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Curlers beat flu bug

Kesa Van Osch’s British Columbia team feels good now about their choice of veteran Patti Knezevic to serve as alternate at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

MONTREAL — Kesa Van Osch’s British Columbia team feels good now about their choice of veteran Patti Knezevic to serve as alternate at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

With Van Osch out with a flu bug that has been rampaging through the tournament, Knezevic stepped in to lead B.C. (4-3) to a pair of victories on Tuesday before 1,131 at the Maurice Richard Arena.

B.C. downed Allison Flaxey’s Ontario team 7-3 in the morning draw and then saw Knezevic draw to the button with her final stone to beat Sarah Koltun of the Yukon 8-7 in the afternoon.

“We wanted someone with a lot of experience as our fifth player because we’ve watched the Scotties for years and this happens (often) that the flu goes around,” said B.C. third Stephanie Baier. “We wanted someone who could come in at any position so we wouldn’t have to shuffle around and we’d stay at our comfort level.”

The illness kept six players out of the morning draw, when Saskatchewan’s Stefanie Lawton downed Quebec (1-6) 8-4 with only three players on her team.

Van Osch was the lone player missing in the afternoon, but then her lead Carley Sandwith had to quit after two ends, leaving them with only three.

Quebec was missing second Brittany O’Rourke in the morning. They got her back for the afternoon session, only to see her leave again after eight ends.

“She threw up in the third and the sixth ends, and finally got off the ice,” Ross said of her teammate. “We’re in contamination mode.”

In the evening draw, Team Canada’s Rachel Homan improved to 6-0 with a 10-3 win over Nova Scotia’s Heather Smith (2-5). Nova Scotia was also missing coach Peter Gallant to sickness.

Manitoba’s Chelsea Carey and Lawton are tied for second place with 5-1 records. Carey cruised past the Yukon 10-4, while Lawton defeated P.E.I. 7-3.

In the other late match, New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford earned a 7-4 victory against Ontario.

The last time a Scotties was disrupted by a flu bug was in 2012 in Red Deer, Alta. This time, the sickness is striking players, coaches and officials at random with an illness that seems to last about 24 hours.

B.C.’s young squad from Victoria looked to be in trouble when they started the tournament at 2-3 and it only looked worse when Van Osch went down.

But gritty work by a relatively healthy Baier and second Jessie Sanderson and Knezevic’s steady hand put the team back in the hunt for a playoff spot.

When Team Van Osch won the B.C. provincial championships last month to earn their first trip to the Scotties, they immediately asked Knezevic to be their fifth player.

“It was an unexpected call, for sure,” said Knezevic, who made it to the B.C. final three times but had never got to the Scotties. “I was very honoured.

“I was just hoping that I could bring a bit of experience and support and be able to step in if needed.” Baier said that if Van Osch is able to play today she will return as the skip and that Knezevic would go back to being the alternate. If Sandwith can’t play, Knezevic will play lead.

“We decided as a team that I would play wherever a player stepped out of, so no situation would be a surprise to us,” Knezevic said. “We knew going in that Carley was not well and she’d give it her best shot.

“Then we just had to make the transition. The girls have been great. We were trying to be as positive as we could and work together with what we had. I think that was the ticket.”

When a team has only three players, the first two throw three stones each and the skip throws two. It means that most of time, only one player can sweep.

It wasn’t easy for B.C., as 20-year-old Koltun scored two in the ninth to take a 7-6 lead, then left Knezevic with a tricky draw for two in the 10th. Baier jumped in at the end to help Sanderson in some furious sweeping to get the winning rock to the button.

Saskatchewan was in the same boat when second Sherri Singler and third Sherry Anderson were unable to play.

Lawton got an early morning call from coach Rick Folk to say that Singler was sick, and later learned that Anderson was down as well.

“You plan for the worst, but this scenario of having two players out didn’t come up, so we just had to go with it,” said Lawton. “The girls jumped right in and felt comfortable with the positions they were thrown into.”

Marliese Kasner moved up from lead to play third, while alternate Dailene Sivertson stepped in to lead and do most of the sweeping.

“The girls did a great job,” said Lawton. “It’s different when you only have one sweeper.

“You want to give it a bit more so they don’t have to work too hard, but we managed to pull through and come through with a win. The girls played great in positions they’re not used to.”

Kasner said she played third on Lawton’s teams at the 2005 and 2009 Scotties, so it was a quick adjustment.

“It was different,” she said. “We knew there would be just one sweeper so we joked that the second sweeper doesn’t do much anyhow. We threw like we would in any other game and didn’t think about having one less sweeper. We just went shot by shot.”

A nervy moment came in the seventh end, when Lawton made a clever draw into three Quebec stones to prevent a steal.