The Big Three is down to one.
Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, Ottawa’s Rachel Homan and Edmonton’s Val Sweeting have been the dominant skips in Canadian women’s curling for the past few seasons, but only the Manitoba star will be playing at this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Grande Prairie, Alta., after a surprising Sunday.
Homan, the world’s top team by a wide margin this season, lost 10-8 to fellow Ottawan Jenn Hanna in the Ontario final in Brampton. Meanwhile, No. 3 Sweeting dropped an 8-5 decision to Manitoba transfer and fellow top-five Canadian skip Chelsea Carey in the Alberta final in Calgary.
What’s more, the No. 5-ranked skip in Canada this season — Sudbury’s Tracy Fleury — lost 8-4 to Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville in the Northern Ontario final in Timmins.
So, the nationals will feature just two of the top five teams in the country — reigning champion and No. 2 Jones as Team Canada and No. 4 Carey.
For critics of the current national championship format, this will be ammunition for their arguments. But others will say it’s the beauty of the provincial-playdown scenario — as one loss at the wrong time can change the entire tone of a season.
Love it or hate it, it sure was dramatic.
Oh baby, what a wild day for Ontario curling.
Hanna and McCarville — two skips coming off lengthy layoffs while raising young kids and focusing on their jobs — pulled off upsets.
Hanna’s win over Homan, of course, was the far bigger surprise. But coming into the week, Fleury had to be considered a favourite in Northern Ontario after her steady climb over the past couple of years.[…]