June 13th, 2024

Einarson stays in contention in Hearts with playoff win over Nova Scotia’s Black

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on February 25, 2023.

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson delivers a rock as lead Briane Harris, left, and second Shannon Birchard, right, sweep while playing Nova Scotia in the playoffs at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, in Kamloops, B.C., on Saturday, February 25, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

KAMLOOPS, B.C. – Kerri Einarson’s bid for a four-peat at the Canadian women’s curling championship was alive and well Saturday, although her team still has a difficult road to travel to win a fourth consecutive Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

A 9-4 win in an elimination playoff game over Nova Scotia’s Christina Black propelled the defending champions to Sunday’s semifinal in Kamloops.

Einarson, Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Harris need two wins Sunday to be just the second team in history to win four straight. Colleen Jones’ team was the first from 2001 to 2004.

They’ll face of the loser of Saturday night’s Page playoff game between Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville and Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones.

The winner of that game earns an express ticket to Sunday’s final.

Einarson’s foursome recovered from dropping a playoff game to Jones the previous evening – Einarson’s first loss of the tournament – with a commanding performance Saturday.

The skip came through a tricky port to hit and score two points in the seventh end for a 7-3 lead.

Einarson also got more run support from her lineup than Black did.

Her vice Sweeting and the front end of Birchard and Harris outcurled their Nova Scotia counterparts by several percentage points.

Sweeting’s triple takeout in the 10th end ran Nova Scotia out of rocks.

“My team played amazing,” Einarson said. “They definitely outplayed the other team and Christina had a couple of tough ones she had to make to just score, and she made them, but we felt really comfortable out there.”

Sweepers can make or break the outcome of a delivered stone, so Einarson was also the beneficiary of the workhorse efforts of Sweeting, Birchard and Harris.

Harris is pregnant and due in June.

“She is a champ. Holy smokes,” Einarson said. “She’s got a little one in her and it’s motivating her to just push through. I don’t think I could do it.”

Nova Scotia’s marathon, three-game day Friday caught up to them.

Black stole a point in an extra end in back-to-back playoff games, including a tiebreaker, to make the final four. Black eliminated three-time champ Rachel Homan of Ontario in the process.

Nova Scotia then lost to McCarville to end up facing three-time champ Einarson on Saturday.

Black’s talent for difficult, pressure draws was on display again Saturday, but she made those shots to simply survive.

Nova Scotia didn’t generate a two-point end with last rock, while Einarson scored deuces with hammer in the third, fifth, seventh and ninth ends.

“I think our fatigue from the three games yesterday kind of set in today,” Black acknowledged. “Our throws were a little bit lighter than we were calling on a few shots.

“They’re an incredible team and they gave us a few chances and we didn’t capitalize. If they give you a little bit of a chance you better capitalize because they don’t give you very many chances.”

Black hopes their performance in this year’s Tournament of Hearts is a springboard to playing in big, money events next season on the tour.

“We were just not a (Grand) Slam team as of yet,” Black’s third Jennifer Baxter said. “We’re from the East Coast. We don’t have the same sponsor money that everybody else has. I’m a teacher. I can’t necessarily take the whole week off to go to Slams, because then I’m losing money, right? I don’t get vacation days.

“But Tina has always played like this. Our team has always been strong. It’s just nobody necessarily sees it unless you’re watching our Facebook live stream.”

The 2024 women’s world curling championship is in Black’s hometown of Sydney, N.S.

“I’d love to be there playing instead of just sitting in the stands,” Black said.

Einarson took the longer route to last year’s victory in Thunder Bay, Ont. Her team won the sudden-death playoff game, the semifinal and then the final over McCarville.

“Our backs are against the wall and I know, with us, we never let up,” the skip said.

“We’re just going to keep grinding it out and playing like we know we can. I feel like this is the best we’ve played yet.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2023.

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