Posted by: Mr Bed Bug in Canada Bed Bugs on February 3rd, 2022

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No babies

And no bedbugs.

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Rest assured, thats a big deal for Team Walker at the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Big in that Laura Walker and the Albertans are one big happy family for the national curling championship.

And big in that they are getting the sleep that it takes to finally break through for the big one in Thunder Bay.

Cant complain, said Walker on Tuesday after a big 11-5 triumph over Yukon in the morning draw moved Alberta to 3-2 in the jam-packed Scotties standings. We know we have some work to do to pick up our play a little bit, but overall, we feel good and ready to keep going.

But no bedbugs, and especially right now with a bye (Tuesday night), we are able to rest.

The Scotties field has come to learn theres no sleeping on Walker & Co.

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Thats because the Albertans have been slowly on the rise.

Their 3-4 eye-opener in a first-time trip to the nationals two years gave way to 2021s third-place finish in Calgary, when the rink from Edmontons Saville Community Sports Centre was met by but, for the most part, overcame many restless moments.

Never mind the strangeness of the bubble itself.

There were baby challenges, as well.

One was the absence of lead Nadine Scotland for the Scotties, as she elected to skip bubble life during COVID concerns while being pregnant for the first time.

Another was the day/night business at hand for Walker herself, as she brought her baby boy into the safe-zone at WinSport.

But neither issue is in play this year.

For sure, the sleep will be nice, but its a long time to be away from him, said Walker of being apart from young Liam for this championship. This will be the longest we will be apart.

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Indeed, its a different Scotties for the skip.

Not that it was a nightmare last year not even close. Walker found her way as both a mother and a true curling contender at the same time.

When I was at the hotel with Liam, I was Mom, and as soon as I stepped into our pre-game meeting, I was curler, and the only way I could do it and stay sane was to just switch back and forth, Walker said. And I think that really helped me out on the ice. I was able just to be 100% there and know that my little guy was back in the hotel after the game and had no idea what happened out on the ice.

What happened, of course, was a gutty run of six straight wins, including in a tiebreaker over Manitoba legend Jennifer Jones, to reach the semifinal.

Even though the Albertans lost to 9-3 to Kerri Einarson to fall shy of the final, with the bronze effort signalling their arrival as a bona fide contender on the Scotties scene.

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Dare to dream this year in Thunder Bay then?

Obviously, it can really suck to keep knocking and not have the door open, said Walker, referring to not yet reeling in a big prize despite their ascent to curling contention. But we just really have stayed true to who we are as a team and supporting each other and to the process that we believe will get us there. And eventually we started seeing some success, and that becomes really encouraging when you do start to see that success to just keep doing what youre doing.

And hopefully if you do knock loud enough, the door will open.

Of course, theyre hoping that happens this weekend.

But to get there, Alberta really needs another run like last year. A third loss, with Wednesdays contest against Nova Scotia the next game on the schedule, would put a big dent in their playoff hopes.

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All this after coming into these Scotties believing they had hit their stride.

Nadine had her little guy, Colby, so she was away for a little while, Walker said. So when she came back, we had a little relearning to do there for awhile, so we had a dip in the middle of the season there. Now that shes been back for awhile, weve been firing on all cylinders and are really comfortable and starting to play better and better.

Looking back, I wish we couldve peaked at the Olympic trials.

But that week in late November seemed to work against the Walker crew, too.

The challenges thrown at them at the Roar of the Rings in Saskatoon ranged from bedbugs in their hotel rooms to emergency dental surgery mid-event for second Taylor McDonald. And third Kate Cameron missed a game while being quarantined in her room for a few days with a stomach flu.

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It was like anything you wanted to throw at us that week was thrown at us, said Walker of an underwhelming 3-5 Olympic trials. I dont think any of that affected how we played on the ice. It just wasnt our week unfortunately. I think we learned a lot from that.

Perhaps just in time to make it work for them in Thunder Bay.

We certainly peaked at provincials (in early January) and had a really great week there and felt we were never out of it in our minds, and I think thats a huge thing that we just really believe we can win every game, Walker added. were going into it with a mind-set that our main goal is to win the event. And were playing with a lot of confidence right now because of our experience as a team over the last few years. Were starting to play better and better and hanging in there with the best of them.

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SPECIAL FAN INVITE

There will be fans in the stands for the Scotties playoffs, after all.

Curling Canada announced Tuesday it has invited volunteers and junior curlers into Fort William Gardens for the action Friday through Sunday, free of charge. That is as long as they meet COVID protocols.

In total, 348 volunteers registered to help out with the event. The invited juniors number 37 and are all from the Thunder Bay area.

EXTRA ENDS

Tuesday came and went without Tracy Fleury on the ice for Team Wild Card 1 (3-1). The star skip remains in COVID protocol. That didnt stop her rink, skipped by Selena Njegovan, from putting up a key 9-4 win over Team Wild Card 2s Chelsea Carey (2-2) In other matinee action Tuesday, Team Wild Card 3s Emma Miskew (3-3) thumped Nunavuts Brigitte MacPhail (0-6) 14-1, Newfoundland & Labradors Sarah Hill (2-3) tripped up Northern Ontarios Krista McCarville (3-2) 8-5 and Saskatchewan Penny Barker (3-2) dumped Prince Edward Islands Suzanne Birt (2-4) 9-6 The evening games saw Canadas Kerri Einarson (6-0) wrap up a playoff spot by beating Yukons Hailey Birnie (0-5) 6-4, Quebecs Laurie St-Georges (2-3) lose to Northwest Territories Kerry Galusha (4-1) 7-6, Ontarios Hollie Duncan (2-4) beat B.C.s Mary-Anne Arsenault (1-5) 9-6 and Manitobas Mackenzie Zacharias (3-1) drop a tough one to Nova Scotias Christina Black (3-2) 7-6 The morning draw also saw the Northwest Territories earn an 8-6 upset of Manitoba, Canada double up B.C. 10-5 and Ontario earn its first win with an 8-6 top of Nova Scotia Wednesdays Scotties schedule consists of Draws 13, 14 and 15 at 9 a.m. ET, 2 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET respectively. All the draws are on TSN.

tsaelhof@postmedia.com

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Rest assured, Alberta's Laura Walker doing everything right to make Scotties run - Calgary Sun

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