Einarson misses first chance at securing playoff berth, has to settle for tiebreaker

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SASKATOON — Kerri Einarson needed a win Friday afternoon to book her playoff ticket at Canada's Olympic curling trials. A loss to Kelsey Rocque not only hurt her chances of making the three-team cut, it also gave two other teams hope.

Rocque played spoiler in the women's round-robin finale by posting an 8-4 victory over Einarson - the reigning national women's champion - at SaskTel Centre.

The result left Einarson (4-4) in a three-team tiebreaker on Saturday. A win would have given her a direct path to the semifinal against Jennifer Jones but now Einarson will have to win two more games to get there.

"We never do anything the easy way," Einarson said. "We've got to just keep grinding and keep fighting out there."

Jones and top-seeded Tracy Fleury locked up playoff spots earlier in the competition. Fleury (8-0) closed round-robin play with a 7-6 win over Jones in what was essentially a warmup game for the unbeaten skip ahead of Sunday's final.

Einarson will next play Casey Scheidegger, who beat Rachel Homan 8-6. The winner of that game Saturday morning will play Krista McCarville in the afternoon for the right to meet Jones in the evening.

Scheidegger admitted she did some scoreboard-watching on the next sheet during her game.

"I can't believe it, I'm very excited," she said. "It's thrilling really. I have to thank our friends from Alberta, Kelsey Rocque, for helping us out there. So that was very kind of them."

McCarville, who was idle Friday and watched the draw with her teammates in the stands, has the higher tiebreaker seed based on cumulative last stone draw results.

"Today has been a day of emotions as we had no control of what could happen ... we are super excited and grateful to have another opportunity," McCarville said in a text-message.

Rocque, who was playing for pride, put the pressure on late and made Einarson try some unlikely in-off attempts to score. Einarson had a chance for four points in the eighth but was a shade thick with her final throw, giving up a steal of one.

She flashed an in-off in the ninth and Rocque made a nice triple-takeout in the 10th end that essentially ended it.

"We wanted to come out and finish strong, play well and shake up the standings a bit, as much as we could," Rocque said. "So I think we did our job and we're happy with how we ended the week."

Despite her loss, Jones (5-3) still secured the second seed after Einarson's defeat. The semifinal winner will meet Fleury on Sunday morning for the right to wear the Maple Leaf at the Feb. 4-20 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Laura Walker (3-5) had a chance to create a four-team tiebreaker but she dropped a 10-9 decision to Jacqueline Harrison (3-5) in an extra end.

Rocque was also 3-5 while Homan, who represented Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games but missed the podium, finished last in the nine-team field at 2-6.

The men's playoff picture was also unsettled entering the final round-robin draw.

Brad Gushue (7-1) locked up the top seed and a bye to Sunday's final with a 6-4 win over Mike McEwen in the evening. Second seed Brad Jacobs (7-1) defeated Tanner Horgan 12-5 and Kevin Koe (6-2) secured the other playoff spot with a 9-3 rout of John Epping.

"The last few games we've been playing pretty good," Koe said. "So we have a chance anyway."

Koe, who defeated Jason Gunnlaugson 8-7 earlier in the day, is hoping to get back to the Winter Games after missing the podium in Pyeongchang.

Matt Dunstone, the lone Saskatchewan-based team in the field, closed with an 8-4 win over Gunnlaugson.

Gushue was off for the morning draw while Jacobs topped McEwen 9-5. Brendan Bottcher defeated Epping 10-6 and Dunstone downed Horgan 8-4.

McEwen finished at 4-4, ahead of Dunstone, Epping and Bottcher at 3-5. Gunnlaugson was 2-6 and Horgan was 1-7.

The tiebreaker schedule bumped the women's semifinal from the afternoon to Saturday evening, creating a scenario where that game would be played at the same time as the men's semifinal.

On Friday night, Curling Canada announced that the men's semifinal would be moved to the afternoon instead.

The change was made to allow both semifinals to be played on the featured sheet (which will also be used for the finals) and to not run concurrently, the federation said.

The women's final is set for Sunday morning and the men's final is scheduled for Sunday evening.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2021.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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