Quebec rink sweeps up title

JOE PAVIA

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

Her sabbatical from curling worked.

Marie-France Larouche and her rink of Nancy Belanger, Annie Lemay and Joelle Sabourin, ran Regina's Amber Holland out of rocks to win the John Shea Insurance Classic 6-4 last night at the Rideau Club.

The Quebec City-based team with the western Quebec front end always looked in control of the game, epecially when they stole a deuce in the first end.

"A turning point in the game was the double she made coming to the glass. She made two great doubles," said lead Sabourin, speaking for Larouche. "We're four friends playing well, having fun and practising lots."

The turning point came early in the game. In the fourth end Larouche doubled to remove threatening opposition stones. This caused Holland to throw a guard to deny Larouche's deuce. Holland drew heavy to become shot rock and easy pickings for a Larouche hit and stick. Add this deuce to her steal of two in the second and things didn't look good for the Regina rink.

Just two seasons ago Larouche wasn't playing well and left the competitive trail to regroup. Regroup she has.

Larouche leaves Ottawa with $12,000 in winnings. This is the rink's fifth win on the tour -- four of them majors. It also sends them to the top of the women's money list at $46,800.

This win may also ensure them a berth in the Pre-Trails tournament next November. Still not sure, Sabourin said, "We know we have to keep on working hard."

The Quebecers took on Mary-Anne Arsenault in the semi, where it was over in eight ends and not by steals. The final was 9-4.

Holland gave Ontario's Sherry Middaugh all she could handle in their semi. Playing an aggressive style the Regina skip forced Middaugh to make challenging shots. When the shot didn't work, Team Middaugh paid. Holland won 7-5 final.

Larouche, Arsenault, Middaugh each receive berths in the Canada Cup. Holland already has a spot at the event so her place will be filled from the next ranked team in the Canadian Team Ranking System.

Monday's quarter-finals were dominated by steals in three of the four games. Only the Middaugh-Cathy King match-up didn't hinge on steals. Tied in the ninth, Middaugh's rink scored three when King failed to deliver on a hit. The final was 10 -7. The Larouche-Jennifer Jones game ended 8-5 with the Quebec foursome stealing four of those points. The Nova Scotia team skipped by Arsenault stole six of their eight points in a game that saw the usual steady Sherry Anderson team from Delisle, Sask. fail to execute. They were held to just one point. Shannon Kleibrink was robbed twice by Holland in her 9-3 loss.

Qualifiers leave with $4,000. Semi-final losers win $6,000.

Ten of the 13 rinks in the championship round were from Western Canada, but three of the four semi-finalists hailed from the east.

In the men's equivalent of this event in Edmonton, three of the four semi-finalists advance to the Canada Cup -- Bob Ursel from B.C., Russ Howard and Winnipeg's Mike McEwen. Kevin Martin took the other semi spot, but he is already in the Canada Cup so again the next team on the CTRS ranking will get to compete.

JSI JOTS:

This was a serious competition bereft of the usual shenanigans that accompany a bonspiel.

Prior to each draw the venues looked like gyms with players contorted in all manner of stretching and cardio activity. While body conditioning was important, so was proper mind conditioning.


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