Regular lineup sparks Canadian curlers
Canada skip Heather Nedohin (centre) watches the line of a rock as South Korea skip Ji-Sun Kim watches from behind during their game at the World Women's Curling Championships in Lethbridge, Alta., March 21, 2012. (ANDY CLARK/Reuters)
There's something to be said about getting the old gang back together.
A sense of familiarity and predictability. Playing in the comfort zone.
When second Jessica Mair returned to Canada's lineup after a bout with the flu bug, the timing couldn't have been better at the women's world curling championship.
After Mair checked herself out the lineup Monday night, Heather Nedohin's crew lost two of its next three starts.
When Mair stepped back into the lineup Wednesday, the old magic returned.
Not only did Nedohin's crew snap Korea's six-game winning streak with a 7-5 win, but it assured itself of at least a tiebreaker when it took out Melanie Robillard of Germany 5-4 in the afternoon.
That moved the Canadians to the top of the table with a 7-2 record.
A win over bottom-feeding Italy Thursday morning would put Nedohin into the playoff mix. A pair of wins Thursday would put her in the 1-2 game.
"Every game matters from here on in," Nedohin said. "There's always work to do. Relief? It's relief when I'm done my second game (Thursday) and we'll see where we are in the standings. Having a good day (Wednesday) and playing well as a team, that's my bonus."
Nedohin is in much better shape going into the final day than she was at the Scotties, when seven wins was enough to get her into the 3-4 game.
"We're thinking a lot about playoffs and what it takes to get into the playoffs," Nedohin said. "I knew (Wednesday) was a big win day. We got two of them, so we're going to enjoy supper."
Her two-win day had a lot to do with stepping on the ice with her regular lineup.
"As much as it's great to have a fifth like Amy (Nixon) being able to step in in circumstances, there's nothing like a core unit," Nedohin said. "It takes years to establish routines and unity and everything.
"It just felt really good out there. It's nice to have Jess back in the lineup."
That chemistry got them through a testy day.
"We always get stronger as the week progresses," Nedohin said. "Whether it's with each other or learning the rocks and ice. I'm definitely feeling more comfortable."
They needed that unity early in the Korean game. After giving up a three-ender in the third, Nedohin responded with a deuce and never looked back against what had been the hottest team this week.
"We are a strong unit," Nedohin said. "Absolutely, we needed it because Korea was in first place. We needed to come out playing our A game."
The team has had better outings this week, but it made the shots that needed to be made to keep the Koreans at bay.
Nedohin waited until after the break to turn on the jets against Germany.
A tricky tap-back in the sixth netted three points and when Nedohin added a steal in six for a 5-3 lead, that proved to be enough of a cushion.
"Getting the three in six was big," said Nedohin, who went against her coaches' advice. "It's funny. We're always told to split the house when you have an opportunity for two. I ignored what the coaches said. I went around the corner guard. Unfortunately, I went deep. Fortunately, she stuck out in the open and allowed me to hit.
"Sometimes it bites you but today, I got a cookie instead."
Nedohin continues to feed off the Canadian crowd.
"I feel the warmth on and off the ice, regardless of when we lost a game," Nedohin said. "We walk down the hallways, we go to restaurants and at the hotel, everybody's saying 'c'mon girls, you can do it.' There's nothing better than that."