Manitoba Scotties Qualifiers …

So, it turns out that there was some curling on this weekend after all, with a number of qualifiers for the Scotties going on. The most interesting provincial final this weekend, at least to me, was the Manitoba one, mostly because of the story behind it.

Tracy Fleury used to skip a team out of Ontario — she’s from Northern Ontario — but she picked up a team from Manitoba that had been abandoned by their skip and so now curls out of Manitoba (Scotties rules say that you can have one player from out of province on your team). She did well, ending up with the bye to the final in the Manitoba playdowns. Kerri Einarson is the well-known all-skip team, who ended up having to play in the semi-finals but won that handily to get to the final.

Did I mention that the team that Fleury skips is, in fact, Einarson’s former team?

So both teams had to want to win this one, considering that while they had played a few times on the Grand Slam this is one of the first really, really big games, since there’s only one provincial spot and the Scotties is the big event in women’s curling. Sure, Einarson was almost certain to get a wild card spot — a one-game play-in to fill out the last spot — but she had to want to be guaranteed to be there for the entire week and had to want to prove that her move left her with the better team. On the other hand, even if they remained friendly with Einarson — and I have heard nothing to indicate that they haven’t — Fleury’s team was going to want to show that it was a mistake for Einarson to leave them for the all-skip team. So there was a lot of history here to play into the story of the game.

And the way it started only added to it. Fleury had the hammer in the first end because she had made it straight to the final, and was forced to take 1. And then Einarson took five in the second, and it looked like the rout was on.

And then in the next three ends Fleury outscored Einarson 5 – 1 to have it tied at the midpoint of the game, scoring two in the third end, forcing Einarson to 1 in the fourth, and scoring a big three in the fifth.. Suddenly, it was a game again.

However, after the mid-game break things continued to go Fleury’s way. She outscored Einarson 7 – 1 in the next four ends to win the game 13 – 7 in nine ends, including five stolen points (the only stolen points in the entire game). Fleury’s team grabbed the momentum and Einarson’s team couldn’t get it back. As the commentators said, the 5 in 2 was a team effort on Team Fleury’s part with all of them missing shots and making strategy mistakes, and the rest of the game was a similar team effort for Team Einarson, producing an amazing comeback for Team Fleury.

Picking a team to cheer for in this one wasn’t easy for me, because I like both teams. But the better story was the team Einarson left to improve her chances coming up big and getting the spot Einarson craved over her, so I was cheering for Fleury to win. Einarson, however, will get to the wild card game and so might earn her berth that way … and she only managed to get to the finals from there last year. Then again, that was with the team that beat her last night.

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