Fleury rallies past Einarson for Scotties victory

Provincial women's curling champions Tracy Fleury (from left), Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish celebrate winning the 2019 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts after defeating team Gimli's Kerri Einarson 13-7 in the final at the Gimli Recreation Centre on Sunday, Jan. 27. Brook Jones / Interlake/Spectator

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GIMLI — An early 5-1 lead for hometown favourite Kerri Einarson wasn’t nearly enough as she lost a wild Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts final 13-7 to fellow skip Tracy Fleury and her East St. Paul Curling Club squad on Sunday afternoon.

Einarson looked in control at the Gimli Recreation Centre after a quiet tap back for five in the second end gave her Gimli foursome, which includes Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Meilleur, a 5-1 lead in the provincial women’s championship final.

“Not an ideal start but if you are going to give up a big end you want it early in the game, so we knew we still had lots of time to fight back and we did that,” Fleury said.

“We’ve all been playing this game for a while and it’s not the first time we’ve given up an early lead, so you learn from it and just try to stay calm and just focus on your shot making. They earned that five, they made a lot of precision hit and rolls that end and put a lot of pressure on us.”

East St. Paul Curling Club skip Tracy Fleury (second from right) is embraced by second Liz Fyfe after defeating Kerri Einarson’s Gimli Curling Club team in the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts final at the Gimli Recreation Centre on Sun., Jan. 27. Kevin King / Postmedia Network

Fleury, who is from Sudbury, Ont., and Einarson’s former teammates Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish started their comeback with an open hit for two in the third end, then held Einarson to a single in the fourth before Fleury drew into the eight-foot area for three in the fifth to pull even, 6-6.

“I think that three in five was a big momentum shift for us,” Fleury added. “Definitely as the game went on we learned the ice more and the shot making improved.”

She grabbed an 8-6 advantage when Einarson came up light on a final-stone draw in the sixth end.

After Einarson —who reached the final with a commanding 11-4 semifinal win over Assiniboine Memorial skip Darcy Robertson, third Karen Klein, second Vanessa Foster of Arborg and lead Theresa Cannon earlier in the day — settled for a single in the seventh end, she was unable to stay in house with her last stone in eight. Fleury comfortably drew for a deuce and a 10-7 lead.

“It happens. We got a five but it was early and I knew we had to keep at it,” Einarson said. “We just kind of struggled with draw weight a little bit, got a little patchy here and there.”

Gimli Curling Club skip Kerri Einarson calls line during the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts final against Tracy Fleury’s East St. Paul foursome at the Gimli Recreation Centre on Sunday, Jan. 27. Brook Jones / Interlake Spectator

Fleury capped the scoring with a steal of three in the ninth when Einarson was wide and heavy trying to draw for one.

It’s the second Manitoba Scotties title for Njegovan, Fyfe and MacCuish, who teamed up with Einarson to win the 2016 edition in Beausejour, and the first for Fleury. She, however, has made three previous trips to nationals with Ontario (2012) and Northern Ontario (2015 and 2018).

Both Fleury and Einarson are headed to next month’s national Scotties in Sydney, N.S., although Einarson must win the wildcard game against an opponent yet to be determined in order to earn the last qualifying squad for the 16-team field.

The national Scotties runs from Feb. 16 to 24.