Scotties: Northern Ontario emerges from qualifying round
New qualification round makes debut to mixed reviews
Sarah Koltun's run at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts ended after about 11 hours.
Kerry Galusha lasted a little while longer before making her exit.
The two territorial skips did not make it out of the new qualification round that's being used at the national women's curling championship for the first time this year.
Northern Ontario's Tracy Horgan claimed the lone remaining berth in the 12-team main draw with a 7-6 win over Galusha's Northwest Territories rink in Saturday's qualification final at Mosaic Place.
Horgan will continue playing in the main round robin while Koltun and Galusha will be going home.
Early reviews of the new setup have been rather mixed. It was certainly difficult for the two territorial skips to come to terms with their departures just as the competition was getting started.
Koltun burst into tears shortly after her second straight loss on Friday night. Galusha was also emotional after her elimination a day later.
"We weren't loving it coming in," Galusha said of the new format. "But you know what, we're excited to be here. So many other teams would kill to be here and fighting for the chance to get out of (qualification) and into the Scotties.
"I consider ourselves lucky to even be here and have that chance."
Horgan, meanwhile, had little time to savour her accomplishment. She grabbed a quick bite to eat and then had to get ready for her main-draw opener against Alberta's Val Sweeting.
"I think the biggest feeling is just relief," Horgan said. "These past few days have been kind of emotionally draining."
Horgan picked up two singles late in her evening game but Sweeting scored one in the 10th end for a 6-4 win.
The new qualification setup created a few awkward moments.
Galusha and Koltun started their game Friday while the other three sheets of ice were being used for a skills competition. Instructions and results were broadcast through the arena while the high-pressure game was ongoing.
There was even a rare curling heckler in the crowd. One spectator voiced his displeasure that the teams in the qualifier weren't able to participate in the skills competition.
The main-draw curlers left the rink well before the completion of the qualification game, which went to an extra end. The game didn't wrap until after the start of the traditional pre-tournament banquet at a nearby hotel.
The two skips took a few questions from reporters before being hustled out of the arena to attend the function. One can only guess how Koltun was feeling as she attended a banquet for a tournament she was no longer a part of.
The setup changes are part of an effort to give all 14 member associations the chance to participate in the annual event.
Northern Ontario is making its Scotties debut and the territories have separate entries for the first time. Nunavut declined to participate.
Warren Hansen, the Canadian Curling Association's director of event operations, said the qualification format is necessary with a 12-team main draw.
"It's evolution and everything has to keep moving forward," Hansen said. "You can't stay stagnant. I mean there's probably a whole pile of other things we need to do going forward. But again, it will get all kinds of resistance. It's life."
In Draw 1 action, Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton opened with an 8-2 rout of B.C.'s Patti Knezevic, Canada's Rachel Homan topped Quebec's Lauren Mann 6-4 and Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault outscored Heather Strong of Newfoundland and Labrador 12-7.
Homan beat Lawton 6-3 in the evening draw while Manitoba's Jennifer Jones held off Ontario's Julie Hastings 7-5. Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt defeated New Brunswick's Sylvie Robichaud 8-2.
Announced attendance at the 5,000-seat venue was 3,492 for the afternoon draw and 3,687 in the evening. Organizers were quite pleased with those numbers given the bitter cold and whiteout conditions outside.