GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — Chelsea Carey has been in a similar position before, but with a different province.
Carey skipped Manitoba in the playoff game between the top two seeds at the Canadian women’s curling championship two years ago in Montreal.
Her team lost 5-4 to eventual champion Rachel Homan, but that game will be experience Carey draws on Friday night when she skips Alberta in that same playoff at this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Grande Prairie, Alta.
"That was one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of, from a shotmaking perspective," Carey recalled. "I had a bunch of people call me after and say ‘that’s the best women’s curling game I’ve ever seen’ because both teams just made a lot of shots."’
The host province concluded their preliminary round with a pair of wins Thursday and topped the standings with a 9-2 record.
Only defending champion Jennifer Jones (8-2) can equal their record when the round robin concludes Friday morning, but Alberta opened the tournament with a win over Jones and would thus be seeded higher.
Carey and Jones were the only teams to nail down playoff berths Thursday. Second place was still up for grabs heading into the final draw. Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville (7-3) and Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson (6-4) were still in the hunt.
Saskatchewan’s Jolene Campbell, Ontario’s Jenn Hanna and Nova Scotia’s Jill Brothers were still in play for tiebreakers with five losses each.
Alberta’s reward for topping the table is hammer to start the one-two playoff game.
The victor goes directly to Sunday’s championship game. The loser drops to the semifinal to face the winner of the playoff between the third and fourth seeds.
The fact neither team is eliminated can make the one-two game less conservative.
"It’s not as uptight as a sudden-death game," Carey said. "You can play it hair looser. I don’t think you change anything with your strategy.
"That being said, if you lose you go to a sudden death game. You still sort of need to treat it like one. You have that second life so it takes just a tiny bit of the heat off maybe."
Carey, third Amy Nixon, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Laine Peters out of the Glencoe Club opened the tournament a torrid 6-0 before losing two of three.
They stole a point to win their last game Thursday when Saskatchewan’s Campbell rolled her shooter out of the rings on an open takeout for one.
After losing two of their first three games, the Jones team from Winnipeg went on a seven-game win streak.
"It’s always nice to control your own destiny, which we knew we did even when we were one-two," the skip said. "We knew if we won out, we’d have a pretty good shot to make it. I feel like we’re making some big shots when we have to."
Jones and second Jill Officer are five-time Canadian champions and can equal Colleen Jones’s record with a sixth. Jones and Officer have made the Hearts playoffs in all 12 of their appearances.
Prince Edward Island’s Susanne Birt and Quebec’s Marie-France Larouche were out of playoff contention at 4-6.
Stacie Curtis of Newfoundland and Labrador was 3-6 ahead of New Brunswick’s Sylvie Robichaud and B.C.’s Karla Thompson both at 2-7.
The province that finishes last in the preliminary round will have to play in next year’s pre-tournament qualifier against Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to gain entry into the main draw in St. Catharines, Ont.
This year’s champion represents Canada at the women’s world championship March 19-27 in Swift Current, Sask., and wears the Maple Leaf at next year’s Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont.