Must See: Einarson makes terrific double takeout to seal win for Canada
With the Tim Hortons Curling Trials quickly approaching, TSN.ca will profile one men’s team and one women’s team each day before the first rocks fly on Nov. 20 at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
Team Kerri Einarson
Skip: Kerri Einarson (34)
Third: Val Sweeting (34)
Second: Shannon Birchard (27)
Lead: Briane Meilleur (29)
Coach: Heather Nedohin (46)
Curling Club: Gimli Curling Club in Manitoba
CTRS Ranking: 5
Highlights: The two-time defending Canadian champions lost to provincial rival Tracy Fleury in the final of the Sherwood Park Women’s Curling Classic in September and made the quarters of the Masters in October, where they lost to Fleury once again. They went 1-3 at the National earlier this month, missing the playoffs.
How They Got Here
Qualified for the Tim Hortons Curling Trials by winning the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask.
Nov. 20 – Tracy Fleury
Nov. 21 – Casey Scheidegger, Jacqueline Harrison
Nov. 22 – Laura Walker
Nov. 23 – Jennifer Jones
Nov. 24 – Krista McCarville
Nov. 25 – Rachel Homan
Nov. 26 – Kelsey Rocque
Expert Analysis from TSN's Cheryl Bernard
Team Einarson will win the Trials if…
"The two-time reigning Scotties champs have proven they can step-up and win big events. This team will win the Trials if they get off to a good start and if third Val Sweeting supports Kerri Einarson with shot making and the confidence she can instill in Kerri when she needs it. If they struggle early in the week, their inconsistent season so far and lack of Trials experience (only Sweeting has played in a Trials) combined with the high expectations being placed on them could rattle confidence and make the pressure almost unbearable."
Val Sweeting is the only curler on Team Kerri Einarson who has competed at an Olympic Trials.
She qualified for the 2013 Trials via the Pre-Trials and proceeded to post a 3-4 record, missing a playoff tiebreaker by a single game. At the 2017 Trials in Ottawa, Sweeting went 4-4, once again missing the playoffs by a single game.
Einarson, Shannon Birchard and Briane Meilleur all competed at the 2017 Pre-Trials as skips of their own teams.
Last Four Years
Representing the first-ever wild-card rink, Einarson skipped Selena Kaatz, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish to the Scotties final in 2018 where they lost to Jennifer Jones.
Not long after, Einarson announced she was leaving that team and forming a new squad consisting of Sweeting, Birchard and Meilleur, all former skips. The move raised eyebrows across the curling landscape as many questioned whether a foursome filled with shot callers and last rock throwers would work.
It turns out it can.
Einarson and company rolled to four straight Tour victories to start the 2018-19 campaign and made the finals at both the Canada Cup and the National on the Grand Slam circuit.
They dropped the Manitoba Scotties final to Tracy Fleury and then lost the Scotties wild-card game to Casey Scheidegger as Einarson shot just 56 per cent.
Despite the disappointment at the Canadian championship, Team Einarson finished off the year strong with a win at the big money Players’ Championship in Toronto.
At the 2020 Manitoba Scotties, Einarson defeated Jones in the final to earn the Buffalo for nationals. Team Einarson had the top seed after championship pool play and went on to defeat Jones again in the 1 vs. 2 game before dispatching Rachel Homan in a dramatic extra-end final to capture their first national championship.
Einarson, Sweeting and Birchard either finished first or were tied for first in their positional shooting percentages for the tournament.
The victory was particularly pleasant for Sweeting who had lost two Scotties finals in her career.
“I’ve had quite a few heartbreaking final losses, so I definitely needed that,” an emotional Sweeting said after the game. “It’s hard to get back up, but we did and got back to that final. I’m so proud of us.”
Einarson praised her teammates after the win.
“What an emotional roller-coaster,” said Einarson. “This is so amazing. I’m so incredibly proud of my teammates and they played so well all week. If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I’d be today."
The good times quickly turned into heartbreak as the World Women’s Curling Championship was cancelled due to COVID-19 with Team Einarson already in Prince George, B.C., ready to go.
Team Einarson, like most of the curling world, didn’t get to see any action until the 2021 Scotties inside the Calgary bubble. Their marathon stay at the Markin MacPhail Centre was eventful to say the least.
It started with them defending their Scotties title, beating Team Homan in the championship game for a second straight year. Each member of the team would then compete at the Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship with Einarson winning alongside partner Brad Gushue in her first event in the discipline.
They returned to the bubble after a brief break and defended their Players’ Championship title from 2019.
Team Einarson finished off their bubble stay with the World Women’s Curling Championship. At this point, Einarson’s crew had spent approximately 40 days inside the bubble, following strict protocols which included staying in your hotel room when not playing and no visits from family members.
Bubble fatigue may have been a factor as Team Einarson started off the women’s world losing five of their first six games. The slow start meant they were in severe danger of missing both the playoffs and a direct qualification to the Winter Olympics for Canada.
But Einarson’s crew bore down to win six of their last seven games to earn a playoff spot and send Canada to the Olympics in 2022. They lost to Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg in the qualification game but left the bubble with their heads held high after a remarkable run.
"We never gave up and we just kept battling out there," Einarson said. "I'm so proud of us and where we have put ourselves – into the playoffs."
Einarson still had one event left on her schedule in 2020-21 as she competed with Gushue at the world mixed doubles in Scotland. They made the playoffs to qualify Canada for the Olympics but lost in the qualification game to Switzerland.