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Walker sweeps to Alberta Scotties championship

Curling: First time champion finishes off perfect week at women's provincials in Okotoks

Team Walker completed the wire-to-wire sprint to its first Alberta Scotties championship.

Edmonton's Laura Walker rink went undefeated at the 2020 Sentinel Storage Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts, completing the nine game sweep of the women's provincial curling championship by knocking off Kelsey Rocque 7-4 in the final Sunday night at Okotoks' Murray Arena.

"I just feel so much pride right now, I'm so proud of my team. To have all four players playing that well for an entire week – that's something that's really hard to do," said Walker. "Our patience has really just paid off for us this year. We did all the little things that we knew would help us this week, and we did them really well.

"The second half of our first game was really when we started rolling and we never stopped from there. And when we you start playing with that kind of confidence it's easy to get in your zone, be in your bubble and keep doing your thing."

In the final, Walker had a 2-1 lead after the teams exchanged points through the first three ends and the Edmonton skip made it a 4-1 advantage through four after Rocque came up short on a draw leading to a steal of two.

Walker, with third Kate Cameron, second Taylor McDonald and lead Nadine Scotland, picked up another steal of one in the fifth end for the 5-1 lead. In the sixth, Walker was sitting four and forced her opponent to settle for a draw for one.

"Even when we were trading ones every time we got our one back we said we have the lead and the lead is all we want," Walker said. 

Rocque, a two-time World Junior champion, had a nice hit and stick for two in the eighth end to cut the deficit to 6-4. In the ninth, Walker executed a tap and roll for one for a three score lead coming home.

A crowded house in the tenth end saw just two Rocque rocks in play with one stone left to throw leading to a shake of hands between the Saville Centre skips. 

"They've had a great week and they played really well," Rocque said. "We unfortunately got caught a little bit on the ice. The ice conditions were just a hair different today than the rest of the week, we got caught on the one side on one end and that kind of put us behind the eight-ball against a really good team.

"They played really well all week so complete kudos to them and best of luck to them at the Scotties."

It's the second year in a row that Rocque has finished with provincial silver.

"It's been two years in a row now that we've got silver," Rocque said. "Hopefully that makes us hungrier for next year and we'll come back fighting."

Team Rocque booked its ticket to the championship match by virtue of their 8-1 triumph over the Krysta Hilker rink in the semifinal earlier on Sunday. Walker was through to the final after soundly defeating Rocque in the 1 vs. 2 page playoff on Saturday night.

"I've never seen our team play that well as we did in that 1-2 game," Walker said. "To do it in a high pressure situation like that where we really needed a win and we really wanted to kind of make a statement in that moment, through the lineup I can barely even count on my hand how many shots we missed, it was pretty special."

Hilker was the last qualifier for the Scotties out of the Jasper Place playdowns earlier in the month and entered the provincials as the bottom seed. The St. Albert team earned the third playoff spot and knocked off Edmonton's Nicky Kaufman 11-7 in extra-ends in the 3 vs. 4 page playoff on Jan. 25. 

The round-robin format saw the top four teams from the eight-team field advance to the four-team page playoff. There was a four-way tie for fifth place with one of the pre-tournament favourites Casey Scheidegger finishing with a 2-5 record along with Lethbridge's Jodi Vaughan, Calgary's Kayla Skrlik and Lacombe's Marla Sherrer. 

Team Walker moves on to the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Feb. 15-23 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Over 160 volunteers made the Alberta Scotties in Okotoks a reality, a fact that was not lost on the the athletes.

"It's crazy to me what they did here," Walker said. "Everything from the very first time we walked in here until right now has just been fantastic. Every single person we've met, every event we've gone to, the Social House, the ice conditions were fantastic.

"I can't even begin to say enough about the crew here."  

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