Perseverance pays off as Homan retains Champions Cup

Watch as Kerri Einarson is forced into a tricky shot in the seventh end and can't pull it off to give up a critical two points and the lead to Rachel Homan in the Humpty's Champions Cup women's final.

CALGARY — Rachel Homan wrapped up a roller coaster season back in the winner’s circle of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling.

Homan captured her seventh title in the series after successfully defending the Humpty’s Champions Cup by defeating Winnipeg’s Kerri Einarson 7-6 in Sunday’s final at WinSport Arena.

The Ottawa-based team of Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle collected $40,000 and retain a spot in next season’s Humpty’s Champions Cup in Saskatoon.

Homan, who represented Canada at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, missed the playoffs in back-to-back Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events for the first time in her career to start the season and went winless through the Players’ Championship two weeks ago in Toronto.

“It feels really great this year, especially after our performance at the Players’ Championship where we were just a little tired,” Miskew said. “To come back this week and battle through a lot of tough games where we were down in points, it feels really good and really satisfying to know that we can still plug away and win events.”

This week was a lesson in perseverance as Homan got off to a slow start with a 1-2 record and in must-win mode early but never backed down. Homan needed to score three in the final frame to edge Alina Paetz in a tiebreaker Friday night to qualify for the playoffs and also erased a five-point deficit during Saturday night’s semifinal against Eve Muirhead.

“In the past, we never really had to win games like that and then when we started to have to, we didn’t know how,” Miskew said. “This week it feels great to finally learn how we can win games that we don’t have control of and find a way to win despite how things are going out there. We weren’t perfect all week, we weren’t playing our very best but we stayed in every game and really tried to find a way to win.”

Einarson, who won her second Tour Challenge Tier 2 title at the beginning of the season, opened with the hammer but couldn’t capitalize completely as Homan used the force to sit two leading to a draw and bump for a single. Homan dropped a trey in the second to pull ahead 3-1.

It looked like Einarson’s last in the third was light but second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish were able to drag it in to get the equalizing deuce.

Homan caught a lucky break in the fourth end after she was aiming to hit for two and crashed on her own guard, however, there was no steal as the shooter just so happened to spill into the button for a single.

Einarson kept her rocks separated in five and finished things off with a hit for a deuce to pull back ahead 5-4.

After Homan tied it up with a single in six, it looked like another force for one in seven to set up a deja vu situation from a year ago when Homan was down one and had to score two coming home with hammer to top Anna Hasselborg for the title. That wouldn’t be the case though as Einarson couldn’t navigate through while looking at four and collided on top of one counter to give up a critical steal of two and the 7-5 lead.

“Rachel made a great shot on her last to sit in front of that rock there and make Kerri’s last shot harder,” Miskew said. “We were lucky that we got away with a two-steal there.”

Still, with the five-rock rule, a deuce is always in the cards and it looked like they were heading to an extra end as Einarson eyed up a double takeout for two. Einarson couldn’t pull it off though and missed the second one to only count a single.

“We wanted to stay a little bit higher to make the double tougher but they just missed it,” Miskew said. “We were prepared to go to an extra end there but we were just glad we weren’t going to give up three.”

It was the final event for Team Einarson with the skip forming a new team for next year. Einarson has added former skips Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Meilleur. Third Selena Kaatz, Fyfe and MacCuish are sticking together bringing in skip Tracy Fleury, of Sudbury, Ont., and will continue to curl in Manitoba.

The season finale Humpty’s Champions Cup requires teams to win a high-profile tournament in order to receive an invitation and Miskew said it’s nice knowing they’ll already be back in it next year.

“This is one of the events where it’s a little bit tougher because you could play really well all year and not qualify for it if you don’t actually win an event,” she said. “To already be in it takes a bit of the pressure off. It’s great.”

Later, Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., goes up against Glenn Howard of Tiny, Ont., in the men’s final at 2 p.m. MT (Sportsnet 360 & Sportsnet One).

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