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Walker feeling lucky to help Team Lawes again during KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup

REGINA — Laura Walker is more than just another spare at the KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup to the point where she even has her own Team Lawes jersey.

Walker, from Edmonton, has filled in for both Lawes and third Selena Njegovan during numerous events over the course of the season while they were away on maternity leave. Lawes gave birth to daughter Myla in December while Njegovan welcomed her son Hudson in April.

With Njegovan still out of the lineup, Walker is handling vice skip duties for the Winnipeg-based club during the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season finale.

“This is an amazing group of people,” said Walker, who is originally from Scarborough, Ont., and now lives in Edmonton. “I’m really lucky to have been playing with them all year and I have just been wanting to help them in whatever way I can and whatever position I can whether that be on the ice, sweeping, behind the bench.

“I just feel lucky to be a part of it.”

The KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup requires teams to win a top tour title for qualification. Fittingly enough, Walker was key for Team Lawes earning their invitation as they had won the Stu Sells 1824 Halifax Classic where she subbed.

After a rough start here losing three straight, Team Lawes got into the win column Thursday night with a 7-4 victory over Kerri Einarson’s club from Gimli, Man.

“We played really well in (Halifax),” Walker said. “We were happy to be invited here and we’re really happy to go out and get our first win. We finally kind of put it all together out there. Maybe too little, too late but that one felt really good.”

Lawes has one more group game against Isabelle Ladouceur of Dundas, Ont., on Friday night. Even if they win that one, a 2-3 record might not be good enough for tiebreakers depending on how the rest of the matches shape up. Still, Walker would like to end the season on a high note.

“It’s been a lot of fun helping them out this year,” Walker said. “I would really like to help them win one more and go out on a win.”

Team Lawes started with the hammer but it was Team Einarson who struck the scoreboard first stealing a point in the opening frame.

Lawes got unlucky again in the second end. Her hit-and-roll blank attempt stuck around to count for a single to tie it 1-1 but handed over control of the hammer to her provincial rival.

Einarson went to work in the third and was looking to possibly score three. She first needed to draw for a deuce and then hope to add the third point via measure. However, it went from bad — her draw came up short — to worse as she lost the measure and only ended up scoring a single and a 2-1 lead.

That third end also saw Walker make an amazing double-run-double takeout that had the crowd roaring.

“I had to make it after I missed my first one there,” Walker said. “Big shots like that feel good in a big game with a big crowd. Kudos to the crowd and kudos to Regina. It’s been a lot of fun playing in front of this crowd.”

Team Lawes regrouped and played a strong fourth end that was capped with an open draw to score four points and take a 5-2 hold.

“We put a lot of draws in just perfect spots that end,” Walker said. “The girls managed every rock that we threw there perfectly. We put a lot of pressure on them and that’s something that we had struggled doing up to that point was putting rocks on a dime. The sweeper just had it figured out.”

Einarson needed to hit and roll in the fifth but stuffed it to give up a steal and fall behind 6-2. The reigning Pinty’s Cup champion cut the deficit in half with a deuce in the sixth and held Lawes to a single in the seventh to secure the hammer for the final frame.

Einarson never got to throw her skip shots in the eighth though as Lawes ran her out of rocks.

Lawes, Walker and lead Kristin MacCuish are also joined this week by Jolene Campbell. The Regina native is filling in for second Jocelyn Peterman, who is expecting a baby and is on the bench.

Team Einarson (3-1) also have a sub this week with Dawn McEwen filling in for lead Briane Harris (maternity leave).

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Elsewhere, Norway’s Marianne Rørvik (1-2) earned her first win in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series with a 6-4 victory over Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni (1-3). It was a rematch of the year’s world women’s curling championship final where Tirinzoni defeated Rørvik in March to win a fourth consecutive gold medal.

In men’s play, Canada’s Brad Gushue (3-1) regrouped from a loss during the previous night to Matt Dunstone and scored a 9-1 rout over Scotland’s Ross Whyte (1-3).

“We were fortunate we got to play on that same sheet last night against Dunstone as we did today,” Team Gushue lead Geoff Walker explained. “We switched the rocks around, we wanted to see how the other rocks would go, but we knew how the ice would react in the evening.

“It was different than our morning game and that’s usually the case in the Slams, so we sort of knew what to expect tonight.”

Gushue was in control from the start by securing hammer to start and converting for a deuce in the first frame. Whyte gave up a single steal in the second to fall behind 3-0 and then was forced to one point in the third to hand the hammer back.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion Gushue, whose team shot 96 per cent, counted another couple of points in the fourth end. That had Whyte in desperation mode in the fifth, but Gushue didn’t ease up and stole four to end the night early.

“The big thing is we put a lot of pressure on them,” Geoff Walker said. “We were always looking good with hammer and looking pretty good even without for the force. Obviously, have to take some chances when you get down early like that and you’re either going to crack a big end or it’s going to be a one and sort of a tough one for them to come back.”

Gushue wraps up round-robin play against Reid Carruthers on Friday afternoon with the playoff picture still a nearly blank canvas with byes to the semifinals also up for grabs.

“One more game, hopefully a good draw and then you sort of see where the chips fall and hopefully somehow get yourself into that semifinal,” Geoff Walker said. “Obviously if we have to go through the quarterfinals we’ll be happy but we just have to make sure we get to the playoffs.”

Canada’s Brendan Bottcher (4-0) became the first to clinch a playoff spot after escaping with a 5-4 win over Scotland’s Bruce Mouat (2-2).

Bottcher scored a deuce in the seventh to tie it then stole the winning point in the eighth end.


Round-robin action continues Friday at the Co-operators Centre with Draw 12 at 8:30 a.m. local time (10:30 a.m. ET).

Broadcast coverage resumes with Draw 13 at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).


The KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup is the sixth and final Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of the season featuring 12 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams. … Both divisions are split into two pools of six teams for round-robin play. The best six teams overall qualify for Saturday’s quarterfinals with the top two receiving byes to the semifinals. … The finals are scheduled for Sunday.