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Einarson earns win, playoff spot over Homan at HearingLife Tour Challenge

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — What was last season’s HearingLife Tour Challenge women’s final between the top two teams in Canada was a battle for one of the few remaining playoff berths this time around.

Team Kerri Einarson and Team Rachel Homan clashed Friday at the Gale Centre with the winner guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals while the loser faced elimination.

Although Homan took the championship game a year ago, it was Einarson who emerged victorious this time with a wild 7-5 victory.

Einarson, of Gimli, Man., advanced with a 3-1 record while Homan was ousted at 2-2 based on draw-to-the-button shootout totals.

“I thought we played really well,” said Shannon Birchard, who throws second for Team Einarson. “I would say we had control of the whole game. It was just a matter of staying patient and staying tough out there but it feels great.

“We’re in the playoffs. We don’t have to worry about any draw-to-the-button tiebreaker scenarios, even though there aren’t any tiebreakers, we don’t have to hope and pray. I think we’re in a good spot and we’ll just see where we fall when it comes to the quarters.”

Homan opened with the hammer, but it was Einarson who rolled out to a 7-0 lead thanks to four consecutive stolen ends.

The 13-time Grand Slam winner Homan attempted a double to score three off the bat but jammed it to give up a steal of one. Things went from bad to worse for Homan in the second end as her last rock over-curled and locked onto a guard to give up a critical steal of four points.

Homan’s draw jammed in the third to give up another point and another misfire in the fourth put Einarson ahead by a converted touchdown at halftime.

“We know that sometimes you’re going to start without the hammer. That’s just the way it works,” Birchard said. “It’s just about playing smart and having a good start to the game. That was key for us. We had a bit of a slow start in the last two games prior, so that was one of our goals heading into this game. I think we accomplished it.”

The momentum pendulum swung in the fifth end as Homan broke the shutout with an open hit for three points.

It was then Homan who started stealing points. Einarson missed a runback in the sixth to give up one and handed another in the seventh. Homan had glued on her shot rock, Einarson was able to unlock it but not eliminate it as it stuck around to count.

Still, Einarson was up by two points with the hammer coming home and pulled off one of her trademark double takeouts on her first skip stone to run Homan out of rocks.

“When you have that kind of control in the game, you just want to take that extra second and make sure you’re playing the front and getting it nice and open for Kerri,” Birchard said. “We don’t want her to have to think too much on her last ones or be too precise. It feels great. We played a great last end and came out with the win.”

Einarson will play Italy’s Stefania Constantini in the quarterfinals. Constantini (3-1) stole the winning point in the extra end to edge South Korea’s Team Seung-Youn Ha 5-4. The loss eliminated Ha (1-3) and helped Winnipeg’s Team Kaitlyn Lawes (2-2) qualify for the playoffs.

Elsewhere, Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg will take an undefeated 4-0 record into the playoffs following a 7-5 win over Team Jennifer Jones. The Winnipeg-based Jones finished round-robin play at 2-2 and advanced based on shootout scores.

Winnipeg’s Team Kate Cameron (1-3) went out on a high note with a 9-3 victory over Vancouver’s Team Clancy Grandy (0-4).

The other three women’s quarterfinal games are: South Korea’s Team Eun-Ji Gim (4-0) vs. Lawes, Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni (4-0) vs. Jones, and Hasselborg vs. Scotland’s Team Rebecca Morrison (2-2).

HEARINGLIFE TOUR CHALLENGE: Scores/Standings | Draw Schedule | Broadcast Schedule


The HearingLife Tour Challenge round-robin wraps up with the final men’s preliminary draw at 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet Pacific and streaming online at Sportsnet+ (Canada) and Yare (international).


The HearingLife Tour Challenge is the first Grand Slam of Curling event of the season with 32 men’s teams and 32 women’s teams in two tiers of action. Tier 1 features the top teams from around the world. Tier 2 features the next group of teams in the rankings with the winners earning promotions into the Co-op Canadian Open later this season. … The quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Saturday with the finals set for Sunday.