Gushue and Homan lose their Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings openers (Curling Canada)

OTTAWA — It was not a warm welcome home for Rachel Homan and her Ottawa-based team in the opening draw of the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Saturday. The 2017 world champion and the hometown favourite gave up three deuces and a pivotal ninth-end steal to Chelsea Carey of Calgary to fall 8-4.
John Morris, who was born in Ottawa and curls out of Vernon, B.C., also didn’t get any warm and fuzzy feeling as he gave up a deuce in the eighth and a steal of one in the ninth to fall 5-3 to 2014 Olympic champion Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.“Someone’s got to win and someone’s got to lose,” Homan said after her ho-hum performance that saw her shoot just 76 per cent. “It’s the first of a long week and we’re just excited to be out there.

“We struggled a bit with a few shots and a few lines but we’re learning (the ice) and it was expected.”

Carey and Homan traded singles and doubles and it was her third deuce – in the eighth end – the propelled Carey, third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Laine Peters and coach Helen Radford to her victory. Homan came up light on her last-rock draw, failing to get to the house, and that left Carey an easy draw to the four foot for her pivotal two points.

“You come out the first game, your goal is less about the result and more about just wanting to learn the ice,” said Carey, who shot 91 per cent. “It’s a long week and winning or losing your first game doesn’t matter that much. We’ve come through this event having won (our first game) and lost it and ended up with basically the same record.”

There were some early nerves shown on a couple of the sheets but those surrendered to an array of superb shotmaking that led to plenty of blank ends and hard-fought singles.

Kevin Koe and his Calgary foursome of third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing, lead Ben Hebert, alternate Scott Pfeifer and coach John Dunn blanked four ends in a strategically played game against Steve Laycock of Saskatoon that ended 6-3 for Koe.

“Everyone’s tough out here so that gives us a good start,” Koe said of the victory. “It was a close game all the way and we played a real good second half.”

Koe, who qualified for this event two years ago and was glad “to finally get out there and get a win,” broke the game open with deuces in the sixth and eighth ends and sealed with two more in the 10th.

Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden, lead Ryan Harnden, alternate Pete Steski and coach Caleb Flaxey, had a tough battle against Morris before cracking the only deuce of the game in the eighth end and stealing one in the ninth go finally emerge with the win.

Kirk Muyres of Team Laycock looks for a different angle during his team’s game against Team Kevin Koe. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“It was a pretty straightforward game,” said Jacobs. “It’s incredible to play four-rock again. It’s a bit more I would say boring, little bit more of a wide-open game. We missed a bit of an opportunity in seven, maybe could have got a deuce or three but they made a lot of good shots.”

Jacobs was a bit wide and a tough heavy with his last-rock draw to let Morris steal one for a 3-2 lead. But Jacobs rebounded with his two in eight and the steal in nine.

“We were able to bounce back with a good deuce in eight. That made everybody feel pretty good, lifted everyone’s spirits a little bit and felt like we were back in control of the game.”

In the other game Casey Scheidegger, third Cary-Anne McTaggart, second Jessie Scheidegger, lead Kristie Moore, alternate Susan O’Connor and coach Carolyn McRorie of Lethbridge scored a single in the 10th to nip Alli Flaxey of Toronto 6-5.


OTTAWA – John Epping rode the roller coaster and survived a winner.

The Toronto skip endured a game of ups and downs, and twists and turns to edge world champion Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., 6-4 with a steal in the 10th end in the second draw of the the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Curling Trials at Canadian Tire Centre Saturday evening.

In the third end, Gushue crashed on a guard on his final delivery. allowing Epping a hit for three to jump in front 3-1. In the fifth, Epping tried to navigate a rock quarry but came up short giving up two and all of a sudden Gushue was out in front 4-3. Then in the 10th, Gushue’s final shot, a raise to the button, came up a hair short giving Epping, who also skipped a team at the 2013 Trials, the win.

“The first game out there can be a bit of a roller-coaster ride, and it was, but it was good on our side,” said Epping, who thought having to face the hottest curling squad on the planet in the first game was actually a good thing. “Probably the best start we could have had, especially trying to figure out the ice, the rocks and just getting used to the atmosphere.

“I’ve got three (Trials) rookies that have never experienced that. It was pretty neat out there tonight, the atmosphere was pretty electric. For them to be able to settle in, and against Brad was great. So if you happen to lose that one, I mean, it’s OK. But obviously a victory is huge for us.”

Epping told his team of third Mathew Camm, second Pat Janssen, lead Tim March, alternate Charley Thomas and coach Jim Wilson to embrace the event and enjoy it.

“There’s nine top teams in the world, there’s only going to be one winner. There’s a lot of great teams that are not going to have winning records. So you really have to enjoy this week and that’s what I really wanted them to know.”

Although the win was important for the team if they hope to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Epping put the triumph in perspective.

From left, Dawn McEwen, Jill Officer and Kaitlyn Lawes of Team Jones keep an eye on the game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

“We’re 1-and-0 atop the leaderboard, but I was on top of the leaderboard last time after Game 1 and lost six in a row,” said Epping with a laugh. “So, I know it can change. You’re playing the best teams in the world.”

Gushue, who was supported by third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Tom Sallows and coach Jules Owchar, admitted his final shot was a tough one but because the team’s allotted time was about to expire he threw it a touch too hard.

“I’m more disappointed in the rest of the end, to see six, five missed shots before I came to throw, we never had a chance for two, not even a sniff at any point. We’re halfway through the end and we’re just trying to score to go to an extra end where our odds are at best one in 10.”

In the other men’s game, Mike McEwen scored three in the seventh to down fellow Winnipeg resident Reid Carruthers 7-3 in their opening game.

“I’ve said it a couple of times it was nice to get that game out of the way early,” said McEwen of playing his friend. “I guess it’s a good thing if we play him again later on. It means we’re both in the thick of things. They’ve had our number in a lot of matches and they tend to play well against us, and I thought we were that much sharper and picked up on the ice out there.”

On the women’s side, defending Olympic gold-medallist Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg rebounded from surrendering a steal of three to Edmonton’s Val Sweeting in the first end to steal three of her own in the ninth in a 9-6 win.

“I’d obviously like to have a couple of shots back,” said Jones, who wrecked on a guard on her last shot of the first end. “You’re going to have those games where you find a way to win and that’s one of those. We said at the fifth end break (when they trailed 5-3) let’s find a way to win and we did.”

Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., a 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts finalist, scored deuces in the third, sixth and eighth ends en route to an 8-4 win over 2017 Scotties runner-up Michelle Englot and her Winnipeg rink. McCarville, who reached the Trials by being the first qualifier from the Home Hardware Road to the Roar in Summerside, P.E.I., last month, said it was important to get off to a good start.

“Just to be confident out there and to learn the ice. Build our confidence for the next day,” said McCarville. “At a few of our spiels we’ve struggled in our first game, so to go out there and to feel good with the ice and confident sliding and hitting the broom and just shooting the right way is really important.”

The 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings continues with draws on Sunday at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times EST).

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