Einarson, Homan, Jones frontrunning at Tournament of Hearts

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Manitoba, Ontario and the Jennifer Jones wild-card team began separating themselves from the pack at the Canadian women’s curling championship Thursday.

The trio opened the championship round with wins to get to 7-1 records. No other team had more than five wins heading into the evening draw.

“Any of the teams that are on that bubble … if we can get them down a little more that certainly adds a level of comfort,” said wild-card vice Kaitlyn Lawes.

“But you still just have to try and just focus on yourselves, not worry about what everyone else is doing out there and see where the cards fall in the end.”

The top four teams from each pool carried their records with them into the championship round, which determines Saturday’s four Page playoff teams.

Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville, Saskatchewan’s Robyn Silvernagle and Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt had 5-4 records.

Defending champion Chelsea Carey and B.C.’s Corryn Brown both fell to 4-4 with losses.

The championship round was incorporated into the format of the national women’s and men’s curling championship in 2018.

Instead of a straight round-robin in which each team plays all others, 16 teams are divided into two seven-game pools with eight emerging for the championship round.

Three-time champion Homan is experiencing the format at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts a second year. Ontario lost in last year’s final to Carey.

Her team didn’t play in the 2018 Hearts because her Ottawa foursome was otherwise occupied competing in the Olympic Games.

“You’re playing all the top teams at the end of the week versus just finishing off your pool,” Homan observed.

“It’s definitely a little bit different than it’s been in the past and even more important to play well at the end.”

Making it to Sunday’s semifinal and final requires a second wind for the championship round, Einarson said.

“It was pretty funny in the car on the way here. It was ‘OK girls, only seven more games.’ We were like ‘Oh my god, it’s like starting a whole spiel again.’ It’s a long gruelling ten days, holy man,” the Manitoba skip said.

“Mentally, physically, it’s tough out there. It’s a grind. That’s why the off-season training is key.”

Einarson doubled Brown 8-4, while Homan defeated McCarville 9-4.

Silvernagle stole a point in the ninth and 10th ends to edge Birt 8-7.

Six-time Canadian champion Jones stole eight points in the first three ends en route to a 10-5 thumping of defending champion Carey.

The stones had been sandpapered — the bottoms sanded so the rocks grab pebble and curl more.

Carey says she was fooled by the change in the first end when she gave up a steal of four.

“I had a rock that curled,” she explained. “We threw that set earlier in the week and I liked my rocks, but they sanded them. Now that rock curled all of a sudden. Overcurls in the first end. Game is basically over.”

Carey would have preferred to shake hands before the mandated eight ends and save her energy for the next game.

“The minimum ends is unfortunate,” Carey said. “I think that should be a judgement call when all three other games are close, we shouldn’t have to play eight in my opinion.”

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