Road To The Olympic Games

Nunavut wins historic 1st main draw game at Scotties

Nunavut's Jenine Bodner skipped her team to an historic victory in the opening draw at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts on Saturday afternoon.

Territory beats Quebec 4-3 in extra ends

Members of Team Nunavut celebrate after the rink earned its first ever main-draw win at the Scotties on Saturday. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

The list of surreal moments keeps getting longer for Nunavut vice-skip Jennifer Blaney at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Receiving a competitor necklace at the players' reception Friday started things off. Joining the best curlers in the country for the opening ceremony was a nice follow-up Saturday afternoon in Sydney, N.S.

Helping Nunavut win its first-ever main draw game at the national women's curling championship — a 4-3 win over Quebec's Gabrielle Lavoie — took things to another level.

Not bad for an Ottawa-based recreational league curler who only met her teammates last fall.

"I don't have any elite exposure whatsoever to curling," Blaney said. "I went from the basement to the palace I guess."

WATCH | Nunavut wins first-ever Scotties main draw game:

Nunavut took a close 4-3 decision over Quebec to win their first draw at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts 1:11

Blaney, 48, throws fourth stones and is the import player on a rink that includes Megan Ingram, Alison Griffin, skip Jenine Bodner and alternate Sadie Pinksen, who are based in Iqaluit.

Nunavut is making its fourth Scotties appearance overall and second in the main draw.

Geneva Chislett skipped Nunavut to a 1-2 record in the 2016 Scotties qualification round. The unpopular relegation format was scrapped last year, giving every province and territory a spot in the main draw of the 16-team competition.

Chislett went 0-3 in the 2017 qualifier and import skip Amie Shackleton was 0-8 in the main draw last year.

'The little Nunavut that could' 

Lavoie, who made her Scotties debut on Saturday for a young Quebec team, had hammer in the 10th end of a tied game. But her takeout attempt rolled out to give Bodner a single point and the historic win.

"We call ourselves the little Nunavut that could," Bodner said.

Pinksen, 19, was an alternate with Chislett and has made seven straight appearances at the Canadian junior championships. She threw first stones Saturday with Ingram out due to illness.

Bodner, 34, has curled with Chislett in the past and played in the 2017 Canadian mixed playdowns. Griffin, 38, played in the mixed last year while Ingram twice competed at the Travelers Curling Club championship.

Like the players, Nunavut coach Susanne Martin was beaming after the victory.

"We came out to compete and to show that we know how to curl and we earned our spot here," she said. "We've done that, so we're so happy."

Martin, who lives in Ottawa, has curled with Blaney before and recommended her last summer. The new teammates played their first bonspiel together last October in the nation's capital and clicked right away.

"Our communication on the ice — it kind of felt like I knew these girls forever," Blaney said. "I was just so thrilled. They blindly went into having me on board and I think it's phenomenal."

Blaney, who works as an analyst for Canada Border Services Agency, made the trip north for the three-team territorial playdowns in December.

An avid curling fan, she'd normally be watching the Scotties from home.

Instead she was taking in the moment Saturday as the bagpipes played before the athletes marched into Centre 200 for the opening ceremony. Surrounded by curling's elite players — Jennifer Jones, Rachel Homan, Chelsea Carey and others — made it a memory to cherish.

"You're mingling and hanging out with people that you see on TV every other week," Blaney said. "You grew up watching them or you're extremely familiar with them. You're rubbing elbows with these people. You're one of them.

"It is mind-boggling. It's absolutely crazy."

Showdown with Homan next

Up next is a Sunday morning matchup against the top-ranked Homan.

"Never mind the No. 1 women's team in the world, she's the No. 1 team in the world — Rachel Homan," Blaney said. "It's very humbling. It's very exciting. We just want to give them a good run for their money."

Homan and her Ontario rink opened with a 6-4 win over Northern Ontario's Krista McCarville. Alberta's Chelsea Carey edged Manitoba's Tracy Fleury 7-6 and British Columbia's Sarah Wark scored four in the 10th end for a 7-6 win over Nova Scotia's Jill Brothers.

In the late draw, Team Canada's Jones beat Saskatchewan's Robyn Silvernagle 6-5 and wild card Casey Scheidegger dumped Yukon's Nicole Baldwin 10-2.

WATCH | Jennifer Jones' Team Canada rink slips past Saskatchewan:

Jennifer Jones took a close 6-5 decision for Team Canada over Saskatchewan at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. 1:10

As well, Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt walloped Kelli Sharpe of Newfoundland and Labrador 14-3 and Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories topped Andrea Crawford of New Brunswick 11-5.

Three draws are scheduled for Sunday. Play continues through Feb. 24.

Follow along as CBC Sports' Devin Heroux reports live from the tournament:

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