Alberta captures Tournament of Hearts title
Led by their excitable, animated skip, Alberta won its first Canadian women's curling championship in 14 years Sunday.
Heather Nedohin's team from Edmonton beat B.C.'s Kelly Scott 7-6 to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Nedohin, third Beth Iskiw, second Jessica Mair and lead Laine Peters will represent Canada at the world championship next month in Lethbridge, Alta.
"Our composure was outstanding," Nedohin said after the championship game.
The 36-year-old was the most interesting skip to watch at this year's Tournament of Hearts.
She lived every shot with her body language and facial expressions. Waving her arms, jerking, contorting and shouting with zero consideration for her strained vocal chords, Nedohin entertained.
Caught on television uttering an expletive earlier in the week, she changed her exclamations to "sugarballs."
"I'm an intense player with emotions," Nedohin said. "I don't think I hold anything back. It's just who I am. If you come and watch me at the Red Deer bonspiel, I do the same thing."
If the name Nedohin sounds familiar in curling, it's because husband David won four Canadian championship throwing fourth stones for Randy Ferbey's team. The couple have two daughters and live in Sherwood Park.
Alberta teams were Canada's representative in women's curling at the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games, but Nedohin's national women's title was the province's first since 1998.
Nedohin was on that team playing third for Cathy Borst. They won bronze at the world championship that year.
Nedohin's rink opened this year's Tournament of Hearts 2-3, but won five of their last six to secure the fourth and final playoff berth.
Their support in the Enmax Centrium became more vocal as they gained momentum.
Nedohin fed off that energy, but drama also dogged the team. A stopwatch flying off Mair's broom onto the ice in a pivotal sixth end Sunday was one in a series of incidents. Mair had to stop sweeping to brush the watch away.
Alberta squeaked into the championship game by beating four-time champion Jennifer Jones 6-5 in an extra end in Saturday's semifinal. The measurement needed to declare the winner created the most tense moment of the tournament.
"Every time someone wins an event like this or goes onto the worlds, you look back at those games that were by the skin of your teeth and last night was one of them," said Nedohin's husband David. "It's an amazing field and for them to come out of it, I'm flabbergasted."
In a playoff game against Quebec earlier Saturday, Peters used her broom and body to muscle a falling Mair away from Nedohin's last shot of the game to keep the second from burning it.
Nedohin's done some of her best curling in her home province. She won the Canadian junior championship in 1996 in Edmonton and the world junior title the same year in Red Deer.
Nedohin's teammates ranked near the top of their positions in shooting percentage throughout the tournament.
The skip often remarked during the week she needed to elevate her game to match that of her teammates.
After curling 78 per cent in the preliminary round, Nedohin rated 87 and 90 per cent in the playoff game against Quebec and in the semifinal respectively. Nedohin was 83 per cent accurate in Sunday's final in front of an appreciative 5,900.
Her team will return to the 2013 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kingston, Ont., wearing the Maple Leaf.
The prize purse for winning a national championship is substantial and opens doors for first-time winners.
Nedohin's team is also eligible for $144,000 of Sport Canada funding over a two-year period, as well as $40,000 from Own The Podium to cover training and competition costs.
They'll also get paid $10,000 to wear the crest of Scotties sponsor Kruger at the world championship.
"As a stay-at-home mom, I think I'm quite happy about that," Nedohin said. "As a woman in sports, I'm ecstatic. You know what? Holy sugarballs, I didn't know that."
They've also gained a berth in the $140,000 Canada Cup of Curling later this year and the international Continental Cup of Curling in 2013.
Manitoba's Jones won the bronze medal with an 8-6 win over Quebec.
B.C and Alberta earned $15,500 as finalists. Manitoba took home $12,000 for third place and Quebec $7,000 for fourth.
Alberta scored a pivotal three points in the sixth end against Scott on Sunday to take a 6-3 lead. Iskiw far outcurled B.C. counterpart Sasha Carter to take pressure off Nedohin.
Too many times, Scott was scrambling to defend or drawing for one against multiple Alberta stones.
"We've very disappointed in how we came to play today," said Scott, a Canadian champion in 2006 and 2007.
"We were heavy on way too many draws and they way outcurled us that game. We came in saying let the best team win and that was them today for sure."
Jones has the only team so far with one of eight berths to the Olympic trials Dec. 1-8, 2013, in Winnipeg. Jones wants to continue curling with third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin.
"I haven't asked then, but in my mind, there's no doubt," Jones said. "I think they're terrific teammates, terrific human beings and amazing players. The plan is to play to the trials. I'm assuming they are, but I can't speak for them."
Attendance for the tournament was 94,997, ranking it fifth in the 31 years of the tournament.