Great Scotties! Quebec hopes high

JOE PAVIA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

With a Scott plant in their hometown, it would be fitting if Gatineau's Annie Lemay and Joelle Sabourin captured the trophy at this year's Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Lemay and Sabourin are the front-enders for Marie-France Larouche's Quebec-champion rink, a team that has to be considered among the favourites at the Scotties.

Besides the Quebec championship, Larouche has won five majors this season, was runner-up in another and is No. 3 in the Canadian rankings heading into the Scotties.

Larouche starts off against three of the weaker teams in the Scotties field -- New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories and P.E.I. Mid-week, she faces British Columbia's Marla Mallett, ranked No. 18 in Canada, before going head-to-head against Alberta's Cheryl Bernard, the second-ranked team in the country. The Quebecers have a good chance to be 4-0 entering that game.

Next up are Ontario, Nova Scotia, Team Canada's Jennifer Jones and Newfoundland and Labrador's Heather Strong. Larouche has not faced Nova Scotia's Nancy McConnery this year, but her record against Jones, Strong and Ontario's Krista McCarville is a combined 4-1. Heading into Thursday's final draw, Quebec could be 8-1.

Larouche's final two matches are against Barb Spencer of Manitoba and Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton. Spencer, ranked 14th, hasn't faced Larouche this year. Lawton, who is right behind Larouche at No. 4 in the national rankings, lost the Sobeys Slam final in November to the Quebec squad.

My fearless prediction: Larouche will finish first in the round-robin at 9-2, followed by Jones, Bernard and Strong.

The Scotties begins Saturday on TSN, with the first draw at 3:30 p.m. TSN's new morning announcer will be Bryan Mudryk, accompanied by analyst Russ Howard. The familiar team of Vic Rauter and analysts Linda Moore and Ray Turnbull will call the afternoon and evening draws.

BRIER BOUND

Except for Manitoba, which decides its champion Sunday, the rest of the field for the Tim Hortons Brier is set. Joining Gatineau's Jean-Michel Menard are Glenn Howard of Ontario, Russ Howard (N.B.), Brad Gushue (N.L.), Kevin Martin (Alta.), Mark Dacey (N.S.), Joel Jordison (Saskatchewan), Mike Jakubo (Northern Ontario), Sean Geall (B.C.), Ron MacDonald (P.E.I.) and Jamie Koe (N.W.T.). All the action takes place in Calgary March 7-15.

OCA RESULTS

Local rinks headed to the Colts and Trophy provincials are 1A: Dan Cook and Allison Farrell; B: Shane Latimer and Jamie Temple.

JUNIOR ACHIEVERS

The Sinclair household celebrated two Ontario championships Sunday. Neil and his sister Jamie both won their Ontario Junior Curling Tour championship games.

ROSTER ROUNDUP

Neil Sinclair's team is no more. The two-time junior runner-up skip is looking for three new players ... Sinclair's Ottawa rival, Christian Tolusso, is investigating a move to Northern Ontario to finish off his junior eligibility ... Tankard participant Chris Gardner's team is sticking together.

NIFTY 50-PLUS

The Quebec senior provincial championships started Monday at the Buckingham club. Agnes Charette of Buckingham is representing Team Quebec, while Buckingham's Margaret Berube and Jean St. Pierre and Thurso's Pierre Charette (no relation to Agnes) represent the Outaouais.

CURLING THIS WEEK

The Masters provincial championship starts today in Meaford. Bonnie Morris, Betty Bush, Reg Plaster and Dave Van Dine represent this area. The school boy and girl provincials begin tomorrow in Toronto, where Shannon Harrington, Emily Au, Brett Lyon-Hatcher and Kurtis Byrd will represent our region. Mixed and senior mixed zones are this weekend.


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