Top seeds perfect on Scotties Day 1

Skip Tracy Fleury, from the East St. Paul Curling Club, looks on after delivering a rock during Draw 2 action at the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Gimli Recreation Centre on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Nathan Liewicki / Postmedia Network

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GIMLI — The opening day of the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts is in the books with the top-five seeds all finishing play with perfect 2-0 records.

The top two seeds in the Asham Express Group are 2-0. Second-seeded Tracy Fleury and her foursome from the East St. Paul Curling Club bounced Brandon’s Tiffany McLean 8-2 in Draw 2 before knocking off East St. Paul product Laura Burtnyk (0-2) and her team from Assiniboine Memorial by the same score in the evening draw.

Curling at women’s provincials isn’t new to Fleury as the 32-year-old skip has been to several, albeit in Ontario and Northern Ontario. Fleury represented Ontario at the 2012 national Scotties and Northern Ontario at Canadians in 2015 and again last year.

“It’s a different province, but it has a similar vibe to the Ontario Scotties, which I used to play in before the Northern Ontario Scotties,” Fleury told The Interlake Spectator. “I feel comfortable and I feel like we have the crowd on our side here.”

Were there any nerves for the Sudbury, Ont., native?

“No, I don’t think any nerves, at least not yet anyways,” Fleurry added. “We feel like we came out pretty strong today, put a lot of pressure on the other teams and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Darcy Robertson could be Fleury’s stiffest competition in group play. Her Assiniboine Memorial foursome, which includes Arborg’s Vanessa Foster at second, dropped the 2018 Manitoba Scotties final in Killarney on a 10th-end beauty by Jennifer Jones, are the No. 3 seed in Gimli.

Robertson and company doubled up Burtnyk 8-4 and followed that win up with a 10-4 triumph over McLean (0-2).

Foster didn’t think there were any opening-day nerves.

Second Vanessa Foster, from the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club, calls line during Draw 2 action at the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Gimli Recreation Centre on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Nathan Liewicki / Postmedia Network

“Not really … but it’s the first game of the Scotties and you’ve always got butterflies because it’s always a fantastic event,” she said. “There’s a little bit of nerves just because of that, but once you get out on the ice you kind of try and stay in your bubble and do your thing.”

She is enjoying the opportunity of playing close to home, just 30 or so minutes from Arborg.

“It’s a treat to be able to play close to home,” Foster added. “Usually we are three, four hours away, so to have family and people from work and people that have a quick half hour drive, 40-minute drive is really nice.”

The other four teams in the Asham Express Group all find themselves at 1-1.

Westmanites Alyssa Calvert and Terry Ursel evened their records with Draw 4 wins. Calvert topped Krsity Watling 7-3 after manufacturing four stolen points, and Ursel upended Jennifer Clark-Rouire of Miami 8-6. Earlier in the day, Watling bested Ursel 10-4, while Clark-Rouire was dominant in a 9-1 win over Calvert.

Kerri Einarson and her Gimli Curling Club teammates Val Sweeting (third), Shannon Birchard (second) and Briane Meilleur (lead) are one of three teams sitting tied atop the Asham Group standings. Einarson, who is from Camp Morton, began her quest for a second provincial women’s curling crown by knocking off Joelle Brown (0-2) — a late entry into the 16-team field after Manitoba junior women’s champion skip Mackenzie Zacharias withdrew because junior nationals are going on at the same time in Prince Albert, Sask. — 9-2 in Draw 1 and following that up with a 10-0 shutout over Sandy Hook’s Rebecca Lamb (0-2) and her team from Stonewall.

Joining Einarson is fourth-seeded Allison Flaxey, who needed a three-ender in the ninth to get past Brown (0-2) for an 8-7 victory in Draw 3 action. Flaxey and her Granite teammates Kate Cameron (third), Raylor McDonald (second) and Raunora Westcott (lead), had little trouble in her opening game, getting past Lamb 7-3.

Third Kate Cameron delivers a stone as her Granite Curling Club teammates Raunora Westcott (left) sweeps and Taylor McDonald look on during Draw 3 action at the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Gimli Recreation Centre on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Nathan Liewicki / Postmedia Network

The fifth-seeded Peterson, and her team from the Assiniboine Memorial in Winnipeg, got past Abby Ackland’s team 6-3 and later crushed Dauphinite Lisa Hale 12-2 on the strength of two four-enders.

Hale, the 16th seed, finds herself at 1-1 after Wednesday’s play at the Gimli Recreation Centre after her squad bounced veteran Barb Spencer 11-6 in Draw 1 courtesy of four in the eighth and four more in the ninth.

Skip Lisa Hale, from the Dauphin Curling Club, holds the broom during Draw 3 action at the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Gimli Recreation Centre on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Nathan Liewicki / Postmedia Network

Like Lamb and Brown, Spencer is 0-2 after she surrendered a key steal of three in a 9-7 loss to Team Ackland (1-1) in Draw 3.

Ackland, who features Sara Oliver of Marquette at lead, didn’t play in either of her team’s games — fifth Brandi Forrest skipped — was absent due to another commitment.

Draws 5 to 8 take place Thursday at 8:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 4 o’clock and 7:45, respectively.

The playoffs begin on Saturday, with the final set for Sunday at 3 p.m., and tickets can still be purchased at the door.

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