So the NWT missed the playoffs at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. It’s happened before.

Kerry Galusha and her rink of Shona Barbour, Sarah Koltun, Jo-Ann Rizzo and Stacey Stabel weren’t able to advance to the championship round of the 2020 edition of the Canadian women’s curling championship in Moose Jaw Sask., finishing pool play with a record of two wins and five losses.

Kerry Galusha delivers from the hack during action at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., on Feb. 17.
Andrew Klaver/Curling Canada photo

But even though Galusha and company missed out, there was one thing which was different than missing out last year.

“It’s a better feeling than being 3-and-1 and then losing your next three to miss it,” said Galusha.

She’s referring to the 2019 edition of the Scotties, where the NWT won three of their first four games and were in the driver’s seat for a championship round place only to lose their next three straight to miss out by one game.

So what did this year’s performance come down to? Galusha said the ladies simply couldn’t play well as a team.

“You need all four playing well at the same time,” she said. “There were games where Shona and I were playing well and then others where Sarah and Jo-Ann were playing well. You can’t win on your own.”

The ladies started with two losses to B.C. and Nova Scotia to open things up but bounced back with two big wins over Newfoundland and Labrador and Yukon to even things up at the midway point.

That game against Newfoundland and Labrador saw the NWT dominate from start to finish in a 14-2 romp, a game in which they stole 10 of their points.

“We were in total control of both of those games,” said Galusha. “Newfoundland didn’t play their best and Yukon came back against us but we played really well. We were getting better as the week went on.”

The ladies would lose their final three games to the wild card team of Jennifer Jones, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

Overall, Galusha said it was a tough week not only for her side but for others.

“It was long,” she said. “We had back-to-back games and we haven’t had that in a while and that’s tough. You play in the evening draw and you’re right back on the ice the next morning. That’s hard to do, especially when you’re playing that many games.”

The team’s line-up was different than it was from earlier in the season as Rizzo ended up throwing fourth stones instead of Galusha. Galusha threw second stones in place of Rizzo while Koltun, who normally holds the broom for the final rocks of an end, had to sweep the final stones while Galusha held the broom and Rizzo threw. Barbour maintained her position the entire time.

The change was prompted by a nagging upper leg injury Galusha had been suffering from for several weeks but Galusha said the leg held up well in Moose Jaw.

“It surprised me how well it was,” she said. “We changed up the rotation in Hay River (NWT Women’s Curling Championship) but we just didn’t have enough time together to work on it to be ready. It’s a game of practice and we just weren’t ready for it.”

The Scotties was the final event of the season for the team and it was also the final event for Barbour, who announced earlier this week that she was stepping away from the sport to take some time off. What that means for the team itself is still up in the air but Galusha is hopeful the team can stick together.

“We’ll start searching for a new lead but they have to be from the NWT because we have Jo-Ann as our out-of-territory player,” she said. “Jo-Ann and Sarah are such great teammates and I hope we can stick together.”

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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