EDMONTON - CAMROSE — In what was supposed to be an off-year, Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink really turned it on.
Kleibrink won the Alberta Scotties final Sunday, crushing Edmonton's Heather Nedohin 9-4, and will be wearing Alberta's colours at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the fourth time in her career.
It's been 18 years since Kleibrink won her first title in 1993. She added another pair in 2004 and 2008.
Kleibrink's team won all five games in this Scotties.
The Calgary Winter Club team, with the same lineup that lost the 2009 Olympic Trials final to Cheryl Bernard, nearly missed qualifying for this year's date with destiny.
They made a last-minute decision to enter the Lloydminster spiel, the last stop on the Alberta Tour. To have a sniff at qualifying for this provincial, the team needed to win the spiel.
They did and the rest is history and her supporting cast of third Amy Nixon, second Bronwen Webster and lead Chelsey Bell are off to Charlottetown, P.E.I. for a shot at their first national title.
"It might not take the sting away from the other (losses), but this one feels good," said Kleibrink. "It's awesome. We came in believing we could win, but probably no expectation that we would win. It's kind of a bonus win, for sure."
Even though four of the top eight Canadian teams are from Alberta, this province has a history of futility at the Hearts level.
Edmonton's Cathy King's win in 1998 was the only time an Alberta team has brought home a title since Calgary's Susan Seitz did it in 1981.
The way her 2008 Scotties appearance ended gives Kleibrink a sense of unfinished business.
"I had a shot for the win, so I'm kinda hoping we can do the same thing this year," said Kleibrink, who also skipped a team that lost the 1997 Trials final to the late Sandra Schmirler. "I think it's Alberta's turn."
The way the last one ended obviously gives Kleibrink, who did pick up a bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, some hope.
"In the last end, we were sitting five when she (Jennifer Jones) threw her last one," said Kleibrink. "She completely buried it. I tried the runback and stuck it dead. They stole. We'd like to get back in that game for sure."
You get the idea. Kleibrink's rink has had a long list of disappointments in big games. Not only did they lose the 2009 Trials
final, but last year's Alberta final to Val Sweeting.
"It feels good because we've lost a couple of tough finals in the last 14 months," said Nixon. "We've had a solid week and to cap it off like that is great.
"Losing the Olympic Trials final is the worst possible thing that can happen to you in curling. That will never go away, but we get a chance to go to the Canadian championship. If you would have asked me that in September, it would have been ... ha, ha, ha."
Although the team may not have come in with a more relaxed attitude and their talk was about how surprised they were about their win streak, this one meant a lot.
"Of course it did," said Nixon. "It's a delicate balance. You have to care a lot, but you have to realize that sometimes the game is what it is. Everybody had a little tear in their eyes when we won. Certainly, everybody wanted to win the game."