SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — The 28-team curling field in Summerside, P.E.I is slowly being dwindled down, but the pre-trials event dubbed "Road to the Roar" has become a very long road for some of the curling teams.
Tiebreaking games on the women's side didn't finish until nearly 3 a.m. local time Saturday morning. Four hours later, more tiebreakers started on Saturday. It has been wacky, wild and at times what longtime curler John Morris is calling, "a bit of a gong show."
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- Last rock: Sherry Middaugh racing against time in Olympic pursuit
And he would know. Morris has been around the game for a while now. He's won Briers and world championships, Olympic gold with Kevin Martin in 2010 and made it all the way to the last Olympic trials final. He did it by taking the same path he's trying to take this year, through the pre-trials.
"The pre-trials are good because they give a lot of teams reason to play during the season," Morris said. "The fact that it gives us a couple last-chance spots is a great thing."
Morris placed second in his pool and will play Charley Thomas in one of the A-side semifinals. The winner will move onto the final and have a chance at qualifying for the Olympic trials in Ottawa. The loser stays alive but drops to the B-side of the draw.
"I have no doubt in my mind we can win this," Morris said. "I still have a fire in my belly that burns to compete and win. And until that fire is out I'm going to keep playing."
Glenn Howard taking his last shot
But four-time Brier and world champion, Glenn Howard, might have something to say about that. Now 55-years-old, the veteran is making his last attempt at earning an Olympic berth for Canada. He led his team to a perfect 6-0 record, the only team to do so, during the round-robin and plays Brendan Bottcher in the other A-side semifinal.
"It's been a ride," Howard said. "Even over the last couple weeks at the bonspiels we've played really solid. I'm proud of the guys and we're making a lot of shots."
All these years later, Howard still has that competitive spark.
"I don't ever want to lose. I want to win this," he said with a smirk.
Morris, Howard, Thomas and Bottcher join Jason Gunnlaugson, Greg Balsdon and Dayna Deruelle in the playoffs to determine what men's teams will get the two spots at the Olympic trials in Ottawa.
The pressure is on for Middaugh, McCarville
There are 13 Scotties appearances between Sherry Middaugh and Krista McCarville. On plenty of occasions both skips have been so close to winning it all but have never been able to capture that elusive national women's title.
51-year-old Middaugh has said this will be her last attempt at making it to the Olympics for Canada. She stayed alive at this year's event by winning a tie-breaking game that started at 7:30 a.m. local time Saturday. Now she'll have to wait and see how the playoffs shake down before playing a quarter-final game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Middaugh made it all the way to the trials final four years ago in Winnipeg, only to lose the right to wear the maple leaf at the Olympics by losing to Jennifer Jones.
"Even though it was four years ago, it still hurts. I didn't play well in that final. To come out flat in an important game like that is disappointing because you don't get that chance very often," Middaugh said.
It's a chance of a lifetime and that's not being lost on Thunder Bay, Ont., skip Krista McCarville. She celebrated her 35th birthday on Friday by getting two important wins and first place in Pool B.
"All I wanted for my birthday was two wins," McCarville said. "We're very happy with our performance so far."
As the pressure mounts, McCarville says her team finds ways to win.
"We play better when our backs our against the wall," she said.
Middaugh and McCarville join Julie Tippin, Briane Meilleur, Kelsey Rocque. Nadine Scotland and Shannon Birchard in the playoffs. Games will be played over Saturday and Sunday to determine to A-side and B-side winners who will get the two spots into the Olympic trials in Ottawa.