Sherry Middaugh stayed alive at curling's Players' Championship with a 6-5 tiebreak win over Heather Nedohin on Friday in Summerside, P.E.I.
Middaugh, from Coldwater, Ont., will face Winnipeg's Cathy Overton-Clapham in the semifinal round. Overton-Clapham finished first in the round robin of the eight-team event with a record of 6-1.
Saskatoon's Stefanie Lawton will take on Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones in the other semifinal at the final Capital One Grand Slam curling event of the season.
'It definitely wasn't textbook curling. We didn't really show up for the first six ends, unfortunately, and I certainly did not play well.' — Ontario skip Sherry Middaugh
Middaugh rallied from a 5-1 deficit after five ends to edge Edmonton's Nedohin in a tiebreaker on Friday night to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot. Both rinks finished round-robin play at 4-3.
"It definitely wasn't textbook curling," Middaugh said. "We didn't really show up for the first six ends, unfortunately, and I certainly did not play well. We just hung in there, and you never give up.
"We got a steal of three in the seventh, almost a steal of four, to tie it up, and then we stole in the eighth. I'm sure they are feeling like they gave that one away. Unfortunately, that's what happened. We gave them some misses early, and they gave us some misses late."
Lawton and Jones both finished with identical 5-2 records. Lawton was awarded second place because of her head-to-win win over Jones in the round robin.
"They are a great team, and obviously they beat us in the round robin," Jones said. "We are going to have to come out and play our best, and hopefully give ourselves a shot to win."
Middaugh avoids elimination
Lawton and Jones each concluded the round robin on winning notes Friday afternoon. Lawton won 7-2 over winless Chelsea Carey of Morden, Man., 7-2 while Jones handed Overton-Clapham her first loss a 6-3 decision. Middaugh needed an extra end to avoid elimination with a 6-5 victory over Switzerland Silvana's Tirinzoni (3-4), and Nedohin also stayed alive with a 5-3 win over Scotland's Eve Muirhead (1-6).
"We wanted to clinch second place," Lawton said. "We played strong, and definitely played the way we want to play the rest of the weekend."
Trailing 2-1, Lawton counted four points in the third end to take a 5-2 lead. Lawton said it was important for her rink to avoid any tiebreakers.
"It's been a long week already, and we have played lots of games already," she said. "We didn't want to throw another one in there. We know we're playing in the morning, and we are going to be ready to go."
Jones, who has won four straight after a 1-2 start, assessed her team's recent play: "The last few games we╣ve had good games. This one [against Overton-Clapham] we were a little bit shaky in a couple of ends.
"I thought we played pretty well, and we are playing well heading into the playoffs, which is a good thing."
In men's action, eighth-seed John Epping of Toronto finished in a four-way tie for first place after with reigning world champion Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., Edmonton's Kevin Martin and Winnipeg's Mike McEwen. Epping's rink was given top rank over those veterans because of his head-to-head record.
8th seed gets top rank
"I'm sure a lot of people didn't expect us to make the playoffs being the eighth seed," Epping said. "Our first four games were against the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds.
"After our first four games, we were 3-1. We probably would have been happy at 2-2 or even 1-3, and then win a couple of games on the last day. We'll definitely take it."
The four rinks finished 5-2, and when the tiebreaking formula of head-to-head records was applied, the top four ended up Epping, Howard, McEwen then Martin.
Saturday night's semifinals will feature Epping taking on Martin while Howard battles McEwen.
"We'll take first place," Epping said. "In these eight-end games, hammer is a big deal, and if we can grab hammer in the playoffs it will be massive for us."
Epping started the day with a 7-1 victory over Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton, and then beat Sweden's Niklas Edin rink 7-3 in the afternoon draw. He lost 5-2 to Brad Gushue of St. John's, N.L., in the evening.
McEwen, who swept all three games to extend his winning streak to five.
"We didn't look like we would get to this point in the week," McEwen said.
"It is a pretty amazing feeling to have after our 0-2 start."
McEwen beat Martin 6-4, Edmonton's Kevin Koe 5-4 and Edin 6-2.
Howard also had a three-win day, defeating Edin 5-3, Martin 6-5 and Koe 8-2.
Martin got by Stoughton 7-6 in his other game.