Playoff picture comes into focus at Olympic curling trials
OTTAWA — Eighteen of Canada's best curling teams embarked on Ottawa last Saturday, all with the hopes of earning the right to represent Canada at the Olympics. One men's team and one women's team will get that opportunity.
With two days left of round-robin play, the playoff picture is getting a little clearer as teams are slowly being eliminated from contention.
Kevin Koe's team out of Calgary is the first to earn a spot in the playoffs. They did so Wednesday afternoon by defeating John Epping 6-4.
"Our first goal is done. Obviously that's great," Koe said. "Now we just have to get hot on the weekend."
Koe's team is undefeated through six games. He's the only unbeaten men's team left at the trials.
"I'm feeling good and felt really good out there today," Koe said after Wednesday's win.
"It's the biggest event and you have to do everything you can to get ready. I'm throwing with a lot of confidence out there right now."
Koe needs just one more win to earn a spot directly into Sunday's final, something he says is crucial.
"It's one less chance you have to step out there and possibly lose," he said. "And it's always a little reassuring to start with the hammer."
Brad Gushue defeated Mike McEwen 8-3 Wednesday night to run his record to 4-2. McEwen dropped to 4-2.
Gushue has now won two games in a row and three out of his last four.
"I'd feel better if we were in Koe's spot but we're moving in the right direction," Gushue said. "We're getting more confident as the week goes on."
"I thought there would be a logjam up front with ourselves, Jacobs, McEwen, Koe and Carruthers."
After Gushue and McEwen there are a bunch of teams still trying to find a way into the playoffs.
Brad Jacobs, Reid Carruthers and Brendan Bottcher are still alive, sitting with three losses. Four losses is mathematically still in the playoff picture (but it's a long shot).
Women's side still up for grabs
There's only one women's undefeated team left at the trials.
Chelsea Carey won an emotional game Wednesday afternoon over reigning Olympic champion Jennifer Jones 7-5 to remain perfect at 5-0.
On Saturday, as the trials were beginning, Carey's grandfather died. The funeral was held in Winnipeg just hours before her game against Jones in Ottawa.
"I told my mom before the game he was in my heart today," Carey said. "He was an amazing man. He was the kindest, most gentle soul I've maybe ever met."
Carey's third, Cathy Overton-Clapham, has won five Scotties championships but never an Olympic berth. She says the key to success at big bonspiels starts with a confident skip.
"One of the biggest things is your skip reading the ice and playing well," Overton-Clapham said. "And when I've won championships that's always been the case. I think Chelsea has a great handle on draw weight."
In the night draw on Wednesday, Rachel Homan made a heart stopping double to score four in the tenth end to defeat Casey Scheiddeger 10-7 and earn a fifth win.
After the shot Homan, who normally holds back her emotion, waved her arms to the crowd as they erupted in cheers.
"It was a battle and making that last one was all of our emotions coming out," she said. "That was amazing. It was so awesome to have everyone here. It was fun to play and fun to make that last shot."
With the win, Homan is tied with Jennifer Jones for second with a record of 5-1.
Krista McCarville's team is still alive and in the playoff hunt after stealing two in the 10th end and defeating Allison Flaxey 8-7. At 3-2, McCarville has a massive upcoming game against Jones Thursday afternoon.
It sets up a dramatic Thursday of curling at the Olympic trials in Ottawa.
The top three teams on the men's and women's side advance to the playoffs. The first-place team goes directly into the finals on Sunday. The second and third-place teams play in the semifinals on Saturday to determine who will move onto the final.