Swift Current’s Kelly Schafer and the Robyn Silvernagle rink completed a surprise run to the Viterra Scotties Provincial Women’s Curling Championship with an 8-4 win over Nancy Martin in Sunday’s final in Estevan to earn the right to represent Saskatchewan at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Schafer has represented Scotland at seven World Championships and three Olympic games throughout her career, and also won three provincial mixed championships for Saskatchewan, but this will be her first time competing for a chance to be Team Canada at this year’s World Women's Championship in Sweden.
“To think that I’m a provincial champion after competing in Scotland for so long at the ladies’ level, it’s pretty surreal.” Schafer said. “When I first moved to Saskatchewan, it was so long before I was able to play because you had to be a citizen and the girls were pretty strict on that, so I played a little bit of mixed and then I though, oh well, I’m getting too old now to be competing at that level, but then I just kept playing and being semi-competitive.
“When we rallied our team together, we said maybe we have a chance if we’re still shot makers, but then to have the week that we had, progressively getting better and saving some of the best shots for the final made us champion,” she added. “When team dynamics are great and you have some good shot makers, it means you can turn up and compete. It’s a little bit embarrassing, though, everybody else committed to such a long season while we were busy doing other things, but it shows you anything can happen.”
Team Silvernagle lost just twice in the event, both to the Martin rink that they defeated in the final.
“It’s pretty hard to beat someone three times, so the pressure was all on Nancy,” Schafer said. “The first one, she smacked us pretty well with a lopsided victory, but we struggled a little bit with the ice, and then in the semi-finals, she just got ahead of us, and they played excellent. We kind of regrouped after that, we had a good semi-final against Sherry Anderson, and we saved some of our best shots, Robyn played excellent in the final and made some really good skip shots and put the pressure on Nancy, and we just kept piling the pressure.
“I felt like we had an advantage stepping on the ice, I think, because they knew they had more to lose than we did, and we were just relaxed,” she added. “We weren’t planning to be here this week or the start of the season, so let’s go and enjoy it because we never know if we’ll be back again just with where our life takes us. Robyn even said after Kolt, her little boy, they were in hospital for a long time trying to make sure he was recovered, and she didn’t know whether she would ever get back to the ice again, so it’s pretty special for her as well.
Local curling fans rallied around Schafer, cheering for her and Team Silvernagle on social media, and her husband Jerrod and son Darby were on hand for the weekend games at Affinity Place.
“They said if we won the first game on Saturday, they’d come up for the Page 1/2 game and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know, maybe stay at home, I’m not sure.’ Not that I’m superstitious but we lost that game,” she said. “They stayed for the rest of the weekend, and it was exciting for Darby to be there and see me win something. Obviously, I’ve got a history with curling but it’s nice to have your family there.”
Schafer added she also got a lot of support from back in Scotland, including from her former skip Eve Muirhead.
“Eve was supporting me all week and I chatted with her, and I’ve heard from so many curling fans back in Scotland that have been part of my life for so many years,” she said. “Whether it’s teammates, coaches, just people that I grew up with and they were all supporting and watching, they stayed up late to watch, so it was fun to hear from everybody and see that we had big Scottish support back home as well.”
With the Scotties just over two weeks away, Schafer says she’ll be ready for the atmosphere that comes with competing at a Canadian curling championship event.
I’ve had some world and Olympic experience so I kind of know what to expect on that front from a huge crowd, so it’ll be exciting,” she said. “I don’t miss curling until it comes to the big championship events when everything is on the line, and we’ve got great shot making and great teams. You just bring your competitive edge, and you have that fan support. There’s nothing better than playing in an arena full of people and it’s such a great atmosphere and curling fans are so good. We’ll have to get to the rink a few more times in the next couple of weeks and get ready to go. I know already, there’s lots of family going to be travelling there and some Scottish fans travelling over as well, so we’re excited for that.”
The Scotties will be in Kamloops, BC, from February 17-26. The field for the event includes six-time Scotties champion Jennifer Jones representing Manitoba, three-time champion Rachel Homan from Ontario, and three-time defending champion Kerri Einarson returning as Team Canada.