Ontario coach Earle Morris gets a group hug from his students after their Scotties win. Rachel Homan is at right. …
Earle Morris, coach of the newly-crowned Canadian women's curling champions from Ontario, said it best, just moments after the 2013 Scotties Tournament of Hearts had ended.
"What a show. What a show you put on," he said as he disappeared in a sea of hugs from Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Alison Kreviazuk and Lisa Weagle.
They certainly did. In the process, Homan and crew have very likely changed the face of Canadian curling for the forseeable future.
The next one has arrived, cemented in a ferocious and thorough 9-6 win over decorated champion Jennifer Jones and her Manitoba teammates.
Capping an incredible run of near perfection through provincials and nationals (a combined record of 23 and 1), Ontario's championship skip shot a sensational 93% in the final. This on the heels of an 89% effort in an 8-5 win over Jones in the 1 vs 2 game on Saturday night.
Jones' team didn't play poorly in this loss. As TSN commentator Russ Howard put it, Manitoba “just ran into a buzzsaw.”
Maybe more than a buzzsaw. Buzzsaws get jammed once in awhile. Homan seems to be absolutely, unstoppably unfazed by anything that comes her way.
When, inexplicably, a shot by vice Miskew was burned by lead Weagle, turning the possibility of a more promising fifth end into a nightmare, Homan drew the back of the button against three to secure a very difficult point and a 4-2 lead.
If more proof was needed of her cool under fire, there it was in the seventh end in a 4-4 tie. An exceptionally precise double take out with her first stone of the end got her team out of a terribly uncomfortable situation against a surging Jones, who'd just tied the game with a deuce and was looking to steal her way into some late game momentum. Ontario scored three and was not to be caught after that.
“Every shot was a team shot. No one individual stood out," Homan told TSN just after the win.
That's the other thing that catches one's eye about the young skip. She seems entirely unimpressed with herself, only disappointed when she doesn't come through. It's a leadership skill that can have teammates walking through walls for a captain. It appears her team has unshakeable faith in her and she in them.
As was pointed out again and again throughout The Scotties, Homan, Miskew and Kreviazuk have exceptional upweight abilities. While more and more women's teams are employing the destructive forces of peel weight run-backs and triple takeout punches, there might not be a crew today that can boast this team's firepower.
There is also the sizeable talent of Weagle, winner of the Sandra Schmirler Award as MVP of the playoffs.
“I’m so proud of her," said Homan. "So happy for her. I gave her a big hug. We’re changing curling a bit, and she’s an unbelievable player. We’re lucky to have her on our team."
Homan believes Weagle is the best tick shot artist anywhere - man or woman. That might be right and could lead to a revolution in the game. While most teams only attempt what can be the trickiest of shots when protecting a lead in the final end, Homan's team whips them out at all times during a match, gently nudging opponents' guards into the weeds, sucking the offensive life out of would be stealers. They even occasionally employ ticks when they don't have hammer, another fresh and gutsy way of playing.
If other teams follow suit - and they will because other teams always adopt successful strategies - we're about to see tick shots galore at a championship near you. As more and more teams get better and better at it, it will be increasingly difficult to generate offence. If we ever enter an age where guards mean next to nothing, the way they became useless in the years just before the free guard zone was invented, the game may yet change again.
But that's far down the road that Homan and her mates appear to be paving.
The next one has arrived. The revolution was televised.
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- Rachel Homan