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Manitoba leans on veteran Englot, claims playoff spot at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Manitoba skip Michelle Englot delivers a stone while taking on British Columbia during the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont., on Feb. 23, 2017.


Michelle Englot was recruited precisely for this situation.

Short on previous playoff experience at the Canadian women's curling championship, Manitoba will now lean on a woman who has been there, done that.

The Manitobans claimed their playoff spot at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts with a 7-2 win Thursday over British Columbia.

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At 9-1, their final round-robin game was a marquee matchup at night against undefeated Rachel Homan of Ontario.

Third Kate Cameron, 25, is making her Hearts debut in St. Catharines, Ont., while front end Leslie Wilson, 37, and Raunora Westcott, 40, played in it for Cathy Overton-Clapham in 2011 and Jill Thurston in 2010.

The closest Wilson and Westcott came to playoffs was losing a tiebreaker in 2010.

Englot, 53, skipped Saskatchewan to the playoffs twice in seven appearances. She finished third in both 1988 and 1989.

"Back in '88 and '89, we didn't really realize how big this is," Englot said. "Now, we know how big this is, but yet, in the same breath we need to stay the course, stay relaxed and stay focused."

The Regina resident – Curling Canada allows each team to have one out-of-province member – has been doing that in the preliminary round.

"She's patient, she's calm," Cameron said. "If I miss a shot she's 'no worries Kate.' There's no anger."

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Englot knows from experience how difficult it is to win your province and get to the Canadian championship. She's revelled in her new team's performance both in Manitoba play-downs and in St. Catharines.

"This has been a really fantastic fairy tale year," the skip said. "This year has been more exciting for me just because I know the team is super-talented and we have the opportunity to be at the top.

"We know if we play well we can definitely compete with any team in the world, so we're looking forward to the playoffs."

The four teams with the best records get into the Page playoff, with ties for fourth solved by tiebreaker games.

The preliminary round concludes Friday morning followed by a playoff game at night between the top two seeds. Homan was assured a top-two finish and thus will play Friday night.

The winner goes directly to Sunday's final. The loser drops to Saturday night's semi-final to face the winner of the afternoon playoff between the third and fourth seeds.

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Defending champion Chelsey Carey, 7-2, and Northern Ontario's Krista McCarville, 6-3, were in playoff territory with two games to play. After seven straight wins, Carey fell 8-4 to McCarville in the afternoon draw.

Quebec's Eve Belisle was 6-4 with a game against B.C. at night.

At 5-5, Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories and Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink needed Quebec and Northern Ontario losses Thursday night to avoid elimination.

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