Rachel Homan. (Photo: Anil Mungal)

Ontario championships notes: Team Homan came prepared for grind

January 31, 2019, 1:17 AM

ELMIRA, Ont. — Rachel Homan’s team isn’t underestimating anyone in the Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Although the world’s No. 1 ranked club has been running at a high-octane pace on tour, winning three consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles, they’re well aware of the depth of talent they have to face this week in provincial playdowns.

After a clean 7-1 win over Team Julie Tippin in the morning, Homan escaped with a dicey 7-6 extra-end victory Wednesday night over Team Jacqueline Harrison at Woolwich Memorial Complex.

There were some tense moments throughout the match but Team Homan has been getting comfortable being in uncomfortable situations.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games and we’ve managed to battle through them,” Team Homan third Emma Miskew said. “I think that’s something we’ve grown a little bit in. We haven’t always been able to pull off those wins. It’s nice that it was kind of a game where it was not going our way the whole time and we were able to pull through.”

Team Homan kept their perfect record intact taking sole possession of first place in the round-robin table at 4-0 with three preliminary matches remaining on the schedule. There hasn’t been much separation in the standings crossing the midway mark and Miskew isn’t ruling anything out yet, especially with a Friday tilt against defending champions Team Hollie Duncan scheduled to wrap up pool play.

“We haven’t played them yet so there’s still that and there’s still so many games left and a lot of shuffling that can happen,” Miskew said. “We just want to make sure that we put ourselves in a position where we have a playoff spot.”

Team Harrison pinned the draw-to-the-button shootout to start with the hammer but had to settle for a single in the first after their blank attempt failed. Harrison went up 2-0 in the second, however, as Homan had to hit against four and limited the damage to a single steal.

Homan was forced to a hit for a point in the third end but jumped ahead 3-2 in the fourth when Harrison came up light on a draw against two. Harrison took two back in the sixth to regain the lead and a missed runback from Homan in the seventh made it a 5-3 game. Homan tapped for a deuce in the eighth to knot it up again and stole one in the ninth to go up one, however, Harrison retained the hammer coming home.

It looked like two was in play for the win but Harrison misfired for just a single and force the extra end where Homan kept the laneways open and executed her final draw shot perfectly.

“Ontario provincials is always a tough grind. We expect to come in and have tough games against all of these teams,” Miskew said. “That was a battle for sure out there. We know they’re a great team and we knew it would be (tough). It’s really nice in such a close game like that to come out with a win. We’re just hoping to pick it up a little bit more tomorrow and hopefully get on a roll there.”

Tippin bounces back big time to split the day

Team Tippin recovered quite nicely from the loss to Homan with a huge 8-0 shutout in only five ends over Duncan.

Tippin charged right out of the gate scoring a four-ender in the first and added steals of two in the second, one in the third and another in the fifth for early handshakes.

Third Megan Balsdon said it was huge for them to rebound from the loss to Homan.

“We really just wanted to come out and have a good game, get our confidence back,” she said. “We were trying to keep it kind of simple, the first end ended up being really junky, but we capitalized on some misses early and we were able to score a big one, which was a nice way to start and then just … try to get the wheels moving in the right direction.

“We started good with our first game with a win and then two losses to follow so after that one against Homan, that was not a good game, it was nice to just get back in the saddle and have a good win.”

Tippin climbed into the logjam alongside Team Cathy Auld, Team Lauren Horton and Team Jestyn Murphy in third place with half the field now tied with 2-2 records. Balsdon said it was huge to avoid falling to three losses early and keep up with the pack.

“I’m thinking 4-3 might make it into playoffs but at the same time also going three losses with three games left is like must-win situations, so that’s pretty tough,” she said. “It was so key to have a 1-1 day on that day and then just hoping for some good games going forward.”

Megan’s brother Greg Balsdon also had to take on the previous two provincial champions on the men’s side in one day, playing Team John Epping and Team Glenn Howard Tuesday, and she jokingly wondered if the event organizers had something against their family.

“It was a tough day. It’s like my brother had Epping and Howard in the same day, so kind of the same thing,” she said with a laugh.

The previously undefeated Duncan settled into second place in the standings with a 3-1 record.

Team Harrison (1-3) lost to Team Duncan in an extra end earlier in another missed opportunity. Harrison had the hammer in 10 down by a point in that game with a chance to score two as well but came up short on the draw and Duncan prevailed in OT.

Team Chelsea Brandwood is at the bottom of the table winless at 0-4.

The women’s final is scheduled for Saturday evening with the winner representing the province at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Feb. 16-24, in Sydney, N.S.

McDonald maintains hot streak

Team Scott McDonald maintained their hot streak to start the Ontario Tankard men’s provincial curling championships.

McDonald extended their unbeaten run to six games following a 7-3 victory over Team Dayna Deruelle in the evening.

“It’s nice to start strong and it’s even better to be able to carry on the momentum in the middle of the week,” McDonald said. “We have some good teams left to play, we know we’re going to have to continue to play well in order to be successful come the weekend.”

Epping stayed on McDonald’s tail improving to a 5-1 record, tied for second with Howard, by cruising to a 10-2 win over Team Charley Thomas, who are fourth in pool play at 4-2.

Team Greg Balsdon drew level to 3-3 with a 9-5 decision against Team Colin Dow.

The men’s final is set for Sunday afternoon with the winner representing Ontario at the Tim Hortons Brier running March 2-10 in Brandon, Man.