Penny Barker is full of optimism heading into her second trip to the provincial Scotties.
Her Moose Jaw Ford Curling Centre team qualified through the A event at southerns 10 days ago and is feeling good about how they’re playing. They also know they’re decided underdogs in the event and Barker feels she learned a lot at her Scotties debut two years ago.
“We learned that you have to be patient — don’t let little things get on you. There’s a lot of time in a 10-end game. If you give up a big end, you have time to come back,” said Barker who believes that remaining positive is crucial.
“The last trip to the Scotties didn’t go the way we had planned, but I think we gained some experience from playing the Stefanie Lawtons, she added. “We don’t get to play against them very often and they can teach you a lot about the game just by playing against them.”
Stefanie Lawton and her Saskatoon Granite foursome will be Barker’s first opponent tonight when they meet at the SaskPower Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Balgonie.
“Why not play them right off the bat?” asked Barker. “At that point we’re both learning the ice. Everybody can beat anybody on any given day.”
Barker is joined by third Susan Lang, second Melissa Hoffman and lead Danielle Sicinski and the team is coached by Leon Roy.
Two years ago Barker’s rink finished 1-4 in their pool in their provincial Scotties debut.
“We had a good games, so I don’t think I was disappointed in how we played at the Scotties two years ago,” said Barker who was joined by Sicinski on that team. “It was a disappointing win-loss ratio, but you come out of that stronger.
“It’s an arena setting, you have to get used to playing on arena ice with the nice finish and with crowds around you. That creates a little more of an atmosphere and it’s definitely a lot of fun.”
The field is divided into two pools of six team who they play a round robin within their pool. The teams are ranked in their pools by the competitors themselves.
“All of the 12 teams rank each other ... and we ended up eighth out of that. Which is fine by us,” said Barker. “It doesn’t really matter. You have to play everybody and beat everybody.”
The top team in each pool advances to a Page playoff for a berth in the final. The two second-place finishers in each pool meet to playoff for a spot in the semis against the loser of the Page playoff.
In addition to Lawton, Barker is in a pool with Chantelle Eberle from the Regina Callie, Maryfield’s Candace Chisholm, Balgonie’s Mandy Selzer and Deanne Miller Jones from the Callie.
“I think the pools are fairly even,” said Barker. “You’re going to have to play well. With the teams that are there, you’re going to have to be on top of your game to win.”
Defending champion Michelle Englot (Regina Highland) and Amber Holland (Callie), who is coached by Moose Jaw’s Merv Fonger and won the two previous Scotties, are both in the other pool.
Barker and Lang have curled together for three years previously and the local skip feels the team has come together well.
They qualified through the playdowns for the first time and are feeling good about how they’re curling heading into the Scotties.
“As long as we keep playing as we have been I think we’ll do just fine,” said Barker.
“Our goal going into this is to get out of our pool and then make some noise in that playoff round.”
Other rinks wil local ties include Canada Chisholm’s Maryfield rink that has Cindy Ricci at third. Kailena Bay is throwing lead stones for Brett Barber’s Bigger rink as well.