Ontario's Rachel Homan reaches Tournament of Hearts final for third straight year

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Ontario's Rachel Homan reaches Tournament of Hearts final for third straight year
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CALGARY — Ontario's Rachel Homan is a win away from another Canadian women's curling championship.

Homan's 7-2 win over Saskatchewan and defending champion Kerri Einarson's 10-9 loss in an extra end to Manitoba on Saturday combined to give Ontario a bye to Sunday's championship game.

Homan is a three-time winner of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2017, 2014 and 2013.

Homan and Einarson owned identical 10-2 records at the conclusion of the championship round Saturday.

Homan's 7-4 win over Einarson in a Pool A game Thursday was the tiebreaker giving Ontario the higher playoff seeding.

Einarson has a place in Sunday afternoon's semifinal as the second seed.

The defending champs await the winner of a morning tiebreaker between Manitoba's Jennifer Jones and Alberta's Laura Walker, who were both 9-3.

Homan has lost two straight Hearts finals in extra ends — to Einarson last year in Moose Jaw, Sask., and Chelsea Carey two years ago in Sydney, N.S.

In the third trimester of her pregnancy, Homan will play in her third in three years.

Walker won a fifth straight game to keep the host province in contention for the national women's curling crown.

Alberta came from behind to cap the championship round with a 9-4 win over Chelsea Carey's Wild Card One.

Six-time champion Jones stayed in the hunt for a record seventh drawing for the win against Einarson on Saturday.

The 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is one of four Curling Canada events to be held in a spectator-free, controlled environment at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary.

The COVID-19 pandemic thwarting many provincial and territorial playdowns prompted Curling Canada to add two wild-card teams to the Hearts field for a total of 18, which in turn shrunk the playoff window.

Instead of the traditional four teams in a Page playoff, only three advance.

Einarson is attempting the first back-to-back Hearts titles since Homan in 2013-14.

Sunday's victor earns $100,000 in prize money and a return trip to the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as Team Canada.

The runner-up earns $60,000 and $40,000 goes to the third-place team.

The winner doesn't have a world championship, however, in which to wear the Maple Leaf.

The March 19-28 tournament in Schaffhausen, Switzerland was cancelled by the World Curling Federation because of the pandemic.

The 2020 world championship in Prince George, B.C., was called off for the same reason, so Einarson wasn't able to represent Canada there.

Beth Peterson's Wild Card Three (7-5) finished with a 10-3 win over Quebec's Laurie St-Georges (6-6) on Saturday.

Wild Card One, with Carey filling in at skip for Tracy Fleury, and Saskatchewan's Sherry Anderson also finished 6-6.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press