Laser focus. Laser shooting.
It seems a bit simplistic to boil such a wild, wonderful game down to just a couple of elements. Nevertheless, the lingering sense that remains after Ontario’s temperamental win over Manitoba at the 2017 Scotties is that of skip Rachel Homan’s steely gaze and sharp shooting.
Capping the night with a short angle runback to score two and and take an 8-6, eleven end win over Michelle Englot’s equally impressive team, Homan was mostly gold on the evening, beginning the night with a remarkable double take out in the second end to score three and then bailing her team out in the tenth with an even more difficult-to-make double, holding Manitoba to a score of two and sending the affair to an extra end.
— Curling Canada (@CurlingCanada) February 27, 2017
And no one complained about that, really, outside of, perhaps, the Manitoba fans who’d rather have seen a three come out of nowhere, to give their team the victory.
Ontario’s win at the 2017 Scotties in St. Catharines was a masterpiece of curling, as long as you agree that both the Mona Lisa and anything painted by Jackson Pollock are all masterpieces.
There was more to this game than Homan’s heroics, and the sum of those parts made for a dramatic game with momentum swings galore. Some of those parts were highlight reel material. Some were lowlights and mistakes that meant opportunities squandered. However – as is the case with all sports – even small mistakes in curling often lead to interesting scenarios and in this game, there were many, many of those.
In the fifth, for instance, Ontario lead Lisa Weagle opened with two perfect tick shots, a skill she handles with such outlandish perfection that people often call those kinds of shots a “Weagle.” Ontario’s third, Emma Miskew, flashed a peel shot but then rebounded with a superb come around tap. Homan’s last rock attempt came up way light, after Englot had stuck a perfect come around dead buried in the back four-foot. It was a game like that.
Englot, whose delivery always looks a little shaky, with her slide foot twitching beneath her and her body wobbling ever so slightly almost every time she glides from the hack, nevertheless just makes shots. Just. Makes. Shots. Down by a score of 3-1 and facing four in the rings with her final stone of the third end, she planted one at the top of the button to score one and then sunk stones perfectly in both the fifth and seventh ends to steal two more singles, emerging from the seventh with a 4-3 lead. When her deadly accurate line and weight finally betrayed her in the eighth, it was on two toughies, the second of which Homan tried to replicate in order to score a three-spot, nipping a guard and settling for two.
In an ironic twist, the hard throwing Homan laid in a sublime freeze on the button in the ninth end, forcing Englot to attempt a couple of highly difficult pick shots, neither of which proved successful. It was late in the game, with shots like that forced upon her, that Englot’s shooting percentage started to suffer. Still, with her final rock of the extra end, the 53-year-old Saskatchewan native reverted to form, settling a perfect draw in the back of the four foot, in just the spot third Kate Cameron had pointed to and described as the perfect position. It was, forcing Homan to make the tricky raise take-out on her winning shot.
Speaking of Cameron; What can you say? The 25-year-old Scotties rookie showed off nerves as solid as the stainless steel slider she has attached to the bottom of her throwing broom. A budding superstar, with a hell of a coming out party. They didn’t win on this night but can you not say that you fully expect to see Englot, Cameron, Leslie Wilson and Raunora Westcott at next December’s Olympic Curling trials?
But back to Team Homan, who ultimately owned the night. Miskew, Weagle and Joanne Courtney – who shot 92% and chipped in with her usual tireless and shot altering sweeping – had to rebound from two staggering losses to the same Manitoba team in order to earn the crown.
Homan’s second end score of three was telling. Trailing one-nothing, she had an easy draw for a single and you might have forgiven her and her team for taking the easy route, particularly considering they were up against a rink that had beaten them in both the round-robin and again in a playoff game on Friday night. After sizing it up, Ontario decided to go for it and if that didn’t tell you enough about how Homan was feeling on this night, reading her lips just after she made the shot did.
— Ben Hebert (@BennyHeebz) February 27, 2017
In 2013, Rachel Homan and her foursome (with Alison Kreviazuk at second instead of Courtney) emerged as a new wave curling team, surprising the field with tons of firepower and some unorthodox strategy. In 2017, there was no such surprise, unless it was the way the team handled the down-weight game from time to time. “That’s the improvement I’ve seen this season,” said TSN analyst Russ Howard, during the broadcast. “The soft stuff.”
Homan’s freeze in the ninth end is testament to that.
However, all tolled, Ontario’s 8-6 Scotties win was fashioned mostly by those well-known Homan bomb shots. Shots that got them the lead early and then bailed them out with a championship on the line in the tenth.
And one more to win it in the eleventh.