The women in red looked right at home Saturday at the Centrium, considering they normally wear green.
Amber Holland’s Regina foursome, the 2011 Saskatchewan and national women’s curling champions, won their first game ever as Team Canada, taking advantage of a Heather Strong miscue in the eighth end to post a 7-4 victory over Newfoundland/Labrador in the opening draw of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
“It felt really good out there. We just tried to get a feel for the ice and everything else going on,” said Holland.
And the ice, insisted the Team Canada skip, was just fine.
“It was good. The ice had good curl, good finish and nice speed,” she said. “If it stays like that we’ll be happy, but we all know that sometimes it doesn’t so we’ll just keep an eye on it.”
Team Canada never trailed in the contest and was up 4-3 playing the eighth end when Strong missed her final stone and allowed a steal of three.
The veteran skip was attempting a tap-back on Canada’s shot stone in the four-foot, but had a tad too much pepper on her delivery.
Still, she had an opportunity to nick off a rock sitting close by in the eight-foot and roll to the shot stone, but instead caught just a piece and drifted through the hole. Game, set and match.
“I overthrew it. We tried to salvage it on a Plan B and couldn’t,” said Strong.
“The rock ran straight because of the extra weight and it terms of communication with the Plan B, it was just coincidental bad timing because Alberta was making a big shot on the next sheet and the crowd went wild and rightly so. We kind of had a bit of bad luck on that but ultimately it was a bad shot by me.”
And a stroke of good fortune for Team Alberta, which allowed a single point in the ninth end and then ran Strong and company out of rocks playing the 10th.
“Heather had the exact same shot on her first one in the eighth and maybe there was a little pressure on her,” said Holland.
“It was unfortunate for her that she missed her last one, but we wanted to make sure we were relatively close in the last few ends but in control.”
Holland’s crew shot a collective 84 per cent, a welcome sign for a team that didn’t excel on the cashspiel tour this season.
“I think earlier in the year we probably had lots of games like that, we just didn’t follow up on the next game,” said the Team Canada skip. “The key here for us is consistency, so if we can take something from today and move forward then that’s good.
“It’s always great to come out and win your first game at the Scotties. It’s a good feeling, the energy level stays up moving into the next few days.
“We have three tough games in a row coming up so it’s good to have that positive energy.”
As a veteran of 10 national championships, Strong knows that the Scotties is a marathon, not a sprint.
“You can’t ride the highs and you can’t get too low,” she said. “It’s a long week and we lost to a good team.”
And her team can take solace in the fact that — basically — the game was decided on one shot.
“You know, we have two rookies on our team. It was a televised game and it was the opening draw with lots of people in the stands.
“I was pleased with how they played,” said Strong, who dropped to 0-2 on the day after giving up two on the 10th end to drop a 7-5 decision to Marie-Frances Larouche of Quebec in the evening.
Strong’s foursome takes on Michelle Englot of Saskatchewan at 8:30 a.m. today and faces Kerry Galusha’s Northwest Territories/Yukon rink in the day’s final draw at 6:30 p.m.
On Monday, Newfoundland/Labrador meets Jennifer Jones of Manitoba at 1:30 p.m.
Team Canada goes up against Rebecca Atkinson of New Brunswick and Heather Nedohin of Alberta today at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m., and takes on Manitoba at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
See Scotties schedule in Scoreboard section.