Fleury tops Einarson for Manitoba Scotties title after furious rally

Tracy Fleury beat Team Einarson 13-7 in a wild Manitoba Scotties final to represent the province at next month’s Canadian women’s curling championship.

Tracy Fleury’s team emerged victorious after a wild Manitoba Scotties final to represent the province at next month’s Canadian women’s curling championship.

Fleury fought back after giving up an early five-ender to erase the deficit, steal the lead and maintain the momentum in the 13-7 comeback victory over hometown favourites Team Kerri Einarson during Sunday’s championship game in Gimli.

It’ll be Fleury’s fourth trip to the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts but her first wearing the Buffalo patch with third Selena Njegovan, second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish.

The Sudbury native Fleury competed for Ontario at the Canadian women’s curling championship in 2012 and Northern Ontario in 2015 and 2018. She linked up with Njegovan, Fyfe and MacCuish this season. The trio won the Manitoba Scotties in 2016 and grabbed silver at nationals last year as the first-ever wildcard entry with Einarson.

Meanwhile, Einarson appears to have another chance to enter the Scotties Tournament of Hearts via the wildcard play-in game against an opponent to be determined. Her new crew with former skips Val Sweeting (third), Shannon Birchard (second) and Briane Meilleur (lead) sit in second place on the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) standings.

Things didn’t start off so good for Fleury, who opened with the hammer and had a tricky tap for two, but her shooter rolled away and she had to settle for a single.

The trouble with Tracy continued into the second as her first skip stone flashed through the house and Einarson added a fourth rock to her pile. Fleury drew on her last down the middle but couldn’t bury it enough and Einarson made her pay by tapping it out to collect the count of five.

It was still early times and Fleury bounced back getting her tap for two points in three, forced Einarson to hit and stick around on the button for a single in four and erased the deficit in five to knot it up 6-6 heading into the break. A misfire on a double attempt from Einarson gave Fleury a freebie draw for three.

Fleury maintained the momentum into the sixth to sit two and cashed in the steal for the 8-6 lead as Einarson came up light on her last.

Einarson eyed a blank in the seventh stage but made an error on the hit and roll with her shooter staying in the house for a single.

Fleury stayed in control and drew for a deuce in eight to extend her lead to 10-7 and tacked on three more points in the ninth as Einarson rolled right through the house on her last.

Team Fleury booked their spot in the final scoring two in the ninth end to fend off Winnipeg’s Team Darcy Robertson 8-6 during the Page 1-2 playoff Saturday night. Einarson ousted Winnipeg’s Abby Ackland 6-4 in the 3-4 game and topped Robertson 11-4 earlier Sunday in the semifinal to advance.

Although Einarson topped the Asham Group during round-robin play with a 6-1 record, which would have earned her a spot in the 1-2 game in previous years, the rules were changed this season to take the top teams overall regardless of pools.

Robertson secured the No. 1 seed with an unblemished 7-0 record in the Asham Express Group. Fleury, who lost to Robertson in pool play, went 6-1 and edged out Einarson for the No. 2 spot based on draw-to-the-button shootout scores.

Jennifer Jones did not return to defend the Manitoba title as her Winnipeg-based squad earned the Team Canada auto-berth spot to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Feb. 16-24 in Sydney, N.S., as the reigning national champions.

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