GIMLI — Abby Ackland is unbeaten at this year’s Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts and she’s one victory shy of helping her Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club squad earn at least a tiebreaker at women’s provincials.
Then again, she’s only played one game — a 7-3 triumph over Dauphinite Lisa Hale (1-5) during Draw 12 action at the Gimli Recreation Centre on Friday evening. That win improved Ackland’s record to 4-2 heading into their Asham Group finale against Rebecca Lamb (1-5) and her foursome out of the Stonewall Curling Club.
“We had our goals set high for sure,” Ackland told The Interlake Spectator. “We came into it hoping to win certain games and we’ve accomplished that and I never doubted the girls for a minute. I think we all were hoping to be in this position so we’re ready to bring our A-game and bring it home
The 2016 Manitoba junior women’s champion skip was absent for her team’s first fives games of the competition because she was busy with paramedic training for the City of Winnipeg.
In her place, fifth Brandi Forrest jumped in and skipped the first three games alongside lead Sara Oliver of Marquette, second Emilie Rafnson and third Hailey Ryan. Meghan Walter, who helped Manitoba win the national mixed championship alongside Oliver at the Fort Rouge Curling Club in Winnipeg in November, was used from the spare pool in a 10-2 victory over Joelle Brown (2-4) in Draw 10 action on Friday.
That win included a seven-ender in the third for Team Ackland.
“They did really well, I never doubted it for a second,” Ackland said. “My team has really good skill. We’re a young team but we bring a lot of support for each other and knowledge in different ways because we have been on arena ice before.
Ackland sits behind Beth Peterson (5-1) and Camp Morton’s Kerri Einarson (5-1), who rebounded from an 8-5 loss to three-time provincial women’s champion Barb Spencer in Draw 10 with a 9-6 win over Allison Flaxey in Draw 12.
With the loss, Flaxey (3-3) was eliminated from playoff contention.
Spencer, 52, pulled off the biggest victory of the week so far, knocking off 2016 champion Einarson and her Gimli Curling Club squad on the strength of three in the second end and a key stolen point in the sixth.
“Any time you score three it’s big in a game, but we still knew it was going to be a battle,” Spencer said. “They’re a great team and we knew that they were going to put the pressure on us, which they did.”
“We came out and we played like we can, and we know that we have a good enough team,” she continued. “We just don’t play enough games during the year, so it puts us at a disadvantage but definitely the girls can make shots.”
Despite downing Einarson, Spencer’s playoff hopes were dashed in the evening draw with a 12-2 loss to Assiniboine Memorial clubmate Peterson, which dropped her to 3-3.
There’s a chance this will be her last Scotties.
“I love this game and I’m very passionate about it, but I also had some (pelvic) surgery a couple of years back, which caused some back problems for me and some knee problems,” Spencer added. “I’ve been struggling but working with a physiotherapist and it’s been getting a little better. I’m hoping that I may be able to curl again next year but I don’t know. I don’t want to risk my health for the game even though I love it.”
Lamb picked up her first win of the event on Friday, knocking off Hale 11-7, but she couldn’t string together a second victory, giving up eight stolen points in dropping a 10-4 decision to Brown.
It’s been a tough week for the Sandy Hook product, losing her first four games by a combined score of 31-13.
“We weren’t playing so well earlier in the week but this game (against Hale) we played better and it made it a lot more fun, being able to compete,” Lamb said.
As the other hometown favourite — Lamb works in Gimli — it’s been an enjoyable second Scotties appearance at women’s provincials for the 22-year-old. She went 2-5 last year in Killarney.
“It’s been really good. The host committee has been awesome taking care of us and it’s been nice to be able to go back home and rest in between games,” Lamb said. “It’s nice seeing people we know and going through the crowd and just being able to say hi. Playing in front of the home crowd is also really cool.”
The only team that has clinched a spot in the new playoff format, which features the top four teams regardless of group, is led by last year’s finalist Darcy Robertson and includes second Vanessa Foster of Arborg.
Their Assiniboine Memorial squad is 6-0 after earning a 5-3 win over Miami’s Jennifer Clark-Rouire (3-3) in Draw 9 and backing it up with a thrilling 9-8 win in 11 ends over Tracy Fleury from the East St. Paul Curling Club.
“That was a tough game again and it feels awesome,” Robertson said. “This is where we want to be, this is what we worked hard for all year is to get to this point.”
Fleury and company were unflappable early, jumping out to 5-2 lead after six ends, but after scoring a deuce in the seventh, Robertson stole two more in the eighth when Fleury came up light on a draw.
The Sudbury, Ont., product rebounded in nine with a terrific in-off shot to score two to retake the lead, electrifying the crowd.
Robertson hit for a single in 10 and forced Fleury to make a tough shot with her last stone in the extra, one which required not one but two measurements. In fact, the umpire pointed to Fleury’s yellow stone on the first measuremet and then to Robertson’s red stone on the second.
“I actually wanted my last shot deeper into the top four foot and then we thought she would have a hard shot trying to get to the button, but I was a little light unfortunately,” Robertson admitted. “She had a couple of shots to make — either a draw or a hit — she chose the hit, but they were both difficult shots.”
Fleury stands at 5-1 and can still clinch a playoff berth with a win over Clark-Rouire on Saturday morning, while Robertson will be into the 1-2 Page playoff game if she defeats Kristy Watling (3-3).
If there are three teams tied at 6-1 at the end of pool play, a cumulative draw to the button from pool play — prior to each game — will determine which two teams will play in the 1-2 game, with the other one having to play in the 3-4 game.
Playoff action begins Saturday at 7:45 p.m., with a tiebreaker, if necessary, taking place at 4 o’clock.