No. 1

Suzanne Birt rink wins P.E.I. Scot­ties ti­tle.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PROVINCE - BY JA­SON MAL­LOY THE GUARDIAN

Meaghan Hughes is go­ing to wear the Team P.E.I. colours at the Cana­dian Scot­ties Tour­na­ment of Hearts for the first time next month in Al­berta.

Hughes plays se­cond for Suzanne Birt’s rink, which de­feated Kim Dolan’s team 5-4 Mon­day at the pro­vin­cial Scot­ties Tour­na­ment of Hearts fi­nal at the Mon­tague Curl­ing Rink.

“It means just about ev­ery­thing to me,” Hughes said af­ter the vic­tory. “I’ve curled my whole life and put a lot of time into the sport. It’s a goal I’ve worked for, for a long time and it’s nice to have it come to fruition.”

The John­stons River curler has played against Birt since she was a teenager. When the op­por­tu­nity to join Birt’s new squad pre­sented it­self, she didn’t have much to think about.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” Hughes said Mon­day.

Birt won the 2015 pro­vin­cial ti­tle, but skipped a whole new team to the 2016 cham­pi­onship — her ninth since 2003. The team, in­clud­ing third Robyn Green and lead Marie Chris­tian­son, was fi­nal­ized about a month af­ter last sea­son ended.

Hughes noted Birt and Green’s past of play­ing to­gether helped make the tran­si­tion much eas­ier. Birt said the team trained twice a week to­gether at Nat­u­rally Fit with Ja­son Mosher since March.

“Go­ing into the sea­son it wasn’t like a new team,” she said. “We knew what we wanted to ac­com­plish and we worked hard.”

Chris­tian­son, who moved to P.E.I. from Nova Sco­tia in 2015, will also be mak­ing her first trip to na­tion­als.

“We’ve been train­ing hard and I think all our hard work will pay off there,” she said. “We can’t wait to hit the ice to­gether.”

While the team lacked ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing to­gether, each mem­ber brings a wealth of knowl­edge to the ta­ble. It helped Mon­day af­ter drop­ping a se­cond loss in a row to force a win­ner-take-all fi­nal in the af­ter­noon.

Lisa Jack­son de­feated them 8-5 in Sun­day’s C semi­fi­nal af­ter Birt had won the A and B events. Dolan beat Birt 8-6 in Mon­day’s first play­off game to force the fi­nale be­tween the two Char­lot­te­town Curl­ing Com­plex rinks.

Hughes said they knew there was a lot on the line, but it was as re­laxed as she felt dur­ing the tour­na­ment.

“You just stick to your own game plan,” Birt added. “We knew we put the time in this year, and we just knew we could play well and make our shots when it counted.”

She pointed to play­off ap­pear­ances in all of the half­dozen bon­spiels they had en­tered this sea­son for help­ing them in Mon­day’s cham­pi­onship. “We were pre­pared,” she said. The Cana­dian cham­pi­onship takes place from Feb. 20 to 28 in Grande Prairie, Alta. Birt joins de­fend­ing cham­pion Jen­nifer Jones of Win­nipeg and Yukon’s Ni­cole Bald­win in the field. The rest of the teams will be de­ter­mined in up­com­ing pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial cham­pi­onships.

JA­SON MAL­LOY/THE GUARDIAN

Meaghan Hughes watches a shot Sun­day at the P.E.I. Scot­ties Tour­na­ment of Hearts in Mon­tague.

PE­I­CURL­ING.COM

The Suzanne Birt rink from the Char­lot­te­town Curl­ing Com­plex won the pro­vin­cial Scot­ties Tour­na­ment of Hearts Mon­day in Mon­tague. From left are coach Danny Chris­tian­son, Birt, lead Marie Chris­tian­son, se­cond Meaghan Hughes and third Robyn Green.

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