The Scotties Tournament of Hearts experience ended the same day it began for Yukon skip Sarah Koltun on Friday at Mosaic Place. Koltun dropped a 7-5 decision to Northern Ontario's Tracy Horgan in the morning before being outscored 11-10 by Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories later in the day.
Koltun's 0-2 record in the three-team round robin eliminated her from contention in the battle for the last spot in the 12-team main draw.
"It sucks," she said with a chuckle, before breaking down in tears.
This is the first year that the women's national curling championship has used a qualification round. The new setup gives all member associations a chance to participate but it also means two teams will be leaving just as the competition is getting underway.
Koltun made her exit Friday evening and another team will be knocked out Saturday afternoon. Galusha and Horgan will play in the qualification final as the opening draw of the main round robin begins.
"It's just hard," Koltun said. "We just worked hard all year for it. It's unfortunate that we have this fate and someone else does too. We just wanted to come here and represent our territory and the fact that we don't get a chance to is really unfortunate."
This is the first time that there are separate entries for the territorial rinks. Nunavut could have participated but it declined to send a team this year.
It was a particularly tough loss for Koltun, who scored four in the 10th to force an extra end. But Galusha took advantage of the hammer in the 11th and came through with a hit and stick for the decisive point.
"It's a big relief," Galusha said. "Our goal was to get into the final tomorrow. Team Horgan is going to be really tough to beat. We're still not playing sharp. We played better today but I've seen my teammates play way better than what we're doing.
"I guess hopefully we're building for tomorrow."
The traditional pre-tournament routine is much different for teams in the qualifier. They have to worry about high-intensity games while other rinks are getting settled in with practice sessions and a skills competition.
Horgan, meanwhile, has looked strong from the outset. She opened with a win over Galusha on Thursday night and played well again Friday.
"It's hard not to look forward to the rest of the week," Horgan said. "But we've got to get through these important games."
It's also the first time that Northern Ontario has its own team at the women's event.
Ottawa skip Rachel Homan is back to defend her title as the Team Canada entry. Other favourites to make it to the playoffs next weekend include reigning Olympic champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba, Alberta's Val Sweeting and Stefanie Lawton of Saskatchewan.
The rest of the field includes Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault, Patti Knezevic of B.C., Julie Hastings of Ontario, Quebec's Lauren Mann, Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt, Heather Strong of Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick's Sylvie Robichaud.
The medal games are scheduled for Feb. 22. The winner will represent Canada at the March 14-22 world women's curling championship in Sapporo, Japan.
The victor will also return as Team Canada at the 2016 Scotties in Grande Prairie, Alta., and lock up berths at the 2015 Canada Cup and next year's Continental Cup.
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