Scheidegger beats Einarson in wild-card game at Scotties

Skip Casey Scheidegger, from the Lethbridge Curling Club, releases a rock. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

SYDNEY, N.S. — After a 36-hour cross-country trip to get to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Casey Scheidegger wanted her appearance to last more than one game.

A draw to the four-foot ring for the win did the trick.

Scheidegger held off Kerri Einarson 7-6 in the wild-card game Friday night to earn the last berth in the women’s national curling championship.

"It’s very emotional," Scheidegger said. "You saw the girls were super emotional. It’s like winning a provincial final. We have a lot less time to turn it around but I’m hoping we can use that to our advantage and settle in quickly.

"We’ve got the extra game on the ice so I think that can be a bit of an advantage as well."

Scheidegger will be known as Team Wild Card for the rest of the competition while Einarson is going home.

Both teams had a hard time getting a feel for the ice at Centre 200. Einarson was particularly off, throwing just 56 per cent on the night.

"I struggled that whole entire game and I feel like I let my team down," she said. "It happens."

A quality freeze from Scheidegger in the eighth end was critical as it prevented Einarson from making a big score. Instead Einarson had a draw for three and settled for two on a measure.

Scheidegger felt her throw was a game-saver.

"Oh F yes, that was huge," she said. "If we miss that, we’re probably giving up five. Big shot."

Einarson made a freeze of her own in the ninth and Scheidegger went for an aggressive in-off that didn’t work. The steal pulled Einarson even at 6-6.

Einarson missed a hit and stick in the 10th that would have forced Scheidegger to go wide with her final draw.

Scheidegger was left with a draw that was quite similar to her first throw in the end.

"That’s sort of what we’ve struggled with all season is making those big shots when you really needed them," Scheidegger said. "We were feeling really good the whole game but they stayed in it. They were making shots too.

"All I wanted was a draw to the four-foot on my last shot. They gave that to me so I’m happy."

Many teams had travel issues this week as winter weather walloped parts of the country.

Scheidegger’s rink had a flight cancelled out of Lethbridge, stayed overnight in Toronto, flew to Halifax and then took a bus up to Sydney.

A year after winning the inaugural play-in game, it’s Einarson who will depart early after the one-and-done loss. She made it to the final at the 2018 competition before falling to Jennifer Jones.

The wild-card matchup features the two highest-ranked teams that did not qualify out of the provincial or territorial championships.

Einarson, from Gimli, Man., holds the second spot in the national rankings, four positions higher than Scheidegger.

Mistakes were the norm in the early going of the three-hour game.

Einarson was forced to a single in the opening end and rubbed a guard in the second to set up Scheidegger with a draw for two. However, the Lethbridge, Alta., skip was light with her throw and settled for a single.

Einarson was heavy with her draw for two in the third end and took the one point for a 2-1 lead. She stole a single in the fourth but Scheidegger pulled even with a hit and stick for two in the fifth end.

Draw weight was an issue for Einarson again in the sixth as her light throw gave Scheidegger a steal of one and a 4-3 lead. In the seventh, Scheidegger stole a pair when Einarson was heavy with her final stone.

Scheidegger finished at 68 per cent and her team shot at 76 per cent, slightly better than Einarson’s rink at 73 per cent.

Einarson’s new lineup of third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur won their first four competitions of the season. They trail only Ontario’s Rachel Homan in the national rankings.

Scheidegger, third Cary-Anne McTaggart, second Jessie Haughian and lead Kristie Moore opened the season with a title but have barely managed to stay above .500 since.

Preliminary-round play begins Saturday. The top four teams from each division will advance to a championship pool starting Thursday.

The top four teams from that pool will advance to the playoffs next weekend. The semifinal and final will be played Feb. 24.

If Einarson had won, there would have been three Manitoba teams in the field. Jones is skipping Team Canada and Tracy Fleury is wearing provincial colours.

Instead there will be two teams from Alberta as Scheidegger joins provincial champion Chelsea Carey.

The Scotties winner will represent Canada at the March 16-24 world championship in Silkeborg, Denmark, and earn a berth in the 2020 national championship in Moose Jaw, Sask.

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