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Fleury stays undefeated to secure Boost National playoff berth

CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. — Team Tracy Fleury kept their perfect record intact at the Boost National to nab a playoff spot.

The Masters champions from East St. Paul, Man., extended their streak in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event to 3-0 with a 7-4 victory over Edmonton’s Team Kelsey Rocque during Thursday night’s action at CBS Arena.

“We’re really excited,” Team Fleury third Selena Njegovan said. “We’ve had a few very close games this week and we’re happy to have pulled them off in the end.”

The game could have gone swung the other way as Rocque threatened to score big in the fourth end with a chance to hit for five but jammed and had to settle for a single.

Still, Rocque managed to take two in the sixth that tied it 4-4. Fleury drew for a deuce in the seventh to snap the all-square affair and tacked on a single steal in the eighth when Rocque crashed on a guard with her last.

“That was a really key deuce,” Njegovan said. “We hadn’t scored two since the first end, so that was good to get that two and be up two coming home.”

Team Fleury’s final round-robin game is Friday afternoon against reigning world champions Team Silvana Tirinzoni.

“It’s nice there’s not really as much pressure to win,” Njegovan said, “but we want to get that win and have a good seed going into playoffs.”

The loss dropped Team Rocque to 0-3 and eliminated them from playoff contention.

Elsewhere, Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones got into the win column with a 9-2 victory over Scotland’s Team Eve Muirhead.

The nine-time GSOC title winner Jones improved to a 1-2 record to remain in the mix. Edmonton’s Laura Walker is filling in for lead Dawn McEwen, who was not feeling well and did not join Team Jones for the event.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Walker, who is originally from Scarborough, Ont. “They have been very welcoming. It feels pretty natural and it did right from the start. Any time you have a chance to play with some of the best players who have ever played you jump at that chance.”

Walker has had an interesting year in the GSOC starting 2019 skipping her previous team, subbing at second on Team Rachel Homan at the Players’ Championship, sparing at skip on Team Allison Flaxey at the Humpty’s Champions Cup, skipping her new squad in the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge Tier 2 and now filling in on Team Jones.

“I love it actually,” Walker said. “I really enjoy getting to play different positions. You can kind of get into a little bit of your own world down there as a skip and I get to get back out and sweep. I see a different side of the game, which I think is really important for me to get better as a skip as well.”

With the game knotted up 2-2, disaster struck for Muirhead (2-1) as her last of the fourth end appeared to pick and veered offline allowing Jones to capitalize big time drawing for four points. Muirhead’s woes continued leading to a single steal in the fifth and Jones pirated another pair of points in the sixth.

“We feel so happy right now,” Walker said. “We feel like we haven’t been playing as bad as our scoreboards have shown. We felt like we deserve to win more than we have, so to get into the win column and at least give ourselves a chance here tomorrow, we’re pretty happy.”

Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., stole their way to a 7-2 victory over Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa to slide to a 2-1 record.

“It feels really good,” Team Einarson third Val Sweeting said. “We kind of put our backs against the wall early in the last couple of Slams but we have a really tough game ahead of us tomorrow. We want to just come out strong. Muirhead’s been playing really well. I wasn’t sure what happened next door tonight. We’ll just have to keep it going.”

Einarson snapped a tie game in the fifth end stealing two points as Fujisawa faced a pair and her draw shot came up light. The reigning Players’ Championship winner Einarson swiped another point in the sixth when Fujisawa made it through the port but was light on the hit. Fujisawa’s last in the seventh went right through the house untouched as Einarson added a steal of two more.

Sweeting said it seemed like there was something stuck under Fujisawa’s stone in the game-changing fifth end.

“It looked like she kind of spun it out of her hand and we thought it would be good weight and it just so happened to come up short, so that one was weird,” Sweeting said. “I think we got fortunate. We had a good sixth end and in seven there were a lot of rocks in play and they made that really nice whatever you call it run and it ended up frozen on us. We just got a little fortunate but we just kept plugging away and put our rocks where we needed to.”

Team Fujisawa are playing short-handed this week as lead Yurika Yoshida (illness) did not make it to the tournament. They finished pool play a day early with a 2-2 record and await the results of the remaining round-robin draws to determine their fate.

Switzerland’s Team Peter de Cruz clinched a playoff spot on the men’s side at 3-0 with a 6-4 win over Winnipeg’s Team Mike McEwen (1-2).

Team Scott McDonald of Kingston, Ont., ended their run on a high note beating Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone 4-3. McDonald heads home with a 1-3 record and played the spoilers as the Masters men’s champion Dunstone (0-3) will not advance.

The top eight teams overall in both divisions advance to Saturday afternoon’s quarterfinals. The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday evening with both finals set for Sunday.

Boost National action continues Friday for the final day of round-robin play at 9 a.m. local time. Broadcast coverage resumes at 12:30 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) on Sportsnet with online streaming via Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

NOTES: The Boost National is the third event and second major of the 2019-20 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Qualification is based on the WCF World Team Ranking system. … A $300,000 combined purse is on the line, split equally between both divisions, with the winners receiving $35,000 each plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup in Olds, Alta. … Teams also earn points towards the Pinty’s Cup awarded to the season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April.