Winning Alberta title 'means everything' to Edmonton's Sturmay

Saville squad scores provincial glory with steals in ninth and 10th ends of Sunday’s provincial women’s curling finale

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Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Not Selena Sturmay and her Edmonton curling squad.

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Certainly not after stealing both the penultimate and decisive ends of Sunday’s Alberta Scotties championship draw to pilfer the provincial title from the defending champions in St. Paul.

“It means everything,” said the Team Sturmay skip, of scoring a first-ever provincial victory over Calgary’s Team Skrlik in stunning 6-5 fashion to cap the eight-team event. “We’ve based our whole season around these provincials, and winning provincials was our number-one goal. So to have that come to real life, that means everything — it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

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“Hopefully, it does soon.”

The Saville Community Sports Centre side has a little time — three weeks, that is — to savour the celebration before the 2024 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Then, skip Sturmay, third Danielle Schmiemann, second Dezaray Hawes, lead Paige Papley and coach Ted Appelman — by virtue of Sunday’s triumph — get busy representing Alberta and vying for Canadian glory at the Calgary-hosted national championships, Feb. 16-25.

“Yeah … it definitely was a grind out there,” Sturmay said. “Ice conditions were a little bit tricky.”

Kayla Skrlik, the 2023 Alberta queen, found that out the hard way, as she was heavy on her draw to the four-foot facing two Sturmay stones with the last rock in the 10th end of the finale.

Sturmay also stole one in the ninth end, as part of a finishing flurry to rebound from a 5-3 deficit through eight ends of the championship draw.

“Yeah, I think with how that 10th end shaped up, all we really wanted was just get her to look at two with her last rock, which which we did,” Sturmay said. “I think both of my shots and the shots before were really well managed. We got the most out of every shot that we could have.”

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Team Sturmay went in to the weekend sporting plenty of big-game experience, including Schmiemann — a former Kelsey Rocque teammate and perennial Alberta Scotties threat — and Hawes — a two-time B.C. rep at the national Scotties with Kamloops’ Corryn Brown in both 2020 and ’21.

Sturmay, herself, had also faced Skrlik in plenty of big-stage moments.

“Me and Kayla have been battling it out in junior and provincial finals for years, so we just know that it’s always going to be a great game against them,” said Sturmay, 25. “I’m sure there’s many more provincial finals against Kayla to come, as well.”

This one, however, is Sturmay’s to enjoy.

Sturmay & Co. wrapped up the round-robin portion of the event Saturday with a first-place 6-1 record, earning a bye through to the finale.

The team then awaited a decision in the semifinal between fellow Saville squad Serena Gray-Withers and Skrlik — the respective second- and third-place finishers with 5-2 and 4-3 marks through the round-robin — which went to Skrlik in 9-8 fashion in an extra end. That game, too, saw Skrlik surrender a lead — 8-5 — in the late ends by way of allowing steals.

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Big swings dominated that Sunday morning semifinal.

After Skrlik counted two in the first end, Gray-Withers came back with three in the second.

Then it was another deuce for the defending champs in the third end before the recently crowned Canada West queens from Saville eked out one in the fourth to draw even.

After a fifth-end blank and an exchange of one in the sixth and seventh ends, the eighth end saw Gray-Withers miss with hammer for a steal of three by Skrlik.

But the Edmonton rink countered with steals of two and one to force the extra end, in which Skrlik made her free draw to an open house.

In the championship game, scoring proved more difficult to come by.

A blank first was followed by an exchange of one-point ends and then another exchange of one-point ends.

Tied 2-2 heading into the second half of the contest, the teams again each put up singles in the sixth and seventh ends.

It wasn’t until the eighth when a deuce finally went up on the board courtesy of Skrlik, but that didn’t deter Sturmay and her crew from bearing down to rally for steals of one in the ninth and two in the deciding 10th end.

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“We just knew if we put a couple of good ends together and put some pressure on the other team, we would have a chance in the end,” Sturmay said. “And that’s what ended up happening.”

Heading into Sunday’s playoff round, Team Sturmay had the luxury of knowing it had already secured at least a spot in the national Scotties as one of the wildcard sides due to its success throughout the season and the round-robin at Clancy Richard Arena.

“It definitely took pressure off,” added Sturmay. “However, we still definitely wanted to win that one and represent our own province at the Scotties.

“That definitely meant a lot to us.”

SCOTTIES SET

Most of the field is now set for the WinSport-hosted Scotties next month after weekend provincial action held across the country.

Of course, Team Canada is skipped by Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson and are the reigning four-time national champions.

Vying to dethrone Einarson and her Gimli Curling Club squad are the following provincial champions: Sturmay (Alberta); Vancouver’s Clancy Grandy (B.C.); Winnipeg’s Kaitlyn Lawes (Manitoba); Fredericton’s Melissa Adams (New Brunswick); St. John’s Stacie Curtis (Newfoundland and Labrador); Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville (Northern Ontario); Halifax’s Heather Smith (Nova Scotia); Ottawa’s Danielle Inglis (Ontario); Crapaud’s Jane DiCarlo (Prince Edward Island); Laval’s Laurie St-Georges (Quebec); Saskatoon’s Skylar Ackerman (Saskatchewan); Yellowknife’s Kerry Galusha (Northwest Territories); and Whitehorse’s Bayly Scoffin (Yukon).

Two other rinks — Ottawa’s Rachel Homan (Ontario) and St. Vital/Winnipeg/Altona’s Jennifer Jones (Manitoba) — qualified ahead of respective provincials based on their standings atop the 2022-23 Canadian Team Ranking Standings.

And two wild card teams — officially unnamed yet but looking like Manitoba’s Kate Cameron and B.C.’s Brown — round out the 18-team Scotties field.

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