Scott closes in on Hearts playoff berth despite team upheaval

B.C. skip Kelly Scott is pre-occupied with juggling her team's daily lineup changes and just trying to win games. So far, she's been successful at both. B.C. was one of the teams poised to grab a playoff berth at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts when the preliminary round concludes Thursday.
British Columbia skip Kelly Scott watches her shot during a afternoon draw against Alberta at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Red Deer, Alberta on Tuesday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Kelly Scott hasn't had time to lift her head up to see where her team stands at the Canadian women's curling championship. She says that may be a good thing.

The B.C. skip is pre-occupied with juggling her team's daily lineup changes and just trying to win games. So far, she's been successful at both.

B.C. was one of the teams poised to grab a playoff berth at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts when the preliminary round concludes Thursday.

Manitoba's Jennifer Jones led at 7-2, followed by Scott's team from Kelowna, defending champion Amber Holland and Quebec's Marie-France Larouche at 6-3. New Brunswick's Rebecca Atkinson and Alberta's Heather Nedohin were still in the hunt at 5-4.

The top four teams advance and any ties for fourth are solved by tiebreaker games. Seven wins is virtually assured a tiebreaker berth, if not a playoff spot.

Scott's long-time teammate Sasha Carter has been in and out of the lineup this week with a stomach ailment that's made the rounds at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Tammy Schneider, Holland's second, also played just two ends Wednesday because of illness. Other teams were showing wear and tear too. Lead Jodie deSolla sat out both of New Brunswick's games because of a pulled muscle aggravated by sweeping.

But Carter, who is four months pregnant, hasn't been able to shake the stomach bug. She went to hospital Wednesday to have fluids replaced intravenously. Carter played in B.C.'s games Tuesday, but not Monday.

"We haven't had time for watching the leaderboard or seeing who plays who or where we stand," Scott said. "It's just about every game going out and trying to get a win out of it.

"Everything is getting thrown at us this week and we're just trying to balance with it all. The week is actually flying by because every day has a new turn of events, a new lineup, a new whatever. If anything, it takes the pressure off."

Scott and Carter won Canadian championships in both 2006 and 2007, plus a world championship in 2007. The skip says Carter will be back in the lineup Thursday if she's able to play.

"It's Sasha's call," Scott said. "Sasha has earned the opportunity to play. Sasha is a fantastic player and if Sasha is able to play, we would love to have her.

"By no means if she says she's ready to play would we deny her that opportunity. We have to really assess how she's doing and she has to assess how she's doing."

Dailene Sivertson, a 21-year-old who joined the team this year, throws second stones and serves as Scott's vice-skip.

Alternate Sherry Fraser played second Monday in Carter's absence -- moving Sivertson up to third -- but Scott had Fraser throwing third stones Wednesday.

Since Fraser has the experience of skipping a team at the 2001 Olympic trials, Scott felt the latter was a better formation. Scott doesn't want to add more responsibility to Sivertson's plate by moving her back to third stones.

"I'm glad to be where we are with this current lineup. If we have to continue this way, I think we'll be OK," Scott said.

In the Page playoff, the top two seeds meet with the winner advancing straight to Sunday's final. The loser falls to the semifinal to meet the winner of another playoff game between teams that finished third and fourth in the standings.

Manitoba, B.C., and Holland's team were the pre-tournament favourites. Manitoba concludes the round robin against Quebec and Ontario, while B.C. finishes up against New Brunswick and P.E.I.

Jones, a four-time national champion, was best positioned to secure a place in the 1-2 Page playoff. Her Winnipeg team has the momentum of winning four games in a row.

"We control our own destiny, which is all you want," Jones said. "We've got to win one more tomorrow and hopefully two and see where that takes us."

On Thursday, Canada plays the Territories before their intra-provincial finale against Saskatchewan's Michelle Englot, for whom Holland played third back in 2002-03.

At 4-5, Englot needed to win out and for teams ahead of her to collapse to have any a chance at a tiebreaker game

"It's going to be interesting, it's going to be good, it's going to be fun," Holland said. "We haven't played Michelle yet this year and what a great time to step on the ice against her at the Scotties."

Her alternate Jolene Campbell was pressed into service once again Wednesday when Schneider fell ill. The second also missed two games earlier in the tournament with a pulled muscle in her knee.

Larouche's Etchemin Curling Club foursome was also on a four-game winning streak head.

"I'm so confident with myself and my teammates," Larouche said. "I think we are a surprise, but we have two more games to play. Right now, I'm happy with my record."

Larouche was a finalist the last time the Scotties was held in Red Deer in 2004, losing to Colleen Jones in the championship game.

Ontario's Tracy Horgan and Nova Scotia's Heather Smith-Dacey were also 4-5 with Saskatchewan ahead of Heather Strong of Newfoundland and Labrador at 3-6.

Kim Dolan of Prince Edward Island and Kerry Galusha of Yukon/Northwest Territories were both 2-7.

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