For the first time in three years, Stefanie Lawton will not be representing Saskatchewan at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts. They're being held this year in Grand Prairie, Alta. Feb 20-28.
Jolene Campbell’s Regina Highland rink pulled off a thrilling upset 7-4 over Lawton Sunday to win the 2016 Viterra Scotties Tournament of Hearts Women’s Championship at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club.
The Campbell team, consisting of vice-skip Ashley Howard, second Callan Hamon, lead Ashley Williamson and coach Russ Howard, was awarded the coveted green Team Saskatchewan jackets and tournament trophy.
Lawton has dominated the Saskatchewan Scotties in recent years, winning four titles since 2005. She had won both the 2014 and 2015 championships and had a 20-1 record since 2014 heading into Saturday’s final.
It looked like the Lawton team, featuring Trish Paulsen, Sherri Singler and Marliese Kasner, were going to three-peat after winning all six of their tournament games before Sunday’s final.
But Lawton had her hands full throughout the match. Campbell scored a three-ender in the third and added another deuce in the fifth for a commanding 5-1 lead at the five-end break. The provincial victory was Campbell's first in her career.
“It’s just emotional. This is my seventh or eighth ladies provincial,” said Campbell. “I’ve been to a lot of them, and just worked really hard at the game. It’s really exciting to earn a trip to the Scotties and to beat a great team. We played good all week. You’re tired, you’re excited and it’s emotional.”
Coach Russ Howard, Ashley's father and former Olympic gold and two-time Brier champion, said he was very impressed with the whole team, especially Campbell’s shot-making capabilities. In the ninth end Campbell made a very difficult double takeout to score one and extend her lead to the eventual 7-4 final score.
“The shot Jolene made in the ninth end—fearless,” said Howard. “If that curls that much more, it’s a tie game. She went for it and made it.
“I remember that feeling when I was at the best part of my game, you almost cheer for the other guy to make his shots because you know you’re going to make yours,” added Howard. “It’s nice to have that feeling and I think that’s the zone she’s in.”
Although it’s her first Saskatchewan Scotties victory, Campbell has already been to three national Scotties with Amber Holland’s rink as an alternate, including Holland’s Scotties gold in 2011.
“It was a great experience to go as a fifth player and I got some good playing time, but it’s not the same as going with your own crew and your own group of gals,” said Campbell. “Being out there on the ice every game is going to be amazing. I can’t wait.”
Because of the triple tiebreaker to settle Pool B, the page playoffs needed to be rescheduled.
That meant Campbell was required to play three matches on Sunday, beating Michelle Englot 7-5 in the A2-B2 draw in the morning and 6-4 over Silvernagle in the semifinals before the early evening finals.
Although they spent just about the whole day on the ice, that may have proven to be an advantage. Coach Howard pointed out that there wasn’t time for them to be nervous and they just had to keep making the next shot.
But the real advantage was they got to play all three of their Sunday games on Sheet 2. By the time the finals rolled around, they figured out every inch of the ice.
“I think we caught Stef a little off guard with the ice, we knew it better than they did. We should, we were on it for 12 hours,” chuckled Howard.
Howard will be there in Grande Prairie, but won’t be able to coach as he has announcing commitments with TSN. The team will find another coach to come and fill in, while Howard will try his best to be “a coaching consultant” while also being unbiased in his calls as well.
“It’s a darn nice problem to have,” laughed Howard.
On Twitter: @jeff_dandrea
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