MOOSE JAW, Sask. — The “pool of death” defending champion Chelsea Carey predicted for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts is living up to its billing.
Carey’s Team Canada, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northern Ontario and Alberta are all legitimate contenders to win the national women’s championship, but only four will make it out of Pool A to the championship round.
And pool compatriots New Brunswick and Nunavut have flouted their underdog status.
Nunavut’s Lori Eddy earned her first win Tuesday upsetting Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville 6-5.
Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson lost her first game falling 13-7 to New Brunswick’s Andrew Crawford.
New Brunswick scored seven in the seventh end for the first seven-point end in tournament history.
Carey knew her pool was loaded with contenders, but the battle to survive has surpassed even her expectations.
“It’s hard to imagine one pool would feel as strong as this one did,” the Calgary skip observed.
Carey, McCarville and Alberta’s Laura Walker were all 3-2 behind Manitoba and Saskatchewan’s Robyn Silvernagle tied at 4-1 atop their pool.
Crawford improved to 2-6, Nunavut to 1-6 and Quebec remained winless.
Carey went 7-0 in her pool en route to the title last year in Sydney, N.S.
She kept her head above water and in championship-round contention in Moose Jaw with a vital 7-5 win over Walker.
“It’s as much to bring them back to us as much as anything else,” Carey said. “You lose to them, it’s a two-game swing. They stay at one loss and we go to three. The gap gets bigger.”
Silvernagle’s 5-3 win over Quebec’s Noemie Silvernagle drew the host province even with Manitoba.
Ontario’s Rachel Homan and the wild-card team skipped by Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones led Pool B with 4-1 records.
Nova Scotia’s Mary-Anne Arsenault fell 10-7 to Homan and dropped into a three-way tie at 3-2 with Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt and B.C.’s Corryn Brown.
NWT was 2-3 ahead of Erica Curtis of Newfoundland and Labrador at 1-4 and winless Hailey Birnie of Yukon.
The eight teams emerging from pool play carry their records with them into the championship round starting Thursday.
The top four from the championship round advance to Saturday’s Page playoff. The semifinal and final are Sunday.
Nunavut and New Brunswick did Carey favours Tuesday, but the double-edged sword is Carey faces both teams Wednesday to conclude pool play.
“Nobody is a gimmee,” Carey stated. “The rocks don’t know who is throwing them.”
Verreault’s rookie team may be winless, but Quebec pushed Carey to an extra end and were up 7-5 after six ends on McCarville.
The territories are disadvantaged at national championships because of their small pool of competitive curlers, the complicated travel to World Curling Tour events and the prohibitive cost of that.
But Nunavut hasn’t been an easy out taking teams like Manitoba and Saskatchewan the distance to win.
“Looking at the field and looking at the pool, our goal was just to be competitive in these games and make the other teams really deserve the win over us,” Eddy said. “This is a huge bonus to come out with a win.”
Crawford is skipping New Brunswick an eighth time at Hearts. Back-to-back wins has the 34-year-old feeling some momentum.
“We knew it was a tough pool, but we weren’t looking at any of our games to see who we were playing,” Crawford said. “We just knew every game, we could win it, but we had to play our best and unfortunately the first three games we didn’t do that. We’re starting to get on that roll now.”
Crawford knew she was throwing for multiple points in the seventh, but didn’t realize it was seven until the rocks were counted up.
“Haven’t had a seven-ender and if I have had an eight-ender, it’s been a long time ago,” the skip said. “Maybe in juniors.”