THUNDER BAY – To say that Krista McCarville and company didn’t get off to the start they were hoping for would be an understatement.
Playing in front of a roaring, sold out Thunder Bay Tournament Centre crowd that was loudly behind them as soon as they took the ice, the hometown rink quickly found themselves on the wrong side of an early four-point deficit.
That proved to be too deep of a hole as Team McCarville dropped their Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge opener 8-2 in six ends against Edmonton’s Laura Walker.
“We didn’t play too badly the first couple of ends and that’s what we have to think about going into (Wednesday),” McCarville said. “Just focus on the positives and get the second half of the game out of our head.”
The enthusiasm of the crowd became apparent to Walker 45 minutes before the start of the game, when McCarville drew a loud ovation when the teams came onto the ice for warmup.
“It always feels good to start with a win. That was a fantastic ice surface to play on and I think we had the ice figured out early,” Walker said. “To bring that confidence into our future games this week will go well.”
McCarville, third Kendra Lilly, second Ashley Sippala and lead Sarah Potts got off to a solid start, forcing Walker to draw to the button for a first-end single after McCarville froze to the four-foot.
Though the plan was to blank, McCarville drew even in the next end when her shooter stayed in the house after a wide open hit instead of rolling out.
With her last shot in the third, McCarville tried to get an inside roll off a Walker rock but instead hit it on the outside, knocking it into one of her own in the house to drive it back. That miscue opened the door for Walker to draw for four to take a commanding 5-1 lead.
“That one shot of mine kind of turned the whole game around,” McCarville said. “If it wasn’t for that shot, I think it would have been a totally different game.”
The trouble continued in the fourth, which included Sippala throwing a draw through the house. The end hit skip stones with Walker sitting four, concluding with McCarville conceding a steal of two when her draw attempt wrecked on a guard that effectively ended the game.
McCarville was just inches away from getting one back in the fifth, with Walker coming away her second straight steal. McCarville added another one to her total before handshakes after the sixth.
“It’s all about learning and figuring out the ice first,” McCarville said.
“They figured it out a little bit earlier than we did. We wanted to play a few extra ends just to get our footing on that ice and to feel a little more confident going into (Wednesday) instead of just ending the game early and not having those few extra ends to judge how we want to play (Wednesday).”
The Walker foursome was without lead Laine Peters, borrowing Morgan Court from Jacqueline Harrison’s Tier 2 squad to spare on the front end until Peters arrives in Thunder Bay on Wednesday.
Walker said skips often get the glory for wins but it’s usually the rocks thrown earlier that set the tone and determine outcomes. That proved to be the case, with second Lori Olson-Johns and third Cathy Overton-Clapham outcurling Sippala and Lilly.
“When we’re throwing easy shots, we’re more likely to make them,” Walker said. “If you get in trouble early, then it makes our shots harder. (Team McCarville’s) shots were quite hard so we outplayed them but I think we had easier shots and then it just made my life so much easier at the end.”
In the other women’s match on the ice, 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts winner Chelsea Carey scored singles in the sixth, seventh and eighth ends to prevail 5-2 over Jamie Sinclair’s American rink.
Carey, who is leading a team that has been completely overhauled since capturing that national title, was happy to put a win on the board after the opening draw.
“Early on we thought we were making lots of progress but the results weren’t showing it, which was frustrating,” Carey said. “Finally it seems to be falling into place a little bit more. We’re starting to make a few more shots, we’re starting to get some breaks and some things going our way.”
Former Canadian junior champ Matt Dunstone had a chance with his last rock to beat Olympic gold medalist John Shuster but missed what would have been a game-winning hit.
Four-time Brier champ Glenn Howard had a short night, scoring a quick 9-2 win over Winnipeg’s Braden Calvert after five ends. Two-time defending Brier champion Brad Gushue scored a deuce in the sixth to pull ahead en route to defeating Rich Ruohonen 7-4.
Team McCarville will be back on the ice on Wednesday to take on three-time Manitoba provincial champion Darcy Robertson at 3 p.m.