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Ontario’s Rachel Homan undefeated in Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Ontario skip Rachel Homan looks on as she takes on Newfoundland during the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont., on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

It took an extra end, but Rachel Homan's team was the first into the playoffs at the Canadian women's curling championship.

The Ottawa Curling Club foursome edged provincial rival Krista McCarville of Northern Ontario 7-6 to get to nine wins without a loss Wednesday.

Just three teams have gone undefeated in the preliminary round since the national women's curling championship became the Tournament of Hearts in 1982: Homan (2014), Jennifer Jones (2013), Linda Moore (1985).

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"It's more, like, scary because you're bound to lose a game," Homan said. "It's sport. You're always bound to lose a game. It's really tough to go undefeated.

"You keep playing as well as you can. No matter what our record is at the end, we just need to win out in playoffs and that's our goal."

The defending champion gaining automatic entry into the following year's Hearts wasn't introduced until 1986, so Moore was 10-0 in 1985 while Homan and Jones went 11-0.

Ontario concludes their round robin Thursday against Quebec's Eve Belisle (6-3) in the morning followed by a much-anticipated showdown with Manitoba's Michelle Englot (8-1) at night.

"It's going to get awfully loud in here," Englot said. "I think we've picked up a few fans along the way."

The top four teams after the preliminary round's final draw Friday morning advance to the Page playoff. Ties for fourth get solved by tiebreaker games. The final is Sunday.

At eight wins, Englot was assured at least a tiebreaker.

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Defending champion Chelsea Carey stayed in the playoff hunt at 6-1 with a game to play at night against Newfoundland and Labrador. McCarville dropped to 4-3 alongside Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink.

Four losses is often the cutoff for playoffs. Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories was 3-4 facing Saskatchewan at night.

Prince Edward Island's Robyn MacPhee and Stacie Curtis of Newfoundland were 2-5 ahead of Nova Scotia's Mary Mattatall at 1-6.

Saskatchewan's Penny Barker was winless in seven games, while B.C.'s Marla Mallett was 1-8.

Homan, third Emma Miskew and lead Lisa Weagle are two-time Canadian champions (2013, 2014). Joanne Courtney joined the team at second following the departure of Alison Kreviazuk in 2014.

They're the heavy favourite in this year's Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Meridian Centre. Reigning Olympic champion Jennifer Jones didn't make the Manitoba final.

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An extra-end win over Carey to open the tournament and Wednesday's game that went to an 11th end were Homan's toughest tests up to Wednesday.

Ontario lost a measurement on Homan's draw for the win in the 10th against McCarville. Homan was not short again in the 11th drawing in for the victory.

Englot is an experienced skip having represented Saskatchewan seven times between 1988 and 2012 and finishing third twice.

Her Manitoban squad meets B.C. on Thursday morning before what could turn into a game for first place against Ontario.

"Maybe it just seems like a fairy tale yet that I'm not feeling the pressure too much, but we have been playing fairly solid all year," Englot said.

"We just needed to concentrate on bringing our 'A' game to this event and so far we've managed to do it for the most part.

"We know we need to beat B.C. and then it would come down to being a first-place battle against Ontario and that's exactly where we want to be."

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