REGINA -- She got the defending champ just when she wanted to.
After a four-year absence, Ontario's Sherry Middaugh returned to the national women's curling championship with a vengeance. Middaugh upset Team Canada's Kelly Scott 9-5 in front of 4,406 fans in the opening draw at the Brandt Centre yesterday.
"You look at this field and it would have been a tough (opening) game regardless," said Middaugh, who stole two in the ninth end to salt the game away. "But playing Team Canada right off the start is kind of the way you want to meet them because both teams are still trying to figure out the ice and certainly, it changed since practice (Friday). So I would prefer to meet them, if not the first game, then early on.
"It feels pretty good. I hate to say we left more points on the board but more shots that should have finished off some ends, that could have certainly made a difference. You look at the scoreboard and I'm sure they're saying the same things, too ... There are some kinks to work out but that's fine. I'd rather play like that and get a W than play stellar and get a loss. But there is room for improvement."
Scott conceded she had some trouble reading the ice.
"We kind of had to go to school today to see what the ice was giving us," she said. "There were too many freebies because of the way I finished off my shots ... I don't like to give those away so we'll just have to re-group for (today). We'll just have to find our groove and (today), we'll come out strong and see what we can do."
Scott, who finished third, added that competing in the Hot Shots left her rushed.
"If anything, things were a bit scrambly today with Hot Shots," said Scott, who is seeking a three-peat here. "Three wasn't much sitting around waiting for the game time. (Today) will be good because we can have our normal pre-game chat with our coach and our normal pre-game routines."
Scott noted she lost her first game to Saskatchewan before winning it all in 2006.
"So it can be done," she said. "Sherry's a great team and we just want to build on this game, win or lose, and try to get momentum going throughout the next few games."
In the other games, Manitoba's Jennifer Jones overwhelmed P.E.I.'s Suzanne Gaudet 8-2; Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault defeated New Brunswick rookie Sylvie Robichaud 8-4; and Quebec's Marie-France Larouche cracked a three in the ninth end to down Saskatchewan's Michelle Englot 9-6. Unlike Scott, Jones said it was an advantage for her squad to compete in the Hot Shots.
"The Hot Shots was nice because we got really comfortable with the ice and I got to read the ice, and (second) Jill (Officer) got to draw on it," she said, referring to Officer's victory. "(But) it's one win. The first win is the same as the seventh win or the sixth win. You've got to win enough games and it doesn't matter when you do it.
"Obviously it's nice to start off with a win but we've got a bunch more games to go."
Englot played just a day after her dad died.
"You can blank everything out for three hours and deal with the game," Englot said.
"It takes your mind off it, that's for sure ... We've tried to put it behind us and we appreciate the support we've gotten, and onwards and upwards."