Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville claims Tournament of Hearts playoff berth

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Protective of their curl-life balance, Krista McCarville and her Northern Ontario team build their season around peaking for the national championship.

The Fort William Curling Club foursome from Thunder Bay, Ont., doesn’t play in as many World Curling Tour events as the big names in women’s curling do.

It doesn’t seem to hurt their performance at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

McCarville skipped Northern Ontario to the playoffs for the fourth time in her career.

A 6-5 win over Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt on Friday secured the fourth and final playoff berth for McCarville.

Northern Ontario joins Ontario’s Rachel Homan, Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson and the Jennifer Jones wild-card team in Saturday’s Page playoff in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Trailing three coming home with last-rock advantage, Birt attempted a hit for three and possibly four for the win, but counted two.

“We always seem to make it really exciting at the end,” McCarville observed. “Maybe a few more wrinkles on my face and some more grey hair. What else can I ask for?”

Page seedings were still in play heading into the championship round’s finale Friday evening.

Jones (9-1) was assured a top-two finish. Homan (9-1) and Einarson (8-2) were jockeying to join her.

McCarville (7-3) will be the fourth seed.

The rest of the field fell out of contention with five or more losses.

The top two seeds meet Saturday evening with the winner advancing directly to Sunday’s final.

The loser drops to Sunday’s semifinal to face the winner of Saturday afternoon’s playoff between the third and fourth seeds.

Homan faced Einarson and Jones met McCarville on Friday evening.

McCarville came through the three-four game to reach the 2016 final in Grande Prairie, Alta.

She fell 7-6 to Alberta’s Chelsea Carey. Her teams lost out in the three-four game in 2017 and 2019.

McCarville, who is coached by three-time Canadian men’s champion Rick Lang, is ranked 28th in Canada.

Because her team doesn’t travel to many events, it doesn’t rack up ranking points.

Their presence in Pool A in Moose Jaw contributed to it’s “pool of death” label, however.

“Basically at any Scotties that Krista McCarville is in, whatever pool she’s in is going to be the harder one,” Carey said. “She’s ranked really low, but she’s really good and we all know that.”

McCarville is a teacher, third Kendra Lilly works in financial services, second Ashley Sippala is a lab technician and lead Jen Gates is a communications manager at a country club.

Both McCarville and Sippala have children.

“Right from the time we really started getting more competitive, we said ‘you know what? Curling’s not number one in our lives. We love curling and it’s a passion. All of us want to do it, but it’s not our number one,’” McCarville said.

“We might not ‘spiel as much, but we practise really hard at home. To come out here and be able to contend it is exciting.

“Just coming to the event, we’re fresh and excited and ready. If we travelled a lot, maybe we wouldn’t feel that way.”

Carey will not defend her Canadian title this year. She dropped to six losses falling 9-2 to B.C.’s Corryn Brown.

“Disappointing,” the Calgary skip said. “We just couldn’t quite get it together. We showed flashes of it in a couple games, but couldn’t produce as consistently as we needed to.”

Saskatchewan’s Robyn Silvernagle needed a win and a McCarville loss to keep her playoff hopes alive and got neither.

The host province lost 9-4 to Homan.

“Today we were just a little fooled on the ice,” Silvernagle said. “We’re disappointed we’re not going on into the playoffs, but we attained some of our goals this week as well.”

Jones defeated Einarson 12-7 in a rematch of the Manitoba women’s final.

The two teams tied in the pre-game draw the button to determine who had hammer to start the game. Jones claimed hammer on a second try.

The six-time Canadian champion promptly scored four with it in the first end and another quadruple in the third.

The 16-team Hearts field was divided into two pools, with the top four in each carrying their records with them into the championship round.

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