SASKATOON — In 2017, Rachel Homan and her Ottawa teammates ran the table at the Canadian Curling Trials, after losing their first game, to book a ticket to the Olympic Winter Games.
They’re going to have to do something very similar this year — against a who’s who of the country’s finest curling teams — if they want any chance of representing Canada one more time.
Team Homan, from Ottawa, stunningly lost its second straight game Sunday morning at SaskTel Centre, falling 9-5 to Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville.
Not only is the Homan team 0-2, but it has lost to the two teams that were the last to qualify for the trials — McCarville and Jacqueline Harrison of Dundas, Ont., the teams that emerged from the pre-trials event last month in Nova Scotia.
Homan will need to win at least five of her six remaining games, with matchups still to come against 2014 Olympic gold medallist Jennifer Jones, two-time defending national women’s champion Kerri Einarson and world No. 1 Tracy Fleury.
“It’s never over till it’s over,” Team Homan third Emma Miskew said. “You can’t really think about 0-2 versus anything else. There are a ton of great teams here so other teams are going to lose and good teams are going to beat each other. We just have to do what we can control and be a little bit sharper out there and get on a bit of a roll.”
Homan is a three-time Canadian women’s champion, won the world championship in 2017 and played in the Olympics in 2018. Her team has lost the final at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in each of the last three years.
It would be an absolute shock to see Homan out of contention before the playoffs next weekend, but she has an uphill climb to get there. No team has ever started 0-2 at the Olympic trials and gone on to win the event.
“It’s not the start we wanted,” Team Homan coach Marcel Rocque said. “You never go into an event, in any bonspiel, wanting to go 0-2.
“I guess, in a regular triple knockout, we’re in the C. We lose one more and maybe we go home. Or maybe we get a tie-breaker here. Backs are a little bit against the wall but you can’t worry about the end of the week. You’ve got to worry about the next game.”
While Homan was falling to 0-2, Jones became the first skip to get her team to 3-0 on Sunday, with a 10-2 drubbing of Harrison and an 8-7 extra-end win over Edmonton’s Laura Walker (1-2).
Jones has an equally daunting schedule ahead — games against Einarson, Fleury and Homan — but at least she’s already got the three wins under her belt.
“You’re likely not going to go through this event undefeated, and we know that,” said Jones, who curls with Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman and Dawn McEwen.
“We just want to get as many wins as we can and we just happened to get two early, which is kind of nice, but there’s still a lot of games left.”
Jones also beat McCarville 8-5 on Saturday. Against Walker on Sunday, Jones stole the winning point in the extra end when Walker’s last rock slid just a couple of inches too far.
“I’m really happy with how we’re playing,” Jones said. “We were playing really good coming into the event and I feel like we’re making lots of big shots when we have to and we’re having tons of fun. I love my teammates.”
Einarson lost her first game of the tournament to Fleury on Saturday but bounced back in a big way Sunday, with a 10-5 win over Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta. (1-1).
“I’m really impressed with how we responded,” said Val Sweeting, the third on Team Einarson. “We had a good game on Saturday and we fought really hard out there. Today it was nice to come out with a win. We’re just trying to stay relaxed and stay loose out there. It’s a long week and I think that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Einarson suffered a stunning loss Sunday night, however, blowing a three-point lead in the final two ends to lose 7-6 to the surprising Harrison, a trials rookie who has now beaten two of the top seeds. Einarson had a chance to hit and stick with her last rock of the 10th end to pick up the win, but her shooter rolled out and Harrison stole two.
Harrison is a 43-year-old trials rookie, who has never competed in a national championship and just qualified for this event through the pre-trials tournament last month in Nova Scotia.
Fleury improved to 2-0 with an 8-6 win over Kelsey Rocque and continues to look dominant after rocketing to the top of the world rankings with an excellent season so far.
There were some lopsided scores on Sunday morning and it could be an indication that the teams are having a hard time adjusting to changing ice conditions.
“Look at the scores out there today and the scores last night and tell me if that indicates it’s easy out there,” Marcel Rocque said. “It’s going to be a grind. We knew coming in it was going be a grind. You’re playing good teams. They can get rolling for sure, but right now we’ve just got to take it one game at a time and see if we can stay in the C for a long time.”
Walker 9, Rocque 3
Einarson 10, Scheidegger 5
Jones 10, Harrison 2
McCarville 9, Homan 5
Harrison 7, Einarson 6
Jones 8, Walker 7 (ee)
Scheidegger 5, McCarville 4
Fleury 8, Rocque 6
Epping 10, Gunnlaugson 5
Jacobs 7, Dunstone 6
Gushue 7, Koe 3
Horgan 6, Bottcher 5 (ee)