final two ends to beat top-seed John Epping 10-6 and advance to the final.

Howard, a four-time Brier and world champion, has played the most games at the Canadian men’s curling championship at 207 and will add at least 11 to his total next month in St. John’s, N.L.

Tricky ice conditions may have taken some of the shine off of the win though as picks were plentiful and made it a frustrating finish for Tuck following an incredible week.

Tuck battled back from a 0-3 start in the round-robin to wrap up preliminary play at 5-4 and squeeze into a three-team tiebreaker scenario with Codey Maus and Greg Balsdon. Maus beat Balsdon in the first tiebreaker and Tuck, who scored wins over both in the round-robin, topped Maus 7-3 in the second to qualify. Tuck stole a point in the final end to edge Scott Bailey 8-7 in the Page 3-4 playoff and rallied back to upset Epping 9-7 in the semifinal by stealing four points over the final three ends.

It was heartbreaking too for Epping, who was on a roll with an 8-1 record in round-robin play and looked poised to finally win his first Ontario championship before falling in the playoffs.

3rd End: Casey claims Saskatchewan spot for Brier

Adam Casey is heading to his sixth consecutive Tim Hortons Brier and representing a third different province in his career.

Casey crushed three-time defending Saskatchewan champ Steve Laycock 11-3 in Sunday’s final at the SaskTel Tankard. It was a rubber match for the championship with Laycock winning the A final of the triple knockout and Casey taking the Page A-B playoff.

Casey joined Regina’s Team Meachem this season after his squad in his home province of P.E.I. broke up. Prior to winning back-to-back P.E.I. championships in 2015 and 2016, Casey won three straight Newfoundland and Labrador Tankard titles as a member of Brad Gushue’s crew.

Looking outside of Saskatchewan’s borders, and switching roles in the lineup with Casey, proved to work out for Meachem to claim his first provincial men’s title.

4th End: Rocque going for gold

Canada’s Kelsey Rocque is into the final at the 2017 Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The team from the University of Alberta finished atop of the round-robin standings with a 7-2 record and defeated Sweden, skipped by Isabella Wrana, 7-4 in Sunday’s semifinal.

“We played pretty well today. We got the breaks when we needed to. It was a solid win against a really good team, and it gives us even more confidence heading into the final,” Rocque said in a media release. “It’s pretty crazy. I can’t say enough about the girls. They’ve been playing amazing all week and it’s a huge part of the reason we’re in the final. We’re very excited to bring home a medal for Canada. Hopefully it’s gold, but regardless, we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished this week.”

Rocque, a two-time world junior champion, will play Russia’s Victoria Moiseeva for the gold medal Monday, 10 p.m. ET.

Wrana topped Switzerland’s Elena Stern 6-3 for bronze earlier Monday.

5th End: Manitoba men’s provincial preview

Here are some notable teams to watch at the Viterra Championship starting Wednesday in Portage la Prairie, Man.

Reid Carruthers enters as the top seed and for a good reason. Carruthers is ranked second on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit – third on the year-to-date – and scored a big win earlier this season claiming the Canada Cup against the top teams from across the nation. Carruthers skipped his crew to the Manitoba title in 2015 in their first year together and went all the way in 2011 as a member of Jeff Stoughton’s squad taking the world championship.

Mike McEwen enters as the defending champ having claimed his first Manitoba men’s championship a year ago. McEwen has picked up two titles on tour this season including the Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic just last month in Tempe, Ariz. McEwen is sixth on the OOM and 11th on the YTD.

Matt Dunstone went on a sensational run to the final last season before heading overseas to skip Canada to a bronze-medal finish at the world juniors. The 21-year-old Dunstone, now aged out of juniors, returns with a different lineup, but no one will be taking him lightly this time around.

Dunstone’s former junior teammates now play with Jason Gunnlaugson. The Gunner holds the No. 5 seed and has had a solid season on tour ranked 20th on the year-to-date standings.

6th End: Alberta men’s provincial preview

Perennial provincial contender Kevin Koe can sit back and watch the Boston Pizza Cup – starting Wednesday in Westlock, Alta. – as he holds the Team Canada auto-berth back to the Tim Hortons Brier. The last time a skip not named Kevin – either Koe or Martin – won the Alberta men’s championship was back in 2005 and two Edmonton-based teams appear to be the favourites in the open field.

Charley Thomas sits 13th overall on the World Curling Tour’s year-to-date standings. Thomas, who finished runner-up to Koe last year, has a new secret weapon this season in lead Craig Savill, the two-time world men’s champion from Ottawa. Savill won nine provincial titles in Ontario and looks to help Thomas capture his first in Alberta.

Brendan Bottcher isn’t too far behind Thomas in the rankings, in fact, he’s just one spot back in 14th on the year-to-date. Bottcher too brought in an experienced free agent this season to help give his team an edge in two-time Brier champ Pat Simmons. Things didn’t work out as planned though as the team struggled in the first-half of the season and Simmons and the squad split during the Christmas break. Darren Moulding joined the team at third in time for the Meridian Canadian Open in January.

2017 TIM HORTONS BRIER FIELD

Team Skip/Competition Dates
Canada Kevin Koe
Alberta Feb. 8-12
B.C. Feb. 8-12
Manitoba Feb. 8-12
New Brunswick Feb. 8-12
Newfoundland & Labrador Brad Gushue
Northern Ontario Feb. 8-12
Nova Scotia Jamie Murphy
Ontario Glenn Howard
P.E.I. Eddie MacKenzie
Quebec Jean-Michel Menard
Saskatchewan Adam Casey
NWT Jamie Koe
Nunavut Jim Nix
Yukon Craig Kochan

Note: Nova Scotia, Nunavut, P.E.I. and Yukon will play in a pre-qualifying tournament.

7th End: Elite 10 cut-off date approaching

The next event on the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling calendar is the Princess Auto Elite 10 taking place March 16-19 at the Civic Centre in Port Hawkesbury, N.S.

Qualification is based on the World Curling Tour’s year-to-date men’s rankings, thus ensuring the top 10 teams of the season are present. The cut-off date is only a week away meaning you might want to keep an eye on the standings during the final round of provincials.

Single-draw tickets were recently released, click here to purchase yours today.

8th End: Humpty’s Champions Cup field filling out

The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling announced last week the initial list of tour winners who have earned spots to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup running April 25-30 at WinSport Arena in Calgary.

Kevin Koe, Steve Laycock, Peter de Cruz and John Epping’s teams have been added to the men’s division with squads skipped by Rachel Homan, Bingyu Wang and Anna Hasselborg earning invites on the women’s side.

Click here to see the full list and which upcoming tournaments teams must win in order to qualify.

Full-event passes are available, click here for ticket information.

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