SAINT JOHN, N.B. — A pair of quick wins for Canada’s Rachel Homan at the Ford World Women’s Curling Championship on Monday allowed the host country to both regain their confidence and conserve energy for later in the tournament.
Allison Pottinger of the United States shook hands after just six ends when Canada held a commanding 9-3 lead. Homan and her Ottawa Curling Club team downed Denmark’s Madeleine Dupont 8-4 earlier in a game than went eight ends.
“It’s definitely nice to get some rest after playing some shorter games,” Homan said. “It’s nice to get some extra rest when you can.”
Canada was tied for second at 4-1 with Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson behind unbeaten Binia Feltscher of Switzerland at 5-0.
The logjam of countries at 3-2 included the U.S., China’s Liu Sijia, Russia’s Anna Sidorova and South Korea’s Ji-sun Kim.
Scotland’s Kerry Barr was 2-3 ahead of Denmark, Latvia’s Evita Regza and Germany Oona Lehmann at 1-4. The Czech Republic’s Anna Kubeskova was winless in five games. The top four teams at the conclusion of round-robin Thursday advance to the playoffs.
Homan felt she had a read on the ice at Harbour Station by Monday night having played on all four sheets and in the morning, afternoon and evening draws.
Another reason the abbreviated game against the U.S. on Monday evening was welcomed by Canada is because they are right back on the ice Tuesday morning against Latvia before facing Scotland in the evening.
Homan, vice Emma Miskew, second Alison Kreviazuk and lead Lisa Weagle won the bronze medal at last year’s world curling championship in Riga, Latvia, after starting 2-3 there.
Monday was a big bounce for the Canadians after demoralizing loss to the Swiss the previous day, when it was Canada giving up four points in steals and shaking hands after eight ends.
Homan felt their communication was missing in that game. The skip misread the ice early against the Americans, but the Canadians were able to solve it via discussion.
“Lisa was missing a couple early and she said ’is it me? I said ’no, it’s completely my ice.’ So she believed in how she was throwing,” Homan explained.
“If we didn’t have that communication, she would have tried to change the way she was throwing and I’d give her more ice and she’d miss again.
“We made sure when we were missing we knew why and were communicating that to each other.”
Pottinger was born in Brampton, Ont., and learned to curl in Otterburn Park, Que., but the 40-year-old is representing the U.S. for the 11th time at the women’s world championship.
She won a silver medal playing third for Patti Lank, another transplanted Canadian from Midale, Sask., when the world championship was last held in Saint John, N.B., in 1999.
“Everyone is always so nice when we’re here. A woman today brought me ketchup chips and Smarties,” Pottinger said of two items that are difficult to find in the U.S. “It’s terrific. I had them between games.”
Pottinger made a clutch raise against four Canadian stones in the third end to score a point and trail 2-1, but the fourth end was disastrous for the Americans.
With Canada laying two, Pottinger ticked on a guard to let Homan add another counter to the rings. The American skip attempted to draw through a port to get to the four-foot rings, but was well short of the house.
Homan had half the house for a target and drew in for four points and a 6-1 lead in front of 1,914 at Harbour Station.
“We threw it pretty hard, but just out there in the frost it didn’t have a chance,” Pottinger said. “It never got there.”
The Americans got two back in the fifth, but called it a day when Homan collected another three in the sixth.
“To get the two back was kind of nice, but at that point every end is the 10th end,” Pottinger said. “You don’t want them to get away from you and it’s hard to play five 10th ends against that kind of team.”
“That was so not good that I think it’s an off game and you forget about it. Chuck it in the bag.”
Homan and her teammates are all under the age of 28. Like the Brad Jacobs team that won the men’s Olympic gold last month, they’re considered the new generation of Canadian curling stars.
A year after graduating from the junior ranks, Homan’s team made the playoffs in their first national women’s championship in 2011. They won the Canadian title last year by beating Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, now the reigning Olympic women’s gold medallist after her unbeaten run in Sochi.
Homan and company were considered a team to beat at December’s Olympic trials along with Jones. Homan and her teammates either quit their jobs, took a leave or scaled back work hours in the months leading into those trials to prepare.
They rented a suite in Winnipeg away from the MTS Centre so they could cook and eat their own meals during the competition. But Homan lost the semifinal 10-4 to Sherry Middaugh. Homan’s coach Earle Morris now wonders in hindsight if they “over-prepared” for trials.
“I think what we did was we probably practised a bit too much,” he said. “A couple of the girls quit their jobs, one of the girls took a leave of absence. They really made it a focused priority and maybe we focused too much on the trials.
“We really tried to leave no stone unturned. Because it was our first trials, we prepared as best we could based on what we thought would be difference-makers. If we had to do it again, we’d probably do it a little differently. Take maybe a more relaxed approach and not emphasize it too much.”
The best medicine for their trials disappointment was to participate in the Continental Cup in Las Vegas in January. They played with Jones, Jacobs and other top North American teams in a Ryder-Cup style competition against European curling teams.
“We all re-connected with the sport,” Miskew said. “It was really tough after the trials to feel a love for curling.
“We were able to go out and enjoy the sport again. Before that, it was practising without much of a purpose because it feels weird after you put so much time into something. It changed when we went there and it felt better.”
That experience set the table for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Montreal, where Homan went 13-0 en route to a second straight Canadian title and a return trip to the world championship.
“Continental Cup was perfect,” Homan said. “We played mixed, mixed doubles and it was just a lot of fun.”
“We definitely needed it. We got to press the re-set button and focus again for the Scotties.”