NORTH BAY, Ont. — It’s not how you start but how you finish and a second-half surge from Kerri Einarson and her Gimli, Man., club secured their place in the playoff picture at the Boost National.
Einarson, who remains undefeated at 3-0, clinched a spot in the women’s quarterfinals following a 9-6 comeback victory over Hollie Duncan’s Toronto-based team Thursday night at Memorial Gardens.
“It feels good,” said Einarson, who has won four titles in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series. “It’s a relief but we still have a really tough game tomorrow, so we want to come out with a great game before heading into the playoffs.”
Although Einarson started off with the hammer, her team fell behind 3-0 early by giving up a steal of one in the first and two in the second. The teams traded pairs of points in the third and fourth ends before Einarson buckled down and took complete control of the all-Canadian matchup.
Einarson took two again in the fifth, forced Duncan to just a single in the sixth and then broke the game with a huge five-count in the seventh.
“We started off a little shaky,” said Einarson, who has won four titles in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series. “Actually, the front-end played really well and so did [third] Val [Sweeting]. I just kind of struggled a bit, struggled early and then I found my footing in the last half.”
“I just kept saying, ‘Stick with me girls. I’ll make a couple,'” Einarson added with a laugh. “We put some big pressure on them in the latter half of the game.”
The tough game Friday that Einarson alluded to is against Satsuki Fujisawa, whose Japanese team is also sporting an unblemished 3-0 mark and punched a playoff ticket with a 5-2 decision against Canada’s Team Krista McCarville.
Fujisawa snapped a 1-1 tie with a deuce in the fourth and cushioned her lead by stealing two points in the sixth. McCarville could only count a single in seven and Fujisawa ran her opponent out of rocks, and the playoff picture, in eight.
“They’re feeling good,” Team Fujisawa coach J.D. Lind said. “Just happy to be back in Canada and start the season off with a couple of wins.”
Team Fujisawa became the first Japanese curlers to win Olympic medals during the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and took the next step on the podium this year in Beijing by earning silver. Lind explained how the popularity of their team has surged in Japan with TV Asahi sending a camera crew overseas to follow them throughout the tournament this week.
“We saw after Pyeongchang when we won the bronze, there was an explosion of excitement and fans in Japan,” said Lind, who is from Calgary and has coached Japanese teams for almost a decade. “Doing well in Beijing, winning the silver last [season] as well has only increased that even more.
“This team has done amazing things to increase the popularity of curling in Japan. It’s a wild ride and they deserve all of the recognition they’re getting. It’s a lot of fun.”
McCarville, from Thunder Bay, Ont., and Duncan will both miss the playoffs as they remain winless at 0-3.
Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan climbed to a 2-1 record following a 7-4 victory over Team Jennifer Jones from Winnipeg.
Opportunity presented itself for both teams throughout the match. Jones (1-2) was unable to make a takeout in the first, and Homan only had to hit the paint with the last rock of the end to score two. Team Homan then fell into trouble in the second and Jones made them pay. After Homan wrecked on a guard, Jones just had to ease her last stone into the house to score three and take a 3-2 lead.
Homan was forced to draw against three counters in the third end, but her shooter had the backing to place it at the rear of the four-foot circle to tie it up 3-3.
Jones’s hit in the fourth end turned into a miss as Homan’s rock stuck around to count for the go-ahead point on a steal. The pressure swung back to Jones in the fifth after Homan hit to sit four. No problem though for Jones, who drew to the side of the button with ease to tie it back up at 4-4.
Following a blank in the sixth, Homan’s patience paid off as Jones jammed a double and allowed her to add her shooter to the mix to score a trio for the decisive three-point advantage.
Sweden’s Team Isabella Wranå stole two points off the bat in the first end and swiped one more in the fourth plus three in the fifth during a convincing 9-3 victory over Team Eun-Jung Kim of South Korea. Both teams now hold 2-1 records.
Round-robin play runs through to Friday as teams play four games against teams outside of their pool. The top eight overall, regardless of pools, advance to Saturday afternoon’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are set for Saturday evening and both finals are on tap for Sunday.
The Boost National is the first of six events on the 2022-23 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling calendar and features 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world. … A combined $300,000 purse, split equally between the men’s and women’s divisions, is on the line. The winning teams receive $35,000 and invitations to the season-ending Kioti Tractor Champions Cup. … Points are also up for grabs in the race for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the 2022-23 season champions with a $75,000 bonus for the winning teams.