Quebec rock stars

JOE PAVIA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Marie-France Larouche hit on a winning digit last week at the Quebec Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

"Number nine was a pretty lucky number for us the whole week," said Gatineau's Joelle Sabourin, who plays lead for Larouche.

Indeed it was.

Sabourin, Larouche, third Nancy Belanger and the team's other Gatineau player, second Annie Lemay, dominated the competition en route to winning the championship, scoring nine points in seven of 11 games. Larouche's rink led the tournament in every statistical category except blank ends, outscoring its opponents 99-35.

Sabourin said the team's success comes down to "playing well, having fun and practising hard with good friends. We believe in each other. Hit the broom with the right weight and it works."

Larouche finished the round robin with an 8-1 record, tied for first with Montreal's Eve Belisle. Larouche then put up a familiar number against Belisle in the 1-2 Page playoff game, winning 9-4, and beat the Montrealer again in the final 7-2.

Adversity didn't seem to bother Larouche either. When an intestinal virus struck Belanger halfway through the last round-robin game, the team finished the 7-5 loss with three players.

A pool spare subbed in the Page game for Belanger, who recovered in time for the final.

The victory all but assures Larouche a spot in the Olympic pre-trials later this year. For now, the team is focused on the Scotties Tournament of Hearts next month in Victoria. Other teams in the Scotties lineup so far are: Jennifer Jones (Team Canada), Nancy McConnery (Nova Scotia), Marla Mallett (B.C.), Heather Strong (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Robyn MacPhee (P.E.I.).

OCA winners

The Silver Tankard zone winners were: Zone 2 -- Bruce Delaney; and Zone 3 -- Rick McMullen and Bill Adair. No local rinks won the Challenge provincials, but Shane Latimer captured the C event.

White brooms

The fifth annual Lions Blind and Vision Impaired Championship Bonspiel kicks off at the Ottawa Curling Club with the opening ceremony on Saturday. Starting next Monday, rinks from coast to coast will compete, with the final slated for Feb. 6 at 1:30 p.m.

Until this year, Ottawa teams always participated, but the economic downturn has taken its toll.

All teams pay the same fee to lessen the burden on rinks that travel from distant locations. Usually, two Ottawa squads enter, and their $3,000 fee is paid for by a Community Foundation of Ottawa grant. When the foundation recently announced it was cutting its grant programs because of investment shortfalls, Ottawa's teams had to withdraw.

Curling this week

The Masters and Gore schoolboy and schoolgirl regionals are this weekend, while Colts and Trophy zones begin Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Curling Club is giving Ontario junior women's champion Rachel Homan a sendoff tonight at 7:30 p.m. before Homan and her team leave for the nationals in Salmon Arm, B.C. All are welcome. Homan plays her first game Sunday against Northern Ontario, as does Carleton Place native Bowie Abbis-Mills, who skipped his team to the provincial junior men's title.

Rogers and Cogeco Television are broadcasting the Ontario Scotties this week. Ottawa's Jenn Hanna is playing tomorrow at 7 p.m. against Alison Goring on Rogers Cable 22.


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