Nova Scotia’s Black steals into final four at Canadian women’s curling championship

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Christina Black’s opportunistic Nova Scotia curling team stole its way into the final four at the Canadian women’s curling championship Friday.

Black won back-to-back playoff games by stealing a point in an extra end.

Her Dartmouth Curling Club foursome eliminated three-time champion Rachel Homan of Ontario with a 7-6 victory.

Nova Scotia joined defending champion Kerri Einarson, Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones and Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville among teams still in contention at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kamloops, B.C.

Black stole a point in the 11th end to beat Kaitlyn Lawes’ wild-card team 7-6 in the morning tiebreaker.

Black’s larceny also got her to that tiebreaker as Nova Scotia stole one in the 10th end the previous evening to get by Quebec 7-6.

“That’s our third straight steal to win a game in must-win games,” Black said. “We’re a team that never gives up. We know we’ve won lots of different ways. Just have to stay in it until the end, give ourselves a chance and make her throw her last rock.

“I feel there’s a little bit of curling gods on our side helping us out.”

The skip’s drawing ability has forced her opposing counterparts into low percentage shots on their final throws.

Black’s freeze to an Ontario stone just below the pin with another Nova Scotia counter higher in the rings had Homan throwing a double takeout for the win.

Homan’s attempt jammed and left Nova Scotia as shot stone.

“We had a double and missed it,” the Ontario skip said. “We didn’t think it would fall that much there.”

Six-time Canadian champion Jones ousted the host province with an 8-3 win over B.C.’s Clancy Grandy, who shook hands after nine ends.

“It’s a pretty crazy format, so I’m pretty happy to be in the final four,” Jones said.

Curling Canada has tinkered with the national championship format in recent years.

Jones didn’t compete in last year’s Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., because she represented Canada in Beijing’s Olympic Games.

While Black brings new blood to the upper level of Canadian women’s curling, so has Jones with her four new teammates this season all under the age of 25 reaching the final four for the first time.

Jones employed a five-player rotation this season to play more games than any other women’s foursome at 88.

“We’ve worked hard,” the 46-year-old skip said. “It’s really nice to have the opportunity to play on the weekend. That’s what you come here for. When you win that game … it really is the craziest game I think I’ve ever played in.”

Black and Jones ensured they will play in Saturday’s Page playoff with their victories.

Jones was to face Einarson and Black was to continue her day’s curling marathon against McCarville on Friday evening to determine Page seedings.

“Before that game, I said ‘maybe we’ll get to play 33 ends today’ and we’re on track,” Black said.

In the Page playoff, the top two seeds meet Saturday evening with the victor earning an express ticket to Sunday’s final.

The loser drops to Sunday’s semifinal to face the winner of the three-four game Saturday afternoon.

Black went 5-3 and lost out in the round-of-six playoffs to McCarville in her debut skipping Nova Scotia in Thunder Bay.

She’d apprenticed under Marianne Arsenault, who was a five-time champion front-end player with Colleen Jones, and reached the Hearts semifinal playing third for Arsenault in 2018.

“I had three Scotties appearances with Marianne,” Black said. “If you’re going to learn the game from someone, like a five-time champion, she’s amazing.

“I always imagined myself skipping in the Scotties. Once she left (Nova Scotia), it was time for me to step up and skip.”

The expressive Black doesn’t hide her emotions on the ice.

“Yeah, I don’t have a good poker face,” the 35-year-old said.

Grandy defeated Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges 8-3 in Friday’s tiebreaker before falling to Jones.

“Definitely some disappointment because we know we were capable of a bit more during that game,” Grandy said. “This is our first year together as a team and our first Scotties.

“Getting the chance to be the home team here and have that extra little bit of pressure I think was a really good thing for our team moving forward.”

The Hearts winner represents Canada at the world championship March 18-26 in Sandviken, Sweden, and returns to the 2024 national championship in Calgary as the defending champion.

The victor also earns $108,000 from a total prize purse of $300,000 and is eligible for Sport Canada “carding”‘ money as part of Curling Canada’s national-team program.

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