PICTOU COUNTY, N.S. — Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan scored two points in the final frame to fend off Edmonton’s Team Kelsey Rocque 7-6 Tuesday night in the opening draw of the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge Tier 1.
Rachel Homan shoots a stone during the opening draw of the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge Tier 1 on Nov. 5, 2019, in Pictou County, N.S. (Anil Mungal)
Homan, the defending champion and winner of a record 10 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s titles, completed the comeback sliding her final stone through a narrow port and connecting with a runback to count the winning deuce.
It wasn’t the only highlight-reel shot for Homan, who also pulled off a runback double takeout to score four points in the fourth end.
“It’s great that we were able to get a win there,” Team Homan third Emma Miskew said. “Obviously, a great shot by Rachel on that last one and she made a really great shot for four. They played pretty well. We weren’t super sharp but (the) first game and learning the ice, so we’re hoping we’ll be a little better in the next one.”
Despite the mid-game heroics that gave Homan a three-point advantage, Rocque rallied right back. The two-time world junior champion capitalized on Team Homan’s mistakes in the fifth to draw for a tying three-ender and stole one in the sixth to regain the lead after Homan overthrew her draw shot.
“That’s five-rock rule for big ends back and forth, so we know that can happen sometimes,” Miskew said. “The end they got back, I had two awful shots so I kind of set the team up for failure in that end. Just trying to figure out the ice and make the next one. Just sticking to the next shot and that’s all we can really do out there.”
Elsewhere in Draw 1, Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa stole a 6-5 extra-end win from compatriots Team Sayaka Yoshimura.
In men’s action, Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., topped Team Scott McDonald of Kingston, Ont., 6-4 and Team John Shuster from the United States stopped Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat 7-5.
The Atlantic Canada crowd roared for Gushue during the opening ceremony and the b’ys delivered shooting an outstanding 95 per cent as a unit.
“It’s awesome,” said Team Gushue second Brett Gallant, who is originally from Charlottetown. “I have some family coming over and the fans around here support us pretty well, too. It’s sort of a home event for us even though we’re off Newfoundland but it was great. A great crowd here tonight and hopefully, it’s the same for the rest of the week.”
Gallant explained the importance of starting out in the win column as the team lost their opener of the Masters two weeks ago to Team Matt Dunstone and had to fight their way back into contention to reach the final. (Coincidentally, Gushue faced Dunstone again for the championship but was unable to take the title in the rematch.)
“You’re kind of behind the 8-ball the rest of the round-robin,” Gallant said. “We wanted to start off well and we had a pretty good game. We caught onto the ice early and that helped us a lot.”
The Tier 1 divisions, featuring 15 of the top teams from around the globe based on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit, are split into three pools for round-robin play with the top eight overall qualifying for the weekend playoffs.
The Tier 2 divisions consist of 16 teams including the next 10 ranked teams on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit and six teams from within the event’s region.
Tier 2 Results
Brothers 4, Feltscher 3
Kim 8, Crawford 3
Arsenault 7, Hilliard 6
S. Jones 6, Smith 3
Round-robin action resumes Wednesday at 8 a.m. AT at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.