B.C.s Mallett clinches playoff spot at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

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VICTORIA - The only thing B.C. skip Marla Mallett knows about her performance at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts is that it has earned her a playoff spot.
Where she ends up - and who will be joining her - won't be decided until the end of a crazy Thursday at the Canadian women's curling championship.
Mallett's Vancouver foursome secured the first Page playoff berth Wednesday night with a 6-4 win over Kerry Galusha of the Territories in Draw 14. Mallett (8-1) can finish no worse than third, and a victory over either P.E.I.'s Rebecca Jean MacPhee or Canada's Jennifer Jones will earn her top spot in the round robin.
Thursday's Draw 17 matchup between the host team and the defending champions, in what could be a preview of Sunday's final, could very well be the biggest draw of the round robin. But as she has maintained all week, Mallett isn't looking ahead. Or at least, not past her next game, a Thursday afternoon tilt against MacPhee.
"I have a game (Thursday) afternoon," Mallett said when asked about facing Jones. "That's what I'm focused on."
She was equally direct when asked about the secret to her success.
"Sticking to the process, and not getting caught up in the outcome," said Mallett. "We have a process that we go through, and it's as simple as throwing the right weight at the broom, and away we go."
There's nothing simple about the rest of the standings, which see seven teams battling for the final three playoff spots.
Jones and Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton are tied for second at 6-3. For both teams, a great day could mean a berth in the 1-versus-2 Page playoff game. A bad one could leave them on the outside looking in.
The battle for fourth place is even messier. MacPhee, Ontario's Krista McCarville, Alberta's Cheryl Bernard, Quebec's Marie-France Larouche and Newfoundland and Labrador's Heather Strong are all still alive at 5-4. For any of these teams, a loss will mean elimination.
Lawton is an accountant, but she says she isn't the least bit tempted to try and figure out the playoff picture.
"Definitely not," Lawton said with a laugh. "That's way too confusing to me.
"The board will take care of itself: We know what our job is out here, and that's to curl."
Mallett was in control against Galusha from the start, scoring two with an open draw to the house in the first end and stealing a single in the second when Galusha came up short with a draw attempt. B.C. stole another point in the third, and led 5-1 at the break.
Galusha scored single points in the sixth and seventh ends to close the gap, but Mallett took one in the eighth, held Galusha to a single in ninth and ran the Territories out of rocks in the 10th to secure her third straight win.
"We've been throwing very consistently," said Mallett. "We're just trying to stay as consistent as we can, and throw the right weight at the broom."
Jones had a chance to put some distance between herself and the other contenders, but was outplayed by Strong in an 8-4 defeat in Draw 13.
After suffering her first two losses of the tournament Tuesday, Jones appeared to have turned the corner, opening Wednesday with a 10-3 drubbing of Larouche. But any momentum the defending champions had was erased by Strong, who scored three with the hammer in the fourth end and adding a steal of two in the fifth.
Jones trimmed the lead to 5-4, but another two-point steal in the ninth by Strong led to handshakes.
"I thought we started off so well, and then we gave up a really bad three, and the steal of two was unfortunate," said Jones, who curled 71 per cent while the rest of her team averaged 94 per cent.
"It's disappointing ... we needed to win that game. We'll have to come out and win both (Thursday)."
It won't be easy, with Canada facing a solid P.E.I. team before closing the round robin against Mallett.
Lawton's rink earned two more victories Wednesday, extending its winning streak to six games and emerging as the team nobody wants to face. Lawton, third Marliese Kasner, second Sherri Singler and lead Lana Vey were particularly dominant in their evening game, rallying from a 3-0 deficit with three straight steals in a 10-4 win over New Brunswick's Andrea Kelly (3-6).
"We were struggling a little bit with a few things, but we managed to control that and really started making our shots," said Kasner. "We're getting stronger and stronger, and we're reading the ice better and better."
"We've put ourselves in a great position."

Geographic location: Canada, VICTORIA, Vancouver Saskatchewan Ontario Alberta Quebec Newfoundland and Labrador New Brunswick

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