And the freight train known as Team Galusha rolls on through another stop and this one had some rather lofty ramifications attached to it.
In the end, the ladies got it done in the least amount of games possible.
Kerry Galusha and her rink of Jo-Ann Rizzo, Margot Flemming and Sarah Koltun are off to the next round of qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympics after securing one of the two automatic spots up for grabs at the Canadian Curling Pre-Trials Direct Entry Event in Ottawa on Saturday. The ladies beat Jessie Hunkin of Saskatchewan by a score of 9-8 in an extra end to guarantee themselves a place in the Home Hardware Curling Pre-Trials in Liverpool, N.S., next month.
“We’re happy, tired but happy,” said Galusha on Monday. “We did it in the least number of games and we’re all just really happy to get that spot.”
It was a triple-knockout event that began on Sept. 20 with each of the eight rinks in contention getting three chances to move on to play for the two spots on the line for Liverpool. Galusha began in the opening draw on the 20th against B.C.’s Sarah Wark and won rather handily, 10-4, thanks to steals in the third and fourth ends of play followed by a four-spot with the hammer in the seventh.
Next up was Ashley Howard of Saskatchewan the following day, which was a 9-4 victory for the good guys. The seventh end again was the difference as Galusha stole three to put Howard on the back foot and she eventually shook hands after the eighth end.
“We expected (those games) to be a bit closer,” said Galusha. “It’s September curling and some of the teams may still be working out the kinks but we probably had the jump on them because we already had two weeks of games.”
Hunkin was the opposition in the A bracket final on Friday and it was a tale of two games. Galusha jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the fourth — three points coming by way of theft — but Hunkin battled her was back into the game and got it back to 6-3 by the ninth. Hunkin did steal in the 10th but it was only for two as Galusha hung on for the 6-5 win and a place in the playoff round.
Galusha said it looked a lot worse than the final score would indicate.
“We were never in any trouble (in the 10th),” she said. “All Jo-Ann had to do was take out one of the three rocks Hunkin had in the house and that was enough.”
Hunkin had to come through the B bracket and would get one of those playoff spots courtesy of an 11-3 win over Kaitlyn Jones of Manitoba on Saturday to set up the rematch with Galusha.
Galusha went into the final with the hammer but it would be Hunkin who would steal first blood with a deuce in the second following a blank in the first. Galusha got that back with three in the third to take a 3-2 lead before Hunkin re-took the lead with a deuce in the fourth. She would extend that lead to 5-3 by stealing a single in the fifth.
Galusha tied things up at 5-5 with two in the sixth with the hammer before stealing two of her own in the seventh to go up, 7-5. Both teams traded singles in the eighth and ninth but Hunkin would guarantee herself at least another end of curling by scoring two in the 10th to make it 8-8.
The big shot in the extra end came courtesy of Rizzo, who made a runback double with her first fourth stone of the 11th to clear things up and leave Galusha lying one. Hunkin then drew around that stone to lie one in the four-foot but Rizzo was able to pick that rock out and give her rink the single it needed to win.
Galusha said Rizzo was the star of the show in a game where one missed shot could’ve made all the difference.
“She made some unbelievable shots and really stepped up for us,” she said. “If one team missed a shot, the other would jump on it and I’m just so happy Jo-Ann kept us in it.”
If you’re keeping score, that makes two tournament wins in a row for Galusha and company on their Ontario swing, following up on their win at the KW Fall Classic in Ontario the weekend prior. The ladies are now taking a short breather before heading back out on the road to Ontario for the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard, which gets underway on Oct. 8.
Galusha said the thought of pulling out of that event was but a fleeting one as there’s still no way to practice before then.
“I would love some more rest but the ice still won’t be in at the (Yellowknife) curling club,” she said. “We want to get some more throws in before Nova Scotia and the ladies here wouldn’t be able to do that with no ice here.”
As for the pre-trial event in Nova Scotia, Galusha said she knows her rink will be a darkhorse outfit but she still wants to go out and play well.
“It’s all about being ready for that,” she said. “We want to give ourselves a chance and it also gives us some more time on arena ice, which is good if we get to play at the Scotties (Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont.). We’ve had so many messages from people in the North and all over Canada and it’s amazing to see and read that.”