It’s no secret Team Galusha has been on a roll this season.
Until their quarter-final loss at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard earlier this month, Kerry Galusha and her rink of Jo-Ann Rizzo, Sarah Koltun and Margot Flemming had reeled off 11 consecutive wins to that point. But there’s a much bigger test coming up in a few days time and it will determine whether the ladies get the chance to compete for one of the biggest prizes in Canadian curling.
The Home Hardware Curling Pre-Trials get underway in Liverpool, N.S., this coming Monday and Team Galusha will be one of 14 teams in the women’s field looking to earn one of the last two spots up for grabs for the Tim Hortons Curling Trials in Saskatoon next month. Galusha and company qualified for this stage by winning one of the two spots at the Canadian Curling Pre-Trials Direct Entry Event in Ottawa late last month.
The set-up is similar to what the Scotties Tournament of Hearts looks like with the 14 rinks split into two pools of seven for the round-robin. Galusha’s pool consists of Corryn Brown, Beth Peterson, Jestyn Murphy, Krista McCarville, Penny Barker and Jacqueline Harrison.
“We’ve played all of them before,” said Galusha on Wednesday. “We played Harrison for the first time in Oakville (earlier this month). It’s like a mini-Scotties in a way because there are so many good teams.”
Only the top three teams will advance to the playoff round with the first and second-placed teams getting the benefit of a second life should they lose their first playoff game. The third-placed team gets just the one life and needs to keep on winning in order to stay in it.
Does it matter to Galusha where the team finishes? Absolutely not, she said.
“Top-three is the goal and we’ll just claw our way through, if we get in,” she said. “All of the teams are so even, you could have this the following week and have two different teams qualify. We want to get off to a good start and give ourselves a chance.”
The games will be held on arena ice, just like it was in Ottawa, and Galusha said getting used to arena ice early on has always been a banana peel in the past.
“It takes us a bit to get used to it but we played four games in arena ice in Ottawa,” she said. “We just have to adjust quicker.”
The ladies will get going on Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. MST against Brown and that seems to be the time where they will be playing most of their round-robin games. To prepare for the early wake-ups, Shona Barbour, the team’s coach, has been making sure the ladies get up at 5 a.m. and begin their day.
“We have to start getting used to Nova Scotia time (Atlantic),” said Galusha with a laugh. “It’s all about preparing our bodies as best as we can. It’s doing the little things before we go to get us used to what we’ll have to do.”
With the ice finally in at the Yellowknife Curling Centre, that means the ladies here in town — Galusha, Koltun and Flemming; Rizzo is in Ontario as the out-of-territory player — can get in some practice. The only drawback? It’s one woman per sheet for the present time due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“We’ve been able to throw on our own but it’s not ideal because I can’t hold the broom for them,” said Galusha. “It’s better than nothing and we’ve been out there almost every day — we had a day off (Wednesday) so that was good. We don’t want to wear ourselves out before we go.”
The ladies are also working from home at the present time so that helps with the on-ice prep, she added.
There is genuine excitement among the ladies, said Galusha, as this will be the first time almost everyone will experience something like this. Rizzo is the exception as she’s been through the process before as third for Ontario’s Sherry Middaugh at the 2013 Olympic trials. Middaugh ended up losing in the final to Jennifer Jones of Manitoba that year.
“We are so excited for this chance,” said Galusha. “It would be crazy if we won a spot and you never know how it’s going to turn out but we’re just focused on the pre-trials. We want to build on what we’ve done in the past four weeks together and bring it all together.”