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Friday, Mar. 22, 2019
Team Fleury feeling right at home in Thunder Bay
2018-11-18
by Randy Pascal

Over the years, Tracy Fleury has developed an affinity for the curling venues in the remote reaches of northwestern Ontario.

In January of 2006, as a junior in Kenora, then Tracy Horgan would make a near miracle draw through a portal the size of a rock plus a centimeter or two, earning her second consecutive trip to Junior Nationals.

Just over six years later, Horgan would knock off Rachel Homan in the Ontario Scotties final, earning her first ever trip to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, prior to the event welcoming an annual entry from the curling province that is Northern Ontario.

With this kind of background, small wonder that Fleury and her current team of Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish may have looked to the World Curling Tour stop in Thunder Bay last week, sensing good vibes, all the way around.

"We enjoy playing anywhere in Northern Ontario, and the crowd was really great in Thunder Bay," said Fleury. "We definitely felt the support." She and her crew looked right at home in round robin play at the Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge, posting a 4-0 record through round robin play. Fleury opened with a 7-3 win over Laura Walker of Edmonton, clinching the contest with a count of four in the seventh end.

A much more back and forth affair left Team Fleury sitting at 2-0 thanks to a 5-3 win over Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, with the local skip and her Manitoba co-horts duplicating that exact same final score against long-time northern Ontario rival and hometown favourite, Krista McCarville.

With momentum now clearly on their side, the newly formed rink remained flawless, blasting Darcy Robertson of Winnipeg 11-2 and earning the second seed to the playoffs, with Team Homan also posting an unblemished mark of 4-0.

A rematch against Robertson in the quarter finals certainly proved more challenging than the earlier match-up, with a two point first end and a steal of one in the sixth making all of the difference for Fleury in a 6-3 win.

The was no lack of storylines in the semi-final match as Fleury was pitted against Kerri Einarson, the same woman who previously threw final stones, for several years, for the entire trio that had recruited to Sudbury product last spring after Einarson opted to join forces with Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Meilleur.

Tied at 2-2 after four ends, Team Fleury picked up a deuce, with the hammer, in both five and seven, while forcing Einarson to take a single in the sixth, advancing to the finals thanks to a 6-3 win. The emotion of that encounter may have taken a little something out of the long-time Idylwylde Golf & Country Club curler and her mates, falling in the final, 8-4, to Team Homan.

Still, a $15000 payday for the Fleury quartet would help to soften the blow. And for a team that is still building chemistry, there is clearly reason to believe they are trending in a positive direction.

"We kind of feel like all season, we've been slowly building and improving a little bit after each event," said Fleury. "I think we're just starting to get more and more comfortable playing with each other. Now we're starting to see the results."

Though a Grand Slam win would certainly have been welcomed with open arms, Fleury, the consumate skip, was not about to sugarcoat the make or break factors of the final. "There were a few key shots that I missed, that I would have liked back," she said.

"I think it made the difference early in the game. We got down a little bit early. The Homan team is so good that if you give them a lead, they will run with it."

The event would welcome plenty of Sudbury and area talent, though the only other local representation in the playoff round would come courtesy of the Tanner Horgan rink (Mark Kean, Jacob Horgan, Maxime Blais), who posted a record of 3-1 in their pool to earn a spot in the quarter-finals.

With three quarters of this squad still eligible to compete for a berth at junior nationals, the Horgan foursome bested Dennis Bohn of Winnipeg (8-6), American Andrew Stopera (7-4) and Glen Muirhead of Scotland (6-5), before dropping a 5-3 decision to Charley Thomas of Toronto.

Big ends proved costly for the Horgan crew in the quarter finals, as Mark Fenner (USA) picked up three, out of the gate, in the opening end, and added four in the fifth, all the offense his team would need to rack up a 7-5 win over Horgan.

Meanwhile, only three hours away in Orillia, the Idylwylde U18 rink of Bella Croisier, Megan Smith, Piper Croisier and Lauren Rajala were at it again. Once again, the local crew looked great in navigating their way through pool play, reeling off four consecutive victories.

The Croisier quarter stopped, in succession, Team Morby (12-1), Jessica Byers of Haliburton (11-7), Adrienne Belliveau of Manotick (6-2) and Jacqueline Cowan of Oshawa (11-2). That impressive run would lead to a series of rematches, with the pride of the NOCA working their way to the finals.

A 9-1 win in the quarter finals over Morby would force a second encounter with Cowan, much closer this time around as Croisier and company prevailed 7-5. The only bump on the road would come in the gold medal game as Belliveau edged Croisiser 5-4, yet another strong showing for the Sudbury based rink hoping to make a run at nationals in the spring.

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