April 12th, 2024

Kaitlyn Lawes hopes tide is turning for her Manitoba team at Tournament of Hearts

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on February 20, 2024.

CALGARY – Kaitlyn Lawes has asked for her teammates’ patience as she irons out her game at the Canadian women’s curling championship.

A woman with a lot of big-game experience on the national and international stage in over a decade as Jennifer Jones’ third is skipping a team at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the second time in her career.

The Manitoba women’s champions were under must-win pressure early in Calgary after losing three of their first four games.

Tuesday’s 8-4 doubling of B.C.’s Corryn Brown kept Lawes’ playoff hopes alive. The skip averaged 74 per cent in her shotmaking in Manitoba’s first four games until a 94 per cent outing Tuesday.

“I just kept saying to the girls ‘hang in there with me’ and I felt like I had a great game today,” Lawes said.

“I feel like every game out here is must win. Losing a few early was disappointing, but we’ve been close in every game and for me, it was just I missed a few too many.”

The 35-year-old is the only curler in the world to own Olympic gold medals in both team curling with Jones (2014) and mixed doubles with John Morris (2018).

Lawes, Selena Njegovan, Jocelyn Peterman and Kristin MacCuish rank fourth among Canadian women’s teams behind Rachel Homan, Jennifer Jones and Kerri Einarson.

Lawes posted a 5-3 record in her Hearts debut as a skip last year in Kamloops, B.C., where her team was ousted in a tiebreaker.

Tiebreakers have been eliminated from the format, so Lawes can’t afford another loss at WinSport’s Event Centre.

“I personally take a lot of pride in shotmaking and how great this team performs,” Lawes said. “We’re all really strong competitors, and we want to win. The great thing about this team is we are a new team. We are learning.”

Alberta’s Selena Sturmay stayed unbeaten atop Pool A at 5-0 after dumping Laurie St-Georges 8-3. Quebec dropped to 3-2 alongside Krista McCarville of Northern Ontario.

“The further we get into this event, definitely there’s more and more pressure, but at the end of the day, we’re just looking to improve with every game and that’s what I think we’ve done,” Sturmay said.

Defending champion Einarson (5-1) chased the host province with an 11-6 win over Saskatchewan’s Skylar Ackerman (3-3).

Einarson continued to curl without regular lead Briane Harris, who was declared ineligible to compete on opening day for reasons still unexplained by Curling Canada or the skip. Alternate Krysten Karwacki has played in Harris’s absence.

Lawes and Brown were 2-3 in Pool B ahead of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Stacie Curtis (1-4), who beat winless Jane DiCarlo of Prince Edward Island 11-6.

The top three teams in each pool Thursday advance to Friday’s six-team playoff round, from which Saturday’s four Page playoff teams will be determined.

The winner of Sunday’s final represents Canada in the world championship March 16-24 in Sydney, N.S., and earns a return trip to the 2025 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as defending champion.

In Pool B Tuesday morning, Ontario’s Homan joined idle Jones at 4-0, but Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories provided fireworks by staging the biggest comeback in national women’s championship history.

Down 7-0 after three ends, Galusha (1-3) scored three in the ninth end and stole one in the 10th in a 10-9 win over Ontario’s Danielle Inglis (2-3).

Curling Canada said it’s the largest comeback at a national championship since British Columbia overcame a 10-point deficit at the Canadian Ladies Curling Association Championship at the old Stampede Corral in Calgary on Feb. 26, 1970.

The championship’s been the Scotties Tournament of Hearts since 1982. Homan, who beat Manitoba’s Kate Cameron 8-6, was to meet Jones in Tuesday evening’s draw.

British Columbia’s Clancy Grandy (4-1), Cameron (2-2), Inglis and Nova Scotia’s Heather Smith (2-3), New Brunswick’s Melissa Adams (1-4) and winless Bayly Scoffin of Yukon rounded out the Pool B standings.

Lawes felt she was a hindrance to her team in its third loss when she botched throws in the first and ninth ends. Coach Connor Njegovan pointed out to Lawes that she’d skipped about 60 games in her last dozen years.

Lawes has stepped back from mixed doubles since the birth of her first child 14 months ago. Selena Njegovan didn’t play in last year’s Tournament of Hearts because of pregnancy.

“There’s a lot to learn and we’re coming together as quick as we can with everyone having babies and just figuring out motherhood as well,” Lawes said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2024.

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