Kerrie Einarson looked poised to win the Scotties final comfortably with a 6-2 lead going into the ninth end and a 6-4 lead and the hammer going into the 10th end.
And then Rachel Homan made a pair of great shots to lay two with a corner of the top rock peeking out from behind a guard. On her final shot Einarson had a choice of a light weight tap on the top Ontario rock or drawing the four foot. Second Shannon Birchard said there was never a doubt. Einarson was going to throw the draw.
Birchard followed their usual routine exchanging a low five and Birchard encouraging her with a “you got this”. They do not discuss weight with Einarson on a draw unless the ice has changed.
Unfortunately, Einarson said she put a sliver extra on the rock and it would not stop. Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur could only walk it down the ice and watch the rock slide through the four foot.
There was a collective gasp from the thousands in Mosaic Place. Curling for most of the game over 90 per cent, with a series of brilliant shots, no one thought Einarson would miss the shot.
You could see on TSN the struggle on Einarson’s face not to give into despair. Her emotions are always open.
Birchard said they needed to settle Einarson a bit as everyone expected the extra end would also come down to a draw by Einarson.
Curling is a game to test the nerves. Few sports have the inexorable building of tension at the end of a tight game as the skip must ready themselves for the shot to win or lose.
In the Manitoba final against Jennifer Jones the Einarson rink had to watch as Jones threw her last rock with a chance to win the Manitoba Championship. Birchard said there is adrenaline when your skip is throwing the last shot but tough waiting when you are
watching. She said that she was on the side and could not tell Jones was inside on that final shot when it was released.
On Sunday evening all but a fraction of those present were hoping for Einarson. Where there had been excitement in the 10th end there was an air of anxiety in the 11th.
Birchard said Einarson knew she needed to take a couple of feet off her throw. She made sure to follow the usual routine with Einarson.
Birchard said when Einarson let it go they knew it was close. As the rock went down the sheet they worried they would misjudge it. Looking up and down and up and down they lightly brushed the rock.
Birchard and Meilleur were the first to know it was perfect as they shepherded it into the house and on to the button.
Bill Selnes, who’s based in Melfort, has written about sports since the late 1970s.