Smokin' Quebecers relaxed

TODD SAELHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

Being new to the national game -- and to each other -- hasn't rocked the world of Quebec's entry in the 2008 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship.

Truth is, Simon Dupuis' rink is feeling the music -- bagpipes and all -- and getting the feel of each other despite having played as a team for just two events.

"For three of us, it's our first nationals and we're not used to the protocol -- the piper and the (pre-draw) parade (of teams)," Dupuis said.

"We're used to smoking a cigarette, having a slide on the ice and then throwing the stones.

"We weren't relaxed."

But much like their ability to gel together as a team -- Dupuis has only skipped the rink in the mixed provincials and these nationals -- the Quebecers have adjusted quickly to the pomp and pageantry at the Calgary Curling Club.

After a slow start, they suddenly became the hottest team, reeling off four straight wins to improve to 6-3 and into contention for the mixed crown.

"After losing two, we relaxed a bit more," said Dupuis, who was asked to skip the team of third Isabelle Neron, second Jean-Francois Charest and lead Marie-Josee Precourt when his own rink bowed out before provincials because one member suffered a broken leg.

"We got e-mails from friends back home, and they said, 'Take it one rock at a time.' I followed my friends' advice."

Certainly, Dupuis and Co. were quick out of the hack in yesterday afternoon's meeting with wily veteran Bob Turcotte of Ontario.

The Quebec foursome scored two in the first end, then held Ontario at bay in a pivotal 6-3 victory.

Neither side managed more than a count of one after the opening end, as Quebec dragged Ontario back into a three-way tie for second place in the standings.

"We had to win," said Dupuis, in his first appearance to a national championship.

"I have played against Turcotte a lot. He is always tough to beat, and I'm way younger (and less experienced) than him, so it's a really big win."

Quebec then lost the night draw -- 8-4 to Northern Ontario -- to fall back into a three-way tie with Northern Ontario and Nova Scotia, while Turcotte and Ontario rebounded for an 8-5 win over Manitoba last night to sit alone in second place at 7-3.

Meanwhile, host Alberta -- skipped by Dean Ross -- has clinched a spot in tomorrow's 1 p.m. final.

The Calgary Curling Club rink hammered out a tough 6-4 win over New Brunswick in the afternoon draw.

Third Susan O'Connor turned the tide with a triple takeout in the eighth end of a tie game to give Alberta a late lead.

"Obviously, she cleaned up a couple in the house and gave us a chance with that shot," Ross said. "You come here and people ask, 'How do you think you're going to do?' At 8-1, I'd say, 'We'd take that.' "

They then improved to 9-1 with an 8-5 win over Nova Scotia in the evening draw.

LAST ROCK

One final round-robin draw goes today at 9 a.m., with tiebreakers (if necessary) and the semifinal to follow at the Calgary Curling Club.


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