READY AND RESTED

CURL­ING

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER

Chelsea Carey and her rink are ready to de­fend their cham­pi­onship.

Chelsea Carey re­turns to the Cana­dian women’s curl­ing cham­pi­onship feel­ing tighter with her team and oddly rested.

Among the bonuses for win­ning the Scot­ties Tour­na­ment of Hearts is an au­to­matic berth in the next one as Team Canada. So de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Carey, third Amy Nixon, se­cond Jo­ce­lyn Peter­man and lead Laine Peters avoided the grind of pro­vin­cial play­downs this year.

The Cal­gary team heads to St. Catharines for this year’s event start­ing Satur­day with full gas tanks.

“The big­gest thing that’s dif­fer­ent is you don’t have to win your pro­vin­cial, so you have all this time,” Carey said. “That’s been kind of weird, but kind of nice that it’s been a lit­tle slower pace lead­ing up for us.”

They’ll need their re­serves to re­peat as Cana­dian cham­pi­ons, says the skip.

“It’s a long, long week and it’s an ab­so­lute grind,” Carey said. “I al­ways laugh at peo­ple who say, ‘You went to this town. What did you see?’ I’m like, ‘Noth­ing.’ You play two games a day and have a nap in be­tween be­cause you have to. You just won’t sur­vive the week oth­er­wise.

“For sure we’re com­ing in a lit­tle more rested than prob­a­bly most of the other teams. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s a bad thing, I don’t know, but I like it.”

The Glen­coe Club four­some claimed the 2016 Tour­na­ment of Hearts in Grande Prairie, Alta., in Carey’s first year skip­ping the team.

She drew to the eight-foot ring with her fi­nal shot to beat North­ern On­tario’s Krista McCarville 7-6 in the fi­nal.

Peters said in Grande Prairie their team was still a work in progress.

Now in their se­cond sea­son to­gether, they’re more in tune with each other’s per­son­al­i­ties and modes of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which can help them ride out the emo­tional highs and lows at na­tion­als, ac­cord­ing to the skip. “We’re more com­fort­able with each other and with ev­ery­body’s stress re­ac­tion, how they’re go­ing to re­act if they are un­der some sort of stress or pres­sure,” Carey said. “It makes it eas­ier to sur­vive such a long week when you know each other a lit­tle bet­ter.”

In the 55 years of the Cana­dian women’s cham­pi­onship, seven teams have won back-to-back ti­tles: Rachel Ho­man, Jen­nifer Jones, Kelly Scott, Colleen Jones, San­dra Sch­mir­ler, Heather Hous­ton and Vera Pezer.

Carey, McCarville, On­tario’s Ho­man and 2006 Olympic bronze medal­list Shan­non Kleib­rink from Al­berta are the head­lin­ers of this year’s tour­na­ment at the 5,300-seat Merid­ian Cen­tre.

A glar­ing ab­sence is Jones, the reign­ing Olympic cham­pion, who didn’t make the Man­i­toba pro­vin­cial fi­nal.

The top four teams af­ter the pre­lim­i­nary round ad­vance to the Page play­off with ties for fourth solved by tiebreaker games. The fi­nal is Feb. 26.

Games start Thurs­day evening with Nunavut, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, Yukon and New Brunswick play­ing off to get into the 12-team main draw.

This is the fi­nal year of the unloved pre­tour­na­ment qual­i­fier as all prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries will par­tic­i­pate more fully in the na­tional men’s and women’s cham­pi­onships next year.

The Hearts win­ner rep­re­sents Canada at the world cham­pi­onship March 18-26 in Bei­jing and gets a re­turn trip to next year’s tour­na­ment in Pen­tic­ton, B.C.

A medal of any colour at the world cham­pi­onship guar­an­tees that team a spot in De­cem­ber’s Olympic tri­als in Ottawa. Jones and Ho­man have se­cured two of nine women’s berths so far.

If Ho­man won na­tion­als and fin­ished in the medals at worlds, the Olympic berth would then go to the high­est-team in the Cana­dian Team Rank­ing Sys­tem that didn’t have a tri­als spot.

Carey was fourth in last year’s world cham­pi­onship, and thus missed out on nail­ing down a berth. “That’s highly dis­ap­point­ing for sure,” Peters said. “This year, we would love to have an­other op­por­tu­nity. Those op­por­tu­ni­ties are very rare. We rec­og­nize that.

“We’ll go in the Scot­ties with the men­tal­ity we’ll do our best and the chips will fall where they may. Hope­fully we end up on top and have an­other shot at the worlds.”

JEFF MCIN­TOSH, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Team Canada skip Chelsea Carey re­turns to the Cana­dian women’s curl­ing cham­pi­onship feel­ing tighter with her team and oddly rested.

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