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Winning touch

They say the third time is the charm.
Skip Krista McCarville (from left), third Tara George, second Ashley Miharija and lead Kari MacLean took the provincial women's curling championship on Sunday at Port Arthur Curling Club (Leith Dunick)
They say the third time is the charm.

It didn’t quite work out that way on Sunday for Sudbury’s Tracy Horgan, who had her chances, but couldn’t quite put Krista McCarville away in the all Northwestern Ontario final at the Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts. 

McCarville’s foursome made just enough crucial shots and Horgan, who made more than her fair share in the middle of the 6-5 match, stumbled ever so briefly at the worst possible time.

Overall, McCarville was happy with the performance of her team, which won all 11 of its matches, a rarity in any curling event.

“I think our team had a really good week. We played really well the whole week through. So I was pretty confident in myself and I was confident in my team as well, that we would curl well,” the 27-year-old McCarville said, her voice barely capable of rising above a whisper. 

Her second, Ashley Miharija, will be making her first trip to nationals and said neither side made it easy on themselves.

“I don’t know if it was nerves or what it was today. The ice was great, maybe it was a little bit of nerves, but luckily we pulled it out,” Miharija said after the match, played before a raucous, overflow crowd at  Port Arthur Curling Club.

Horgan, whose team finished 4-5 at the 2009 Ontario Scotties, said she and her teammates, lead Andrea Souliere-Poland, second Amanda Gates and third Jennifer Horgan, her sister, did a whole lot better than they expected to when they arrived in Thunder Bay last Sunday.

“We surpassed our goals heading into the competition, so even though we lost, we still feel pretty good about our performance this week,” the 23-year-old skip said. “I think playing in a high-pressure game like the final will only help us in the future.”

One thing she wasn’t surprised about was that two teams from Northern Ontario were the last two left standing, rare as it might be. 

“I think that’s very unusual. I think that might be the first time ever. It’s great to see the Northern teams doing well.”

It was a last-second slip in the final end – a mistake that was not her fault, but a defect in the normally perfect ice at Port Arthur Curling Club, that ended any hope Horgan had of dethroning McCarville.

Horgan was by no means the only curler making mistakes. Shots flashed through the house with alarming regularity, easy takeouts resulted in disasters and near disasters throughout the afternoon and even McCarville, the coolest of customers in the women’s game today, missed simple draws that on any other day would be money in the bank.

Horgan, who finished 4-5 at the Ontario Scotties last year, saw her luck officially run out in the 10th.

Trailing 6-4 after McCarville scored a deuce the end before, Horgan was running out of rocks and had to get some stones in the ring in a hurry. With two rocks to play, that meant now. She discussed her options with her teammates, slid back to the hack and fired her rock down the ice. Only it didn’t make it to its intended destination. Instead it picked on a rough patch of ice PACC  ice and came to rest short of the house.

When Horgan was unable to nudge a guard into shot position and convince her shooter to stick around to score the pair she needed to force an extra frame, the match was over and McCarville is off to her fourth national Scotties Tournament of Hearts in five years.

It wasn’t an easy win, by any stretch of the imagination, said a hoarse McCarville after the tightly played, back-and-forth match.

Simple shots that she and Horgan had made with confidence all week were coming up short or sliding through the rings, not curling or over-curling, usually at inopportune times. It cost both teams at different points in the match.

“Today the draw ice was a little bit more difficult, because it was a little bit more fudgier than in the past. So I think hitting was probably easier. If you stayed out wide it was good, but it definitely curled a whole lot more today than it was,” McCarville said.

Nothing came easy on this afternoon, a day that saw McCarville, lead Kari MacLean, Miharija and third Tara George fall behind an opponent for the first time in days.

“It was definitely our toughest game,” McCarville said. “And I had a lot of tough shots that game too.”

McCarville played a tap for two in the second to take the early lead, but Horgan cut her advantage in half in the third after making a tricky double that got her out of a jam, facing three McCarville stones spread across the rings.

The third end looked to be shaping up McCarville’s way, but once again Horgan made a double and took advantage of a mistake by her Thunder Bay opponent, who slid a tap-back beyond the T-line, allowing Horgan to bump a guard back to the button, leaving McCarville far too small an opening and the steal tied the game 2-2.

Horgan stole another in the fifth when she put her final stone in the eight-foot and McCarville’s rock flew the house.

In the sixth McCarville tried to put the hammer down, looking to make a difficult spilt, rolling a guard into the rings and hoping to catch a portion of the 12-foot with her shooter. But it needed a little more juice and McCarville had to settle for two and a 4-3 lead. Horgan tied it in the seventh, drawing against two for the point, and the two sides blanked the eighth.
The Scotties Tournament of Hearts is scheduled to begin Jan. 30 in Sault Ste. Marie.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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