Nunavut's debut at the Canadian women's curling championship was dramatic. Geneva Chislett's team from Iqaluit earned the territory's first-ever victory at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Nunavut downed B.C.'s Karla Thompson 8-7 in the first draw of the pre-tournament qualifier Thursday in Grande Prairie, Alta.
The two teams, plus Northwest Territories and Yukon are playing off for a berth in the main draw starting Saturday in Grande Prairie.
Chislett wiped tears from her eyes as she hugged third Denise Hutchings, second Robyn Mackey and lead Jenine Bodner following the game.
"I'm very emotional," the skip said. "We just wanted to go out there and try and be competitive and we lucked out with a win. It's awesome for curling in Nunavut.
"It's the first time we've ever been here. It's a bonus to have a win."
Kerry Galusha's Northwest Territories team downed Yukon's Nicole Baldwin 10-7 in Thursday's other game. The teams with the two best records in the qualifier meet Saturday for the right to join the dozen in the main draw.
Unlike the provinces that have easier access to ice time and strong competition, territories teams have traditionally arrived at Canadian championships short on both compared to their counterparts south of the 60th parallel.
Nunavut, the largest and least populated of Canada's three territories, has less than 500 curlers and just a handful of designated curling facilities.
"Curling at this level is very challenging in Nunavut because of our geographical location," Chislett said. "Our closest community that we can go curling is Ottawa. That's a three-hour plane ride away and the average ticket probably costs over two thousand dollars."
The 51-year-old skip is the Iqaluit's city controller. Hutchings, 47, and Mackey, 49, also work for the city while 31-year-old Bodner works for an energy company.
"We definitely wanted to prove we belong here," Chislett said. "Maybe we don't get all the competition that we need, but we deserve to be here. With this win, we showed we should be here."
In order to include every province and territory in the national championship, Curling Canada introduced a pre-tournament qualifier at both the Scotties and Brier last year.
In the case of the women's championship, it was to include the three territories and Northern Ontario playing off for entry into the main draw.
The Nunavut Curling Association did not feel ready to send a women's team to Moose Jaw, Sask., in 2015, so it was a three-team affair with Northern Ontario earning the berth.