Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson yells to her sweepers at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

CALGARY — Quebec’s rookies closed in on a championship round berth at the Canadian women’s curling championship Wednesday

Laurie St-Georges topped a shifting Pool B with a 5-2 record, but five teams in that group remained in contention for the four championship round spots heading into the preliminary round’s finale Thursday.

“Honestly I can’t wait to be on the ice again and playing against great teams,” said the 23-year-old Quebec skip. “I’m excited to play with my girls, my family and live this experience.”

Defending champion Kerri Einarson (6-0) and Ontario’s Rachel Homan (5-1) had their championship round berths in Pool A locked in Wednesday with two spots still up for grabs in the evening draw.

Alberta’s Laura Walker (4-2), Beth Peterson’s Wild Card Three (4-3) and Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories (3-3) were still in contention.

The eight teams in the championship round Friday and Saturday bring their records with them, so the stakes are still high for Einarson and Homan when those two teams square off Thursday.

The top three from the championship round will be Sunday’s playoff teams, with the No. 1 seed earning the bye to that day’s final.

Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson and Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones are both at 4-2, Chelsea Cary’s Wild Card One at 4-3 and Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt at 3-3 join Quebec in Pool B’s race to keep playing Friday at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre.

Anderson edging Carey 8-7 and six-time champion Jones defeating Birt 9-5 shuffled the Pool B deck Wednesday.

“It was a must-win for us for sure,” Jones said. “We had to make some big shots in big moments which was really nice for our confidence and hopefully we’ll come out even better tomorrow.”

Anderson scored two in the 10th to get by Wild Card One.

“For sure it was big,. You’ve got to just keep winning at this point,” the veteran skip said. “Playing well, that’s the big thing.”

Three-time champion Homan took her first loss in the tournament falling 7-5 to underdog Galusha of N.W.T. in the morning draw.

Galusha has yet to make the playoffs in 14 Scotties Tournament of Hearts appearances, but she has a history of round-robin upsets over big names.

Galusha beat defending champion Jones in 2009, defending champion Amber Holland and eventual champion Heather Nedohin in 2012, and Nedohin again the following year.

“Sometimes we’re the underdog and tend to beat a big team, but honestly I’ve never come close to beating Rachel Homan before, so that was really huge for us,” Galusha said.

St. Georges’ foursome didn’t arrive in Calgary burdened with the weight of expectations in their first Tournament of Hearts.

Members of the team have suggested this week a spectator-free debut made it less intimidating for them.

The skip and her front end of Emily Riley and sister Cynthia St-Georges are just two years removed from the junior ranks. They won a silver medal together at the national junior championship in 2018.

Third Hailey Armstrong skipped Ontario to a silver medal at the 2017 Canadian junior championship.

“Going into the last game of the round-robin tomorrow, we didn’t know what to expect coming here, so we’re really happy with our five-and-two record,” said 19-year-old Cynthia St-Georges.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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