The 2007 women's provincial has shaped up to be a Grande event with a promoter's dream field.
One look at the lineup for the Jan. 24-28 event in Grande Prairie clearly shows it not only to be one of the toughest lineups in recent memory, but one that's sure to attract plenty of spectator interest.
WEBSTER RED HOT
Take, for instance, the home-based Crystal Webster team. Early scouting reports indicate this is the hottest foursome in curling. And, their on-ice performance ain't too shabby either, checking in at No. 9 on the women's World Curling Tour standings.
Webster beat longtime area powerhouse Renee Sonnenberg in an extra end Saturday, forcing the popular Sexsmith skip to qualify out of B.
Then, you have Olympic bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary, whose lead Christine Keshen posed nude for the 2007 Fire on Ice calendar.
Add Calgary's Cheryl Bernard and defending champion Cathy King and the No. 3-5 ranked teams on the women's WCT are already saddled up.
Edmonton's Atina Johnston is a solid contender and 2005 Alberta champ Deb Santos is hungry after a rare miss to last year's provincials.
Last rock Heather Nedohin and second Kristie Moore of the Santos team have deep roots in Grande Prairie. Nedohin and Moore were rinkmates that won the world junior title back in 1996. Moore co-owns a Grande Prairie bar that could be a favourite watering hole during the provincials.
Santos qualified out of C yesterday in a wild 8-5 win over Rhonda Skillen, coming back from a 4-1 deficit at the halfway point.
"Grande Prairie is like home to us," said Nedohin, who's making her first provincials appearance in four years after taking 2006 off during her pregnancy with youngest daughter Alyssa. "I'm very excited to be back."
While Edmonton has become the curling world's capital city for the men, Alberta is definitely the deepest province in women's curling.
"When you think Alberta, all you have to do is look at the CTRS standings,'' said Nedohin, who skipped a rink to the Alberta title in 2000 at Grande Prairie. "It's going to be eight strong teams. It's going to be fun ... you know that for sure.''
Santos also won one of her three-in-a-row titles at the venerable Grande Prairie Curling Club.
"I'm really excited to be going back after missing out last year." said Santos. "But I'm probably more excited for Heather and Kristie.
"It's going to be an extremely tough field. Alberta, to me is one of the toughest."
That's not such a bad thing, according to veteran lead Kate Horne, who's shooting for her eighth Alberta title and second with Santos.
Considering this year's Scotties is being hosted in Lethbridge, the event should produce a well-deserving Alberta rep.
"This is a marvellous field,'' said Horne, who's been on six winning teams as a front-ender for King. "I think you've got a great field for Alberta. I think it's going to be terrific."