ALBERTON – The year was 2003 when Suzanne (Gaudet) Birt first skipped a team to the P.E.I. Scotties provincial women’s curling championship title.
Sunday, the veteran women’s skip and 2001 world junior curling champion, skipped a team to the P.E.I. Scotties title for a 10th time.
irt and her Mitchell O’Shea-coached team of Marie Christianson, third stone; Meaghan Hughes, second stone, and Michelle McQuaid, lead, from the Charlottetown Curling Complex, downed the Veronica Smith rink from the Cornwall Curling Club 10-4 in a game conceded after eight ends.
“It’s been a great week,” said Birt during the presentations, and she thanked her team for their hard work and making it fun. “A lot of good curling, a lot of great teams here.”
For Hughes, this is her fourth consecutive provincial championship. She won with Birt in 2016 and she and McQuaid were with Robyn MacPhee when she won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018. McQuaid won with Birt in 2015, and Christianson was part of Birt’s winning team in 2016.
Jane DiCarlo, Sabrina Smith and Whitney Jenkins round out the runner-up rink from the modified triple knock out championship event which got underway at the Western Community Curling Club Wednesday during a snowstorm.
Birt who had fallen to a 1-2 (won-loss) record with a 7-6 loss to Smith on Friday morning, had to stitch together five consecutive wins to remain in contention. She won the event’s first playoff game Sunday morning, 7-6 over Sarah Fullerton.
Smith, who appeared in all three qualifiers, lost the ‘C’ qualifier to Birt 9-7 Saturday evening. Her record in the qualifiers advanced her to the championship final to await the winner of the Birt-Fullerton game.
Back-to-back deuces Sunday afternoon, Birt opened with a first-end single. After Smith tied it in the second, Birt responded with back-to-back deuces. She led 5-2 at the fifth-end break. She scored three in the sixth and stole two in the seventh to go up 10-2, and Smith conceded after scoring a pair in the eighth.
Birt said she couldn’t take the early lead for granted.
“Every end, you have to keep on your game,” she added. “With the five-rock rule, you know any team can score a big end and get right back into it.”
She admitted she likes the new five-rock rule.
“It’s fun. You’re always in the game and the game’s got to get going right from the get-go.”
“Congratulations to Team Birt, you’re going to do awesome,” said Smith who also acknowledged her own team for playing hard throughout the five-day event.
McQuaid, said the final score was not indicative of the game.
“Veronica and her team played really well this week,” said McQuaid. “They fought hard.
“We knew we had to play well, and Suzanne played phenomenal today. She really pulled through for us.”
There were seven women’s teams vying for the P.E.I. Scotties title and six men’s teams played for the P.E.I. Tankard title, which John Likely and his Western Community Curling Club and Charlottetown Curling Complex team won over defending-champion Eddie MacKenzie on Sunday morning. Read about men's final here.
Birt said the Alberton ice, with its limited curl, proved challenging, but she felt her team managed it well.
She’s optimistic as she prepares to represent P.E.I. at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sydney, N.S., from Feb. 16 to 24.
“We’ve had a fantastic year and we’re playing really well together and we’re enjoying our time on and off the ice,” she reflected.
“You know what, if we play like I think we can play, we’ll have a very good week in Sydney and we should be there at the end of the week.”