Rachel Homan delivers a stone during the 2017 Roar of the Rings in Ottawa. (Anil Mungal)

Olympic Trials: Crowd roars as Homan continues to soar

December 7, 2017, 12:57 AM

OTTAWA — Give Rachel Homan an inch and she’ll take it, especially when the game and the pursuit of representing Canada at the Olympics is on the line. That’s why she’s the reigning world women’s champion after all.

Homan capped Wednesday night’s evening draw at the Roar of the Rings with an electrifying ending against Casey Scheidegger to send her hometown crowd into a frenzy.

With the hammer coming home and down by one, Homan locked in on a double takeout through the port after Scheidegger’s last rock landed in the worst possible place to set up a perfect pocket. We’ve seen shots like these go haywire during the week — and Homan herself had given up two steals in the first half — but delivered the dagger when it mattered most scoring four as her rock soared while the crowd roared for the 10-7 victory.

“It’s a nice one to have at the end and we made a great team shot,” Homan said. “We missed a bunch of shots in that game by a millimetre. Frustrating but we stuck with it and believed in each other, kept plugging away and had a shot for the win and we made it.”

Even the normally cool Homan couldn’t contain her emotions on the ice after that one raising her fists in the air.

“It’s so awesome to have everybody there and going through all the emotions with us,” Homan said. “I’m sure in the crowd, and a lot of our friends and family, I don’t think loved that game. It was fun to play and fun to make your last shot, that’s for sure.”

Homan now holds a 5-1 record (with two round-robin games remaining) and moved into a tie for second place with Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones.

“We needed that win. It was a huge win for us,” Homan said. “It could have gone either way. They’re a great team. They made some amazing shots. We came up short a couple times and got behind the 8-ball. I’m really proud of my team for sticking with it.”

Calgary’s Chelsea Carey (5-0) climbed over Jones for first place at the Canadian curling trials with a 7-5 victory over the reigning Olympic gold medallist during the afternoon draw.

The Lethbridge, Alta., native Scheidegger (2-4) slid in the wrong direction now officially out of it having lost her last four. It was a promising start to the week for Scheidegger, who played well but a few untimely misses derailed her Olympic dream.

Playoffs?! Kevin Koe is just trying to win a game here. Just one game.

Despite being large and in charge undefeated at the top of the men’s table, Koe’s crew was more concerned with getting past John Epping on Wednesday afternoon before working out the possible playoff scenarios.

Koe (6-0) clipped Epping in a 6-4 set and — combined with Brendan Bottcher’s 9-3 thrashing over Brad Jacobs — guaranteed a playoff berth for the Calgary crew.

“We’ve been pretty good at just saying who do we play next and who’s our game today,” Team Koe second Brent Laing said. “We just have one game a day now, so we were just focused on John and the boys today and came out and played well.

“The sixth win puts us in the mix, we know that, and we’re in the driver’s seat, we know that too. I think we have to keep doing what we’re doing and try to win the game tomorrow and that puts us into the final.”

Koe can clinch the bye to Sunday’s championship game with another victory and clashes with John Morris on Thursday and Brad Gushue in Friday’s round-robin finale.

“Every game here has been big and every day we’ve been saying, ‘Oh, biggest game of the week, boys,’ and it’s true right from the first game against [Steve] Laycock,” Laing said. “That was the biggest game of the week to start and then the next day, the next day and the next day. That’s just how it is. The trials is a grind and it’s exhausting. It’s the best competition you’re going to face anywhere so you definitely can’t take anybody for granted and can’t take any days off or you’ll get bit for sure.”

Fortunately for him in this one, the man known as the “Koo dog” had both bark and bite. Koe’s open draw for a deuce in the second cracked open the scoring, and he took complete control building up to a six-point lead by the break with steals.

After Koe froze his last in the third perfectly, Epping looked to raise an opposing guard to unlock Koe’s shot rock. However, the demolition went horribly wrong as Epping promoted the guard and both it and the aforementioned counter hung around for a steal of two when the dust settled. Epping’s woes continued with a nightmarish fifth end as Koe sat six after his last and forced the Toronto native into a high-pressure draw into the four-foot circle to limit the damage to “just” another pair.

Kudos to Team Epping for not throwing in the towel as they clawed back with a deuce in seven and single steals in eight and nine to make things dicey to the end. Koe didn’t ease off of the pedal though and finished things off in the 10th.

“John made a bunch of really good shots. We weren’t quite as sharp but it’s not like we were playing poorly,” Laing said. “That’s how it goes with the four-rock rule. We can’t exactly run and hide. We’ve got to play a few shots and John Epping did what John Epping does. He made a whole bunch of come-arounds to the button and around staggers. He made some good shots. We were never in real danger but it got a little bit uncomfortable for sure.”

Brad Gushue has battled back into a tie for second place at 4-2 on the men’s side after facing the man he was chasing.

The current world men’s champion from St. John’s, NL., stole three early and maintained control from there in a pivotal 8-3 victory over Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen in the evening draw.

Team Gushue lead Geoff Walker believes the squad is heating up heading into crunch time.

“You don’t want to peak right at the start of the week and then be on a slight decline through the rest of the event,” he said. “Even though we started slow, probably slower than we’d like to, we want to be on the uprise heading into the end of the week and into the weekend.”

It was a wild one in the second end that resulted in thievery. Both Team Gushue second Brett Gallant and Team McEwen third B.J. Neufeld had rocks traverse down the same straight path and right through the house untouched. McEwen also struggled and allowed Gushue to build a cluster of rocks in the four-foot circle buried under cover. That required McEwen to draw down a new path and his rock took a detour away from the target and landed right on top of the trio.

“We were just looking for a force in that situation and we got a little fortunate when one of B.J.’s hung out and the same thing on Mike’s first I don’t think he got it to where he wanted it to,” Team Gushue lead Geoff Walker said. “We were able to put Brad’s in a great spot, his first one, and forced Mike into a tough one and of course his last one, looking at three and drawing through a new path we hadn’t played on.

“It’s a little bit of a guess sometimes and we’re just fortunate his curled. His weight was good, it just curled and hit ours at the top of the four.”

Team McEwen stayed with it to the ninth and why not with so much on the line and quite a few bizarre games swinging back and forth throughout the week that kept Team Gushue gunning to the end.

“You just want to keep the pressure on the other teams. It’s the pressure of the event,” Walker said. “It’s tough sometimes when you’re looking at three points; It’s a lot harder here than it is in any other event. … It was early, it was still the second end and we just played the one side of the sheet a little bit more, so that was nice and fast but the other side was slower at the time. They guessed the right weight it just needed a little bit more ice for him.”

When it was clear the comeback was out of the question, McEwen busted out the spin-a-rama earning points for theatrics if nothing else.

“We pretty much knew once we nosed hit, the game was over,” Walker said. “They were joking around, let’s see a spin-a-rama, so we knew that was coming. It would’ve been nice to have actually seen him put it on the pin. He wasn’t that far off, it’s not an easy thing to do so that was cool to see.”

Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers took down John Morris of Vernon, B.C., 10-6 to even up his record at 3-3 and stay in the race as teams will be jockeying for position down to the wire. We are starting to see some separation in the standings although Bottcher and Jacobs (both 2-3), Laycock (2-4) and even Epping and Morris (both 1-4) are still in it, technically at least, but their chances are dimming.

Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., said her team never gives up and it sure saved them Wednesday night.

McCarville (3-2) bounced back for an 8-7 victory over Allison Flaxey’s Toronto team to keep her hopes alive.

Flaxey (0-6) took charge early with a three-ender in the second. McCarville had to settle for a single in the third and Flaxey counted another couple points in four to make it 5-1.

Lone points went on the board back and forth in five and six and McCarville finally chipped away at the deficit with a deuce in seven. Now the tables were turned as Flaxey was held to one in eight and McCarville potted another pair of points in nine to close within one at 7-6.

Flaxey needed to draw with her last coming home in the 10th and gave it just a little too much gas conceding not only a steal of one but two for the decision.

“We make some good shots and they miss a couple shots and anything can happen,” McCarville said. “We knew going into the last end we had to steal one. We’re like, you know what, we’ve been throwing up some good guards and they’ve been missing a few of their guards so there was hope for us.

“[Lead] Sarah [Potts] slipped in and they hit it, which is tough to always battle back when you have one rock slip into the rings when it’s free-guard zone. It happened that they did miss one of their peels so it gave us a bit of an opportunity and a little bit of a light. It just happened to go our way. It was getting really fast and that one spot she was drawing and throwing that extra little bit of weight and it kept sailing through the rings. Fortunately for us and unfortunately for her, it did go through the rings.”

McCarville still has to face Jones on Thursday followed by a doubleheader Friday against Carey and Val Sweeting. It’s too early to tell if she’ll need to win them all but at this point, that’s the mindset she has to take entering the final stretch.

“We definitely have three more really big games. We have to play like our backs are against the wall because we have two losses and we can’t lose any more,” McCarville said. “We have to come out and play a little bit better in the first five. The last five we pulled up our socks a little bit so we have to just continue on with how we’re playing for the first five tomorrow.”

It’s interesting McCarville draws Sweeting last as the Edmonton native is also looking to win out from here. After starting 0-3, Sweeting is now batting .500 rolling off her third consecutive win defeating Scheidegger 8-6 during the morning draw.

Sweeting faces Homan on Thursday evening before wrapping things up against McCarville.