MONTREAL — There was at least one tight battle in Rachel Homan’s 10 straight victories at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Homan and her Canada rink from Ottawa had to fight back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Saskatchewan’s Stefanie Lawton 7-6 on Thursday afternoon at the Maurice Richard Arena.
Then the Homan rink posted an 8-5 victory over Newfoundland’s Heather Strong (4-7) in an evening match to secure first place in the round robin portion of the tournament.
“It’s good to have a game like that,” Homan said of her win over Saskatchewan (8-2). “All the time, every day, all week long would be tough, but it was a great battle by both teams.”
Homan mused this week about her chances to go undefeated in the Scotties, which hasn’t been done since Linda Moore in 1985. Jennifer Jones, now competing for Canada at the Winter Olympics, went undefeated in the round robin last year in Kingston, Ont., but then was beaten by Homan in the final.
She has one round robin game left Friday against New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford (6-4), who saw her playoff hopes dashed when Alberta’s Val Sweeting (8-3) scored three in the ninth and then stole one in the 10th to defeat Manitoba’s Chelsea Carey (8-2) 7-4.
Sweeting clinched a playoff spot and ensured no tiebreaker games would be needed.
Carey had a chance at a big score in the 10th, but her angle raise just failed to dislodge Sweeting’s shot stone.
Carey needs a win over P.E.I.’s Kim Dolan (3-7) on Friday to finish second and play Homan in the first versus second playoff game on Friday night.
The loser of that game plays the winner of the third-versus-fourth game in the semifinal on Saturday.
The bronze medal game and the final are on Sunday.
Lawton, who lost to Manitoba in the round robin, is in third place. She has a game left against Yukon’s Sarah Koltun (1-9).
Roars went up from the 2,415 spectators at the evening draw as Quebec’s Allison Ross (2-9) ended her tournament with a 5-3 win over Ontario’s Allison Flaxey (3-7). Flaxey plays Nova Scotia’s Heather Smith (3-7) on Friday.
Going into the Saskatchewan game, Homan’s rink had outscored eight opponents by a combined 71-30 and had not had to play a full 10 ends.
Some wondered if the one-sided wins would leave her vulnerable in the playoffs because she had yet to make any shots under pressure.
She answered that with solid play in a close match, although one in which Saskatchewan’s shot making faltered in the second half.
“That wasn’t our strongest game as a team,” said Lawton. “We can pick it up.
“Rachel’s team played great and put pressure on us. We can finetune a few of those shots and make them better.”
Lawton said the fact that her squad didn’t have its A-game gives her hope if she ends up meeting Homan again in the playoffs.
“I know we can play better and we’ll come out and push them even more,” she said. “We had the lead and played a strong first half, but in the second half we weren’t as strong and that showed on the scoreboard.”
Homan wrecked on a guard to let Lawton score three in the second end. Canada got two back in the third and another two in the seventh to make it 5-5.
It was Lawton’s turn to miss in the eighth with a draw that went a little long to give Homan her first lead with a steal of one. Lawton tied it in the ninth, but Homan had the hammer in the final end.
She still hasn’t had to throw a 10th-end last rock because Lawton’s final steal attempt fell just short.
Carey clinched a playoff spot in the afternoon with a 9-8 win over Flaxey on a point in an extra end.
“That’s step one — making the playoffs,” said Carey. “If I’m in the playoffs, I’m a happy camper.”
Crawford downed Koltun 5-4 and Dolan beat Smith 7-5.
Flaxey started the Scotties 1-5, but emerged as a spoiler Wednesday with victories over Alberta and the Yukon.
She gave Carey a scare with a three in the sixth and another two in the eighth for a 7-5 lead. But Carey rallied with three in the ninth and held Flaxey to one in the 10th to force an extra end.
In the morning draw, Sweeting earned a 10-3 win over Ross. Ross opened with the hammer but Sweeting had steals of two, three and two points over the first three ends for a commanding 7-0 lead before Quebec scored one in the fourth.
The other early game saw B.C.’s Kesa Van Osch claim a 7-3 victory over Strong.