Val Sweeting in action at the Tour Challenge in Regina. (Anil Mungal)

Sweeting, Paetz top Tour Challenge table at 4-0

September 7, 2017, 10:59 PM

REGINA — Val Sweeting finished on top of the round-robin table in her title defence at the Tour Challenge Tier 1.

The Edmonton native closed out her preliminary play schedule Thursday with another scrappy victory defeating Scotland’s Eve Muirhead 4-3 in an extra end.

It was the second consecutive extra-end win on the day for Sweeting, who stole from Jacqueline Harrison of Mississauga, Ont., 5-4 during the morning draw. While the victories have been edgy, at the end of the day Sweeting said it feels really good to head into the playoffs at 4-0.

“I think the girls are catching onto the ice out there,” Sweeting said. “I don’t know what the percentages are like but I feel like the girls are playing well. Muirhead played really well that game too, so it was a fun game to play and it could have gone either way.”

Sweeting opened with the hammer and was forced to a single in the first. Muirhead got one in the third and stole a point in the fifth to go up 2-1.

The two-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling champion Sweeting matched that with points in six and seven to pull back ahead 3-2 and Muirhead tied it up in eight to force the extra end.

Sweeting came through in the clutch making the draw on her last to the side of the four-foot circle.

“It’s good to have a good finish like that because we’re going to be in tight games like that this season,” Sweeting said. “It’s always good to put eight shots together in an extra like that and just cap it off strong. The girls just judged it really well. I was confident because I threw the draw on my first one but they were good.”

Muirhead, a winner of four Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles, plays Ottawa’s Rachel Homan during Friday’s early afternoon draw with both teams in must-win mode at identical 1-2 records.

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Joining Sweeting at the top of the leaderboard is Switzerland’s Alina Paetz, who also finished with a 4-0 round-robin record.

Paetz beat Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones 8-6 in a repeat of the 2015 world championship final.

It was a back-and-forth match with Jones stealing singles in the first couple ends before Paetz powered into the lead with a three-count in the third.

Jones came right back with a deuce in four and another steal in five to jump ahead 5-3. Paetz regained the lead in six with another three-count, limited Jones to just a single in seven to tie the game, and took two in the eighth with the hammer coming home.

It was the first loss for Jones, a seven-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title winner, who has a 2-1 record and takes on Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., in Draw 12 Friday.

Paetz blanked Allison Flaxey (0-3) of Caledon, Ont., 8-0 during the morning draw. After a single in the first, Paetz stole seven points over the following four ends swiping three in the second, one in the third, two in the fourth and another in five.

“It feels really good,” Paetz said following the morning win. “It’s the first bonspiel for us and to play that well at the beginning is pretty nice.”

Three more round-robin draws are on tap Friday with the quarterfinals starting Saturday.

NOTES: The Tour Challenge is the season-opening event of the 2017-18 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling calendar and runs through to Sunday at the Co-operators Centre at Evraz Place. … Winners of the Tier 1 division receive invites to the season-ending Pinty’s GSOC event, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, running April 24-29 in Calgary. … Winners of the Tier 2 division earn berths to the following Pinty’s GSOC event, the Masters, taking place Oct. 24-29 in Lloydminster, Sask.