Shannon Kleibrink was crowned the Queen of Hearts at the 2017 Jiffy Lube Alberta Scotties.
The fifth provincial championship for the 48-year-old Kleibrink was celebrated Sunday at the St. Albert Curling Club after defeating Val Sweeting 6-4 in the final.
Kleibrink’s rink of third Lisa Eyamie, second Sarah Wilkes, lead Alison Thiessen and alternate skip Heather Nedohin advances to the Canadian Scotties, Feb. 18 to 26 at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont.
“This one is just a little bit sweeter because I didn’t think I was going to get another one. I fact I was sort of semi-retired a couple of years ago,” said Kleibrink, winner of the 1993, 2004, 2008 and 2011 Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
“Alberta is such a strong province and Val Sweeting is such a strong team so anytime you can come out on top of a field like that it’s an amazing feeling.”
The Okotoks team qualified for provincials as the second-highest Canadian Team Ranking System point leader for Alberta Tour events this season.
“We just happened to land in provincials so it’s really an unexpected win,” said Kleibrink, the runner-up at the 2008 Canada Scotties and bronze medallist at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics.
“Lisa and I decided to just play a few bonspiels for fun and then we got a call a couple of years ago from the young front end that was looking to play a little bit more and they joined the team and then we realized just how good they were. Lisa and I thought we can’t waste this. We have to try a little harder too so we entered some more things and here we are.”
Nedohin was brought on board when Kleibrink suffered a slipped disc in her back two days before the Alberta Scotties got going. The manager of the Sherwood Park Curling Club and the 1998 and 2012 Canadian Scotties champion skipped the first and third games and Kleibrink called the shots in the others while going 5-0 at provincials.
“We were a five-man show,” Kleibrink said. “It was really great to have her with us on the team and we owe a lot to her.”
Kleibrink resumed calling the shots after some intense physiotherapy sessions.
“I put it out so close to the competition that I was in a bit of trouble but it was better as the week went on. It’s starting to feel almost normal now,” she said. “I never played two games in a day. I couldn’t do it. If I had to play again now, no way.”
Despite the bad back, Kleibrink was good to go in the playoffs and in Saturday’s A-B game edged Sweeting 7-6 with a steal of one in the extra end after counting two in 10.
In the final, the crowd was pro-Sweeting with Paul Kane High School teacher Lori Olson-Johns at third. The team’s front-end consisted of lead Rachel Brown and second Dana Ferguson.
“We absolutely were the underdogs. We haven’t put much into the game in the last few years and obviously they’re an awesome team that’s right at the top,” said Kleibrink of the Sweeting rink, one of the contenders at the Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials in December and is ranked seventh on the World Curling Tour money list at $58,250.
“The thing about curling though is sometimes it’s just whoever is playing better on the day.”
Kleibrink opened the scoring with a deuce with the hammer in the first end and Sweeting blanked the next two before knotting the score with two in four.
Kleibrink settled for one in five before capitalizing on a series of miscues for steals of one in six, as Sweeting was unsuccessful on a runback after her first shot was bang on, and two in seven with Sweeting looking at three but her last shot hit and rolled out.
Sweeting answered with a deuce in nine but in 10 Kleibrink didn’t have to throw her last shot after Sweeting’s final attempt.
“It was a great battle. We kind of got a lucky break when one of her rocks just didn’t curl enough and we stole two but other than that the game was just back and forth and even down to the last rock anything could’ve happened,” Kleibrink said.
Olson-Johns credit the Kleibrink rink for a job well done.
“They’re a good team. Shannon Kleibrink is a wily veteran of a skip. They had a great day so hats off to them,” said the Alberta Scotties winner with Cathy King in 2005 and 2006 and two years ago with Sweeting.
“We just were on the other side of the inch. It would’ve been nice to see her throw her last rock against a couple, we missed that (last one by Sweeting) by millimetres, so it’s tough loss but I’m so proud of the team and how we performed.”
It was the third Alberta Scotties in a row for the Sweeting foursome together and last year they lost the final 8-5 to Chelsea Carey, who went on to win the Canadian Scotties.
This year’s provincials was somewhat of a bumpy ride for Sweeting, who also skipped teams to victory at provincials in 2010 and 2014 and was the Canadian Scotties finalist in her last two appearances, and the rest of her team but Olson-Johns believed they were on the right track entering the final after beating Casey Scheidegger 5-3 in Sunday’s semifinal with a deuce in 10 after giving up a steal in nine.
“We were really confident because we played amazing this morning and we knew what the ice conditions were going to be. We were ready,” said the second team all-star third at the 2015 Canadian Scotties.
This year marked the second Alberta Scotties in a curling club compared to a hockey arena and Kleibrink was impressed by how the host St. Albert Curling Club pulled it off.
“They did such a great job here in St. Albert. They actually gave it an arena feel and there were so many fans. Obviously they were mostly Sweeting fans being from Edmonton but it was still really fun to play in front of a big crowd like that.”
Now it’s off to the Canadian Scotties as the Alberta reps.
“I can’t wait. It’s in St. Catharines so I know it will be a great show there and we’re really looking forward to it,” Kleibrink said.