The waiting was the worst for Team Canada.

For several agonizing minutes Kerri Einarson and her two-time defending champions had to wait and watch while Krista McCarville’s Northern Ontario rink decided on their final shot attempt.

“We were just running through what she might have,” said third Val Sweeting. “We were just hoping we did the right things. It worked out.”

Einarson’s rink held off a late rally by McCarville for a 9-6 victory to win their third consecutive Scotties Tournament of Hearts Sunday night in Thunder Bay, Ont.

After the final stone, Einarson’s team hugged in celebration.

“To win once is really hard,” said Einarson. “To do it three times, I’m so proud of my teammates. They have been unreal all week.

“We knew we had to make all of our shots to come up with a win. That’s what we did.”

Einarson took an 8-6 lead into the final end but McCarville had last rock. Team Canada buried a rock on the button early. It was touched by a Northern Ontario stone and another Team Canada rock.

McCarville tried a raise takeout with her last rock but failed to move the Team Canada stone, giving up the steal of one.

“Not really the shot I was expecting to have to try, but that’s just kind of the way that end went,” said McCarville. “Nothing seemed to really go our way.

“It was kind of a Hail Mary and it just didn’t work.”

Each shot from the hometown favourites, who curl out of the Fort William Curling Club, drew cheers and the clanging of a cow bell from a crowd of around 350 allowed into the building under COVID-19 protocols.

Einarson’s rink of Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur from Gimli, Man., advanced to the final at the Fort Williams Gardens with an 8-4 win over Andrea Crawford of New Brunswick during the afternoon semifinal.

Einarson, appearing in just her fifth Scotties, defeated Ontario’s Rachel Homan for the championship in 2020 and 2021. She lost in the 2018 final.

She joins an elite group of curlers who won three consecutive Canadian women’s curling titles.

Saskatchewan’s Vera Pezer won three titles between 1971 and 1973 while Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones won championships between 2008 and 2010. Colleen Jones of Nova Scotia won four consecutive titles beginning in 2001.

“They are amazing curlers, so to be in the same (company) as them is pretty amazing,” said Einarson.

Team Canada travelled a twisting road this year. They started the season slowly and were limited from the Olympic trials in a tiebreaker.

“We just kind of regrouped and said, ‘let’s go out there and embrace being Team Canada,'” said Einarson. “We just kept things light. That’s when we play our best is when we keep things light and joke around.”

Einarson’s rink will represent Canada at the 2022 Women’s Curling Championship in Prince George, B.C., from March 19-27.

McCarville and her rink of third Kendra Lilly, second Ashley Sippala and lead Sarah Potts, reached the final with a 9-8, extra-end win over Crawford Saturday night in a game she trailed by four points at one time.

In the final, trailing by three points in the eighth end, McCarville made a clutch shot to move two Team Canada rocks. When the dust cleared it looked like she might have scored three but a measurement left her with two, cutting the lead to 7-6.

Team Canada gambled in the ninth. Einarson opted to remove a Northern Ontario rock with her last shot, hoping one of her stones at the top of the house was biting the ring. She made the takeout, but a measurement showed the rock was outside the ring. Einarson took the point to lead 8-6 but lost the hammer for the final end.

It was the second time McCarville reached the final in her ninth Scotties appearance. She lost the 2016 championship to Chelsea Carey’s Alberta rink and finished third in 2010.

“It’s disappointing,” said McCarville. “We’ve been here before and you don’t know when you’re ever going to go back. We work really hard day in and day out. Just coming up a wee bit short is tough.”

McCarville finished the round-robin portion of the tournament third in Pool A with a 5-3 record. She defeated Tracy Fleury’s Wild Card 1 8-3 in Friday night’s opening round of the playoffs.

Einarson’s rink was a perfect 8-0 during the round robin before losing 8-6 to Crawford in Friday’s playoff. She bounced back to beat Fleury 11-6 Saturday afternoon.

Crawford and her rink of third Sylvie Quillian, second Jill Babin and lead Katie Forward finished the round-robin portion second in Pool A with a 6-3 record.

She advanced to the playoffs for the first time in her 10th Scotties appearance and hoped to be the first New Brunswick rink to reach the final since Heidi Hanlon lost to B.C.’s Julie Sutton in 1991.

“I wouldn’t say we met our expectations,” said Crawford. “We did our best and Kerri’s team played amazing. We had a hard time getting those opportunities for multiple (points). I’m proud of the team for the way we finished out this week.”

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the round-robin portion of the tournament was held without fans or media in the building. A limited number of volunteers registered for the competition and junior curlers from the area were allowed to attend the playoffs.