LONDON, Ont. -- What started out looking like being stranded for the weekend with nothing to do turned into a pretty lucrative visit to London after all for Shelley Nichols.
The St. John's skip and her rink of Stephanie LeDrew, Rhonda Rogers and Colette Lemon lost their first two games at the 14th annual Southwestern Ontario Women's Charity Cashspiel, dropping into the last-chance C flight for the 24-rink, triple-knockout event. But they then reeled off three straight to qualify for the quarterfinals and rolled all the way to the $8,000 first-place cheque by beating Rachel Homan of Ottawa 7-6 in Monday's final.
"I can't even think about it," Nichols said with a big smile after coming off the ice at the London Curling Club. "It's been like a roller-coaster all weekend. After our first two it was like, 'What are we going to do in London for 2O days with no money to change our flight?' At that point we honestly just wanted to win one game. I really didn't expect to be here (the final), but the girls are pretty resilient.
"My girls curled really, really well and were happy to win, obviously, but we've still got a long way to go to be good. We're very, very inconsistent right now, but we got lucky this weekend. Everyone made really good shots at certain key periods in time, but we just weren't stringing eight together in any given end."
The win also qualified Nichols for the Canada Cup Dec. 1-5 in Medicine Hat, Alta., meaning the customer service rep for WestJet -- "You can also call me owner," she said with another smile -- is going to have to book a few more flights.
Nichols is the defending Newfoundland-Labrador champion and said winning the provincial crown has helped the team travel this season as more sponsors have come on board. If she can keep making shots like she did Monday, a second straight trip to the Canadian Scotties Tournament of Hearts is a possibility.
The key shot came in the fourth end when she hit her own rock in the 12-foot and angled in to remove a Homan counter to lie three -- "the in-off peel, my bread and butter," she said. She was then light on a comearound draw to the inside eight-foot for four, but she still took a 4-2 lead.
After Homan hit and stayed for a deuce in the fifth, a nice tap raise by Nichols in the sixth led to a single before the rink from the Rock stole two in the seventh, due in large part to a pair of misses from Homan's third Emma Miskew as well as one from Homan.
The Ottawa skip, winner of this event in 2007 and 2008, made a charge in the eighth and final end, but could only score two as she was a touch outside on an inturn hit and roll that might have been good for three on a measurement.
Homan was subdued after suffering her first loss of the season after wins at the Shorty Jenkins Classic in Brockville and the Mac Ice Classic in Ottawa.
"We were making nothing today," she said. "We just weren't there today in every position. We were never set up in any end and we were chasing them the whole way."
Homan, Miskew, Alison Kreviazuk and Lisa Weagle earned $6,000.
In the semifinals Monday morning, Nichols stole two in the fifth en route to an 8-5 win over Alison Goring of Thornhill Bayview, while Homan stole singles in the third through fifth ends of a 7-1 win over Marie-France Larouche of Levis, Que. Goring and Larouche both earned $4,000, while the four quarterfinalists -- 2010 national Hearts runner-up Kathy O'Rourke of Charlottetown, Kirsten Wall of Toronto, Kerri Einarson of Winnipeg and Lisa Farnell of Peterborough -- each pocketed $2,500 from the $32,000 purse.
The cashspiel is a fundraiser for breast cancer care and research. Before this year, it had raised a little more than $191,000 during 13 years.