It’s been a while since Kelli Sharpe curled in Canada’s national women’s championship, so it goes without saying the skip of Newfoundland and Labrador’s entry in this year’s edition of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts is a mixed bag of nervous anticipation and excitement.
“It’s been 11 years,” Sharpe said this week, before leaving for the 2019 Scotties which is in full swing today at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S. “And to be honest, we can’t wait to get going.”
Sharpe skips a team that includes vice-skip Stephanie Guzzwell, second Beth Hamilton and lead Carrie Vautour.
They won the provincial Scotties last month in St. John’s, beating Remax Centre (St. John’s Curling Club) clubmate Cathlia Ward 5-4 in the championship final.
The 2019 national Scotties championship marks only the second time in 25 years a skip not named Phillips, Cunningham, Strong or Devereaux has represented this province.
Stacie Curtis (Devereaux) curled in five Scotties, including the last three straight, Heather Strong in a dozen nationals, Cathy Cunningham in three straight from 2002-04 and Laura Phillips in a quartet from 1994-97.
Only Sharpe and Shelley Nichols in 2010 have managed to join the group.
This year’s curlers have all been to the Scotties before, although no two were part of the same championship-winning team.
Sharpe was the third for Strong's Newfoundland and Labrador champs in 1998, ’99 and 2000, and played second for Kerry Koe (now Galusha) and her Northwest Territories team at the 2005, ’07 and ’08 nationals.
Sharpe won the Ford Hot Shots competition at the 2007 Scotties in Lethbridge, Alta.
Guzzwell, who is now an RCMP officer in Nova Scotia, curled third for Devereaux in 2011, and was also Devereaux’s vice when they won the silver medal at the 2007 world junior championship in Eveleth,, Minn.
Hamilton curled second for Strong in the ’05 Scotties held in St. John’s, and Vautour was lead for Devereaux in 2016.
“I like our team,” Sharpe said. “It’s a good, solid team. And we’re in a good pool. If we can go 4-3, we can make the championship pool and get to end of the week.
“That’s everybody’s aim.”
Sharpe is in Pool B with Jennifer Jones’s Team Canada, Saskatchewan’s Robyn Silvernagle, Suzanne Birt of Prince Edward Island, Galusha back representing NWT, Andrea Crawford of New Brunswick, Nicole Baldwin of the Yukon Territories and the Wild Card team.
Casey Scheidegger of Alberta and Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson played in the Wild Card game Friday night, a one-game showdown amongst the two rinks which were the highest-ranked teams in the Canadian Team Ranking System that did not qualify in their respective provincial/territorial championship.
The 16 teams in the Scotties are split into two pools of eight, with the top four teams from each pool after the preliminary round robin advancing to a championship pool that will determine the final four playoff teams.
“It’s a deep field,” Sharpe said. “There are a lot of good teams. And the teams that are considered weaker provinces — not that they are — have all been there before, probably with the exception of Quebec (all four curlers are 20 years or younger).”
Newfoundland and Labrador’s first game is 8 p.m. this evening (NL time) against P.E.I.