By Martin Cleary
One way or another, Rachel Homan and her elite curling team were going to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women’s championship Feb. 17-26 in Kamloops, B.C.
Homan had two options to qualify for her ninth Canadian women’s championship since 2011 and the Ottawa Curling Club athlete put check marks beside both of them.
Homan could either win the Ontario Scotties title, which concluded Sunday in Port Elgin, or, if that didn’t happen, she could use her free pass from Curling Canada, as the national sport governing body wants the top three squads that don’t win provincial or territorial titles slotted into the draw.
Entering the Ontario championship with a ticket to nationals in her back pocket as the second-ranked Canadian team on the world points ranking list, Homan double qualified for the Canadian Scotties by winning her record-extending seventh provincial crown.
Homan, whose rink is completed by skip/third Tracy Fleury, second Emma Miskew and lead Sarah Wilkes, accomplished the feat in impressive fashion with a 7-1 overall win-loss record.
After winning pool A with a round-robin record of 4-1, Homan scored a pair of cross-over game victories to qualify automatically for the final and open the championship game with the hammer. Homan held control of the final from the first end as she defeated 2018 champion Hollie Duncan of the Woodstock Curling Club 9-2 in eight ends.
In her first eight Scotties national championships, Homan won the title in 2017, 2014 and 2013, and has finished second the last three times the Canadians were staged – 2021, 2020 and 2019.
Homan scored two in the first end of the Ontario final, but Duncan responded with one in the second. After blanking the third end, Homan struck for three in the fourth and one in the sixth before stealing one and two in the seventh and eighth ends respectively to put an early end to the final.
It was the 12th time Homan and Duncan had met on the ice and the former holds a 10-2 advantage.
Duncan needed to defeat Carly Howard of the Mississauga Golf and Country Club 6-5 and Danielle Inglis of the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club 8-7 in playoff elimination games to reach the championship game.
Inglis, third Kira Brunton, second Cheryl Kreviazak and lead Cassandra de Groot matched Homan’s win-loss record of 4-1 in pool A and 6-1 after the cross-overs, but lost in the semifinals. Lauren Mann of the Arnprior Curling Club also was in pool A, placing fifth at 1-4.
Homan has played 47 games in the 2022-23 season and has a win-loss record of 38-9.
The Ottawa Valley curling community also has seen four other local skips win the Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts – Jenn Hanna, Ottawa Curling Club, 2005, 2016; Anne Merklinger, Rideau Curling Club, 1998, 1994, 1993; Dawn Ventura, R.A. Centre, 1976, 1974; and Isobel Munro, Arnprior Curling Club, 1973.
While Homan was winning her way to nationals, four-time world champion Craig Savill of Ottawa was trying to help skip Adam Casey win the Prince Edward Island men’s championship and Russell Curling Club Bryan Cochrane was attempting to recapture the title for the first time in three years.
But both rinks reached three losses in the triple-knockout competition before they could qualify for the playoff rounds.
Savill played third for Adams, who skipped P.E.I. championship teams in 2016 and 2015. The Adams’ rink finished with a 3-3 record.
Cochrane, who was the P.E.I. champion in 2020, Ian MacAulay, Eddie MacKenzie, a seven-time P.E.I. men’s champion, and Jeremy MacAulay had a good run, but stopped at 5-3.
CARLETON CAGERS WIN TWO EACH, GEE-GEES SPLIT GAMES
It was an up-and-down weekend for the No. 1-ranked men’s and women’s basketball teams in the country.
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s team (13-2) needed overtime to edge cellar-dweller Ontario Tech University Ridgebacks (2-13) 85-84. But in a rare Sunday night game, No. 4 Queen’s University Gaels (14-2) dominated the middle of the game to upset the Gee-Gees 76-62.
On the women’s side, No. 5-ranked Carleton University Ravens (15-2) handed the poor shooting No. 1 Queen’s squad its first loss of the OUA season by a 64-32 margin. But the Gaels (15-1) rebounded in dramatic fashion Sunday and led from start to finish for a 70-58 victory over the No. 4 Gee-Gees (15-2).
The Gee-Gees men’s team trailed at each of the first three quarter breaks, forced overtime and narrowly posted a one-point win against the Ridgebacks.
Guillaume Pepin played 40 minutes and paced the Gee-Gees with 26 points and nine rebounds. Josh Inkumsah had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. During Dragan Stajic’s 43 minutes on the court, he posted 16 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
The Gee-Gees’ only shot 27.5 per cent from the field and were no match for Queen’s over the final three quarters. Queen’s was impressive in the second quarter, outscoring the Gee-Gees 28-12 for a 12-point halftime lead of 43-31.
Kevin Otoo led the Gee-Gees with 14 points, while Cole Newton and Pepin earned 12 points each.
No. 3 Carleton recorded one of its biggest wins of the men’s season, defeating Queen’s 103-89 as the Ravens’ only two senior players accounted for almost half of their points.
Fourth-year guard Aiden Warnholtz sparked the Ravens with 28 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 35 minutes. He hit six of 10 three-point shots. Fifth-year power forward Grant Shephard played only 23 minutes, but before he fouled out he scored 21 points, including making 10 of 12 free throws, and added 11 rebounds.
Carleton had a game-breaking 28-point third quarter en route to an 86-73 win over Ontario Tech. The Ravens led 41-40 at halftime, but outscored the Ridgebacks 28-10 in the third quarter.
Warnholtz notched 36 points, and Shephard counted 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Queen’s guard Julia Chadwick of Ottawa, the OUA women’s player of the week for the period ending Jan. 22, had a rather strange weekend.
She managed only two points, but a healthy 11 rebounds, as Queen’s connected on only 18 per cent of its field-goal attempts and was upset by Carleton. Kali Pocrnic hit 10 of 12 free throws and finished with 18 points for the Ravens and Oceane Kounkou scored 13 points.
But Chadwick bounced back with a 17-point, 17-rebound and four-block shot performance in Queen’s win over Ottawa. Brianna Iannazzo led the Gee-Gees with 20 points, while Natsuki Szczokin added 14 points.
The Gee-Gees opened the weekend with an 88-44 decision over Ontario Tech as Melina De Iulio hit five of her six field-goal attempts, including her only three-point shot, and all nine free throws for 20 points. Oksana Gouchie-Provencher registered 15 points and eight rebounds.
Jacqueline Urban scored 16 points and pulled down 13 rebounds as Carleton defeated Ontario Tech 63-53. Urban finished the weekend with 21 points and 25 rebounds. Teresa Donato added 13 points.
KIERAN CRAIG’S GOAL GIVES RAVENS OVERTIME HOCKEY WIN
Carleton University Ravens improved their OUA men’s East Division record to 12-8-2-1 with a 5-4 overtime win over the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.
Parker Aucoin, the No. 2 OUA point scorer, scored the tying goal midway through the third period and assisted on Kieran Craig’s game-winning marker at 5:32 of overtime. Nick McCarry, Brogan O’Brien and Alex Johnston scored Carleton’s other goals.
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees finished the home portion of their OUA regular-season schedule with a 3-1 win over Queen’s University Gaels. Adam Kim, Jean-Robin Mantha and Max Grondin scored for the Gee-Gees.
In RSEQ women’s hockey, Ottawa pushed its win streak to four games, defeating Concordia University Stingers 3-2 for the first time this season and Bishop’s University Gaiters 3-1.
Kylie Lalonde scored twice and Ariane Minville counted the other goal in the Gee-Gees’ win over Concordia. Goalkeeper Aurélie Dubuc, who helped Canada win a gold medal at the FISU World Winter University Games, faced 47 shots.
Abygail Moloughney contributed two goals and Beatrice Bilodeau added one in the Gee-Gees’ victory over Bishop’s.
Aoife Mahaffy, Hayden Semiuk and Lanie Guimond scored one goal each and goalkeeper Marie-Eve Cote earned the shutout as Carleton defeated McGill University Redbirds 3-0. In its Sunday game, Carleton lost 6-0 to Concordia.
EIGHTH-PLACE WORLD CUP RESULT FOR NORDIC SKIER ANTOINE CYR
Gatineau’s Antoine Cyr registered his third top-10 result on the World Cup circuit this month, when he placed eighth in a difficult men’s 20-kilometre mass-start classic race in Le Rousses, France.
Cyr, who earlier posted a fourth in a 15-kilometre mass-start race and a sixth in a Tour de Ski sprint earlier this month, finished in 50:07.5.
“I wanted to see where I was at before the world championships and I feel like I am in good shape,” a happy Cyr said. “It was a really, really hard course. There was one steep hill that was about a 25-per-cent grade. The rest of the course had long, gradual climbs and descents so it was quite tough.”
Meanwhile at the world junior cross-country skiing championships in Whistler, B.C., on Monday, Anna Stewart of Nakkertok Nordic was 34th in the women’s 20-kilometre mass-start classic in 1:07:27.8. She trailed the winner by 6:10.2.
In the men’s 20-kilometre mass-start classic, Nakkertok’s Luke Allan was the second Canadian in 36th at 57:46.3 or 4:40.6 behind the champion.
The championships opened Saturday with the classic sprints for juniors, but three local skiers missed qualifying for the top 30 – Chelsea Nordiq’s Ry Prior was 31st, Allan was 34th and Stewart was 34th.
LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST
· Gatineau’s Alexis Guimond was the first skier down the men’s standing class downhill course and the bronze medallist at the end during the FIS para alpine world ski championships in Espot, Spain. “The strategy was to keep focused and to do my best skiing,” said Guimond, who was competing in his first world championship or Paralympic downhill. Guimond also was fourth in the giant slalom and fifth in the super-G.
· Driver Pat Norton of Ottawa made his debut at the world bobsleigh championships on the natural ice at St. Moritz, Switzerland, with a 16th-place finish in the two-man competition. Norton and brakeman Cyrus Gray, who were ninth in the third run, finished in four minutes, 25.79 seconds, which was 3.95 behind the winners.
· Three local players helped Canada improve on its finish from a week ago in World Rugby Sevens Series action. The Canadian women lost their three pool games (14-12 to USA, 19-5 to Great Britain and 34-7 Fiji) in Australia before rebounding to beat Spain 27-10 and Brazil 24-21 to claim ninth place. Ottawa’s Pam Buisa opened the tournament scoring for Canada, while Maddy Grant created Canada’s lone try against Great Britain and Olivia De Couvreur appeared in most games as a substitute.
· Teenager Matias Del Rio Reategui of Ottawa was a double winner at the Richmond Road Races, finishing as the overall and women’s champion in the five-kilometre race. She completed the snowy event in 18:50. The 10-kilometre champions were Scott Henry of Ottawa, 36:58, and Alexandra Hynes of Ottawa, 40:19.
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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