June 25th, 2024

Rachel Homan, Tracy Fleury combo off to winning start for Ontario at Hearts

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on February 18, 2023.

Northern Ontario skip Krista McCarville delivers a rock while playing Manitoba at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, in Kamloops, B.C., on Saturday, February 18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

KAMLOOPS, B.C. – Rachel Homan’s experiment got off to a winning start at the Canadian women’s curling championship Saturday.

Eyebrows raised when one of the most decorated skips in Canadian women’s curling handed another woman the broom ahead of this season.

With Tracy Fleury calling shots and Homan throwing fourth stones, Ontario’s first game of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts was a 12-3 win over Stacie Curtis of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It’s just amazing to get another phenomenal, experienced skip on the team and lots of great curling IQ out there,” Homan said following the win.

“It helps to make more shots and get more opinions out there and find the right shot every time.”

Also in the tournament’s second draw Saturday afternoon, North Ontario’s Krista McCarville prevailed 11-8 in a see-saw battle with six-time champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba.

McCarville reached last year’s final in her hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont., and lost to Kerri Einarson.

Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories picked up a 6-4 win over New Brunswick’s Andrea Kelly, who was the bronze medallist in Thunder Bay.

Casey Scheidegger’s wild-card team from Lethbridge, Alta., defeated another wild card, Meghan Walter of East St. Paul, Man., 5-3.

Einarson, B.C.’s Clancy Grandy, Nova Scotia’s Christina Black and Kaitlyn Lawes’ wild-card team were also 1-0 after Friday evening’s opening draw.

While a team’s name is generally the curler who skips, Ontario’s foursome has chosen to remain Team Homan, which is a name with considerable curling clout.

Homan skipped teams to three Canadian championships – reaching the final in three others – a world championship and an Olympic trials win to wear the Maple Leaf in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

She and John Morris represented Canada in mixed doubles in Beijing.

Fleury of Sudbury, Ont., came within a hair of representing Canada in women’s curling in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Jones stole a point in an extra end to beat Fleury in the trials final in Saskatoon.

Fleury, Liz Fyfe, Selena Njegovan and Kristin MacCuish reached the playoffs of last year’s Hearts before the world’s No. 2 team disbanded.

With front-end player Joanne Courtney taking a breather from curling, Homan recruited Fleury to call shots and throw third stones, and shifted longtime vice Emma Miskew to second.

Homan is ranked No. 2 both in Canada and the world behind Einarson heading into the Hearts.

“We knew Tracy was the whole package,” Homan said. “Amazing attitude, amazing shooter, she’s got big-weight accuracy. She can make soft-weight shots.

“She’s an all-around player you can put anywhere. She found a great spot for her leading the crew and keeping us in check and it’s been great.”

The move meant a reallocation of Homan’s curling energies in a game.

“It just changes your roles and responsibilities on the ice. I don’t think it freed up anything,” said the 33-year-old from Ottawa.

“I kind of let her take the reins on the strategy. Not all my energy is used there. I’m using a bit more with sweeping and judging and helping the other girls make their shots in the hack.

“Focusing on different areas and challenging yourself in different ways has been a really fun transition.”

Homan and Fleury establishing effective on-ice communication was key in getting to this year’s Hearts.

“Just being open and honest with each other, learning from each other, learning each other’s strength, we feel we keep getting stronger as the season goes on,” Fleury said.

And then there’s sweeping, which Homan does a lot of for the first time in her career.

“We train every year, but just a little more focused to make sure different muscles were beefed up a little bit more than others, and try to avoid injury right?” Homan said.

“Haven’t done a long 10-end event yet. Provincials were pretty long, but I know this is a little bit longer and I know it will be a tough week.”

Curtis shaking hands after eight ends at the Sandman Centre both conserved Homan’s fuel and gave pregnant lead Sarah Wilkes a breather.

Wilkes sat out the sixth and seventh ends, which gave alternate Kira Brunton some reps.

“We were happy with the game we put together today,” Fleury said. “My teammates played really well. We feel like we got a good handle on the ice.

“The ice is really good out there. We figured out what it was doing so that adds to confidence.”

Meanwhile, McCarville threw a tricky double takeout with her final stone of the 10th end for the win over Jones.

“A very intense game, very back and forth, a lot of rocks in play, but we know that’s the way she likes to play,” McCarville said.

“I think Jones gets better and better as the week goes on, so playing them early I think was good.

“Going in to it we said one goal was to get our draw weight and I thought we did really well with that today.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2023.

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