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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Fleury rink right back in the race at Scotties
by Randy Pascal

The Tracy Fleury rink (Crystal Webster, Jennifer Wylie, Amanda Gates, Jenna Enge) have dug themselves almost completely out of an early hole at the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton.

After dropping their first two games of Pool "A" play, the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club quintet have managed to string together four consecutive victories, all while knocking a pair of opponents from the ranks of the unbeaten.

With their record of 4-2, the Northern Ontario champions are now tied with Nova Scotia for third place in their grouping, with four teams moving on to the "championship pool". With just one Pool "A" contest remaining against the Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha @ 1-5), Team Fleury is looking up at only Manitoba (Jennifer Jones) and the Wildcard entry (Kelli Einarson), both at 5-1 but with a head to head matchup ahead.

Things were not looking anywhere near this rosy earlier in the week. Facing a red-hot skip in Mary-Anne Arsenault in their opener, Fleury and company dropped a 10-4 decision, making it back to back setbacks with an 8-5 loss to New Brunswick (Sylvie Robichaud) the next day.

Things started to look up, somewhat, when Northern Ontario did the expected by beating Chelsea Duncan and her Yukon rink 8-5, but it was a 7-5 triumph over Einarson, 3-0 coming into the game, that really provided a boost.

Another rock solid effort on Tuesday afternoon propelled the locals to a 7-4 win over Saskatchewan (Sherry Anderson), capping off this fortunate run with a 9-5 decision, earlier today, over the Jones' crew from Manitoba.

The roller coaster sequence certainly provided some second thoughts for the NOCA championship team making their third trek to the Tournament of Hearts. "It's a little bit scarier with this new format," acknowledged Fleury.

"Before, you could have a slower start and it wasn't as big of a deal, because you still had all of these games to come." The template introduced in 2018 sees a total of 16 teams broken into two pools of eight, with the top four from each pool moving on to a second phase of the competition.

"All of a sudden, losing the first two was kind of scary." Thankfully, this is a more mature and experienced version of Team Fleury that is taking to the ice in British Columbia, one that is well equipped to right the ship rather quickly.

"I think maybe in the past, we would have been a bit more rattled about it," Fleury confessed. "But since that start, we've kind of been rolling. We're catching on to the ice really well, and just playing well as a team."

Still, they can hardly afford to look past the Galusha rink tonight, seemingly the annual entry for the NWT at Scotties. "It's a really important game, for sure," said Fleury. "First of all, we want to avoid having to play in a tie-breaker just to get into the next round."

"Also, we want one less loss to carry forward into the next round, with four really strong teams to play once we cross over. I think our confidence is really high right now."

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