Whether it was the nerves of three first time participants or the lack of actual 2020-2021 game experience, the Krysta Burns Northern Ontario rink of Megan Smith, Sara Guy and Amanda Gates (fifth Kira Brunton) was thankful to be able to escape from the first draw of the 2021 Tournament of Hearts with a win.
Trailing 6-3 after six ends, the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club reps picked up a deuce with the hammer in the seventh, stole two more in the eighth and traded single points in the ninth and tenth to edge the Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha) 8-7.
Ironically, Gates would serve as coach to the 2020 NWT entry to the Scotties, a squad that included Galusha as well as current teammates Shone Barbour and Jo-Ann Rizzo.
Opening with final rock advantage Friday night in Calgary, Team Burns picked up one in both the first and third ends, with Galusha squeezing a point of her in between. But a four-point fourth end for the far north crew loomed large, staking the Territories to a 5-2 lead against a team that features only one player (Gates) with previous Scotties playing experience.
The victory undoubtedly will make the down time much more enjoyable, as Northern Ontario benefits from a rare off-day on Saturday, returning to action on Sunday with games against Alberta Laura Walker at 10:30 a.m., and an evening matchup with the Kerri Einarson Team Canada quartet.
Play continues for the NOCA reps on Monday (8:30 p.m. vs Yukon - Laura Eby), Tuesday (3:30 p.m. vs Ontario - Rachel Homan) and Wednesday (10:30 a.m. vs Wildcard #3 - Beth Peterson; 8:30 p.m. vs Nova Scotia - Jill Brothers), closing out their eight game preliminary round robin schedule Thursday afternoon opposite Wildcard #2 (2020 World Junior champion Mackenzie Zacharias).