Canada’s Einarson defeated New Zealand in the first match of the Pan Continental Curling Championship.
The last time Kerri Einarson entered the WinSport Event Center in Calgary, she was wearing a mask, keeping a distance of about six meters from her competitors and no friends or family in sight.
Eighteen months later, the curling at the Gimli Curling Club in Manitoba is back in the building and wearing the familiar red and white colors of Canada for the first competition of the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championship.
This time, however, on Halloween Monday, you can look up in the stands and see the seats no longer hold fans of the cardboard cutouts that have become commonplace in the world of sports during the pandemic. Now you can see fans in the flesh, including two of her biggest: daughters Khloe and Kamryn, dressed as witches in the spirit of Halloween.
Einarson’s team opened the round robin with an 11-3 victory over Team New Zealand’s Jessica Smith for their first win at the event and improved to 1-0.
Canada – skip Einarson, vice-skip Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard, lead Briane Harris, other Rachel Brown and coach Reid Carruthers – started the game with the hammer and dominated the end. For the final piece of music, Einarson and co. he split the links effectively and scored two goals to open the game. In the second, Canada grabbed a goal after New Zealand tried to finish off the house.
New Zealand fought back and made important shots when they mattered. At the end of the third, Canada’s solid guard set up a comeback and led to New Zealand’s two-goal lead in the third. Smith hit a perfect layup on his putt from the button to stay within two on his first shot. Team Einarson elected to play keeper and shut down any chance of New Zealand tying the game at three ender. However, Canada got two of its own in the fourth end.
It is the first time a Canadian team has played a New Zealand team in women’s curling at a World Curling Federation sanctioned event. While the score was heavily skewed in Canada’s favor, New Zealand made some impressive shots throughout the game and capitalized when the opportunity arose. In the fifth end, for example, Team New Zealand was shooting against Canada’s four counters and made an impressive triple to reduce the damage to one steal.
“We wanted to play our game and put pressure on them,” Einarson said. “We couldn’t cool down in the offensive game, and we thought that if we kept pressing them, we would find opportunities and take advantage of them.”
Fast forward to the eighth end when that pressure was on full display, with Canada sitting four and making a draw of five in its final, leading to New Zealand conceding the game.
Not too long ago, Einarson spent almost two months inside the “Calgary Curling Bubble” of 2021 when the Covid-19 epidemic was at its peak, and many Canadian and world championships and Grand Slam events were held safely at the WinSport Event Center. It was one of the most rewarding – but challenging – times of Einarson’s bending career.
Her team won its second straight Scotties title, the Players’ Championship and competed in its first women’s world championship in Calgary. Not only that, but Einarson and his mixed doubles partner Brad Gushue (representing Canadian men at Pan Continental) won the Canadian doubles title. They will represent Canada at the world event in Scotland.
It’s an ice skating victory streak that most players can only dream of. But it came at a cost, with Einarson spending more than three months on the road and away from family, friends and work commitments.
Einarson left her longtime role as a rehabilitation assistant at the Bethel Home Foundation, a personal care home in Gimli, but remains in a normal state. After 14 years on the job, he has developed a close relationship with the community, many of whom were fans who watched him rise from provincial competitor to Canadian champion and Olympic hopeful. But as Einarson’s skills on the ice grew, so did his competitive curling schedule.
“It was a scary decision to make, but I know it was the right one. I get more time to spend with my family. Also, with my absence from work all the time, it was difficult for my neighbors, even though they like to watch me bend over. “I still feel their support, and I miss them a lot,” Einarson said. “It was a difficult decision, and it didn’t come lightly, but I know that if you want to be at this level, you have to give everything.”
The Canadian women take on Team Angelina Ebauyer of Kazakhstan (0-1) next on Tuesday at 9 am (all times MT).
But first for Einarson, a night of trick or treating with his daughters in Calgary. The stars aligned for Einarson and her daughters, as the group happened to be leaving on Halloween night and her cousins stayed too far for trick or treating night.
On the other side of Cup 1 on the women’s side, Australia’s Jennifer Westhagen defeated Brazil’s Isis Oliveira 8-7; Seungyoun Ha’s team from South Korea beat Ebauyer’s Team from Kazakhstan 12-1; and Tabitha Peterson’s Team USA advanced to an extra end to defeat Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa’s Team by a score of 8-7.
The 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships continues on Monday with Canada’s team Gushue taking on the United States (Team Korey Dropkin) at 2pm.
Current scores, standings and statistics for the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championship are available by clicking here.
TSN and RDS2 will provide select games from the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championships. Click here for the full schedule.
For ticket information on the 2022 Pan Continental Curling Championship, click here.
This story will be available in French soon here.