The 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is almost underway in Thunder Bay, Ont., and that means Nunavut will be back on the ice at the latest major curling event of the season.

This year’s Canadian women’s curling championship is being played inside the bubble, just like it was last year, with the Iqaluit Curling Club foursome of Sadie Pinksen, Kaitlin MacDonald, Alison Taylor and Brigitte MacPhail taking on the best of the country.

The ladies will hit the ice on Friday evening in the opening draw versus Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt and will follow that up with games against Wild Card Team 2, skipped by Alberta’s Chelsea Carey, on Saturday and New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford on Sunday. The other teams in their pool include the other two wild card teams, skipped by Manitoba’s Tracy Fleury and Ontario’s Emma Miskew respectively, Saskatchewan, Northern Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Pinksen said the excitement is building among the ladies before they take to the ice against Birt.

“It’s the first Scotties for Brigitte and Alison so that’s exciting for them,” she said on Jan. 27. “We were ready for any news that came down about whether it was going to happen or not but Curling Canada has done a real good job of taking all the precautions so we can play.”

MacPhail is the out-of-territory player for Nunavut this year — each team is allowed to have one player among its ranks that either doesn’t reside or wasn’t born in the jurisdiction — and she’s skipping the rink.

Pinksen said MacPhail joined the team on the advice of coach Donalda Mattie.

“We wanted to find someone who’s close to two of us so we could practice,” she said. “I’m going to school in Halifax and Kaitlin is in P.E.I. and Brigitte is in Nova Scotia, so it all worked out. Donalda suggested her and she was excited to jump on board. She’s been a perfect fit.”

Last year’s excursion to the Scotties in Calgary ended winless for the ladies but that’s not to say they haven’t had success in the past. The 2020 edition saw Nunavut cause a couple of shocks as they beat Northern Ontario and Quebec with a final-rock loss to Team Canada thrown in.

Pinksen, who played on that 2020 squad, said they’ll be taking things game-by-game this year but upsets are always possible.

“All of the teams here are great and we’re going into each one thinking it’s a winnable game,” she said. “We’re going to have the same game plan each time and stay optimistic. We’re keeping those wins in the back of our mind whenever we play big teams because upsets always happen.”

The bubble situation in Thunder Bay means there will be no fans and no time outside the hotel room, save for some walking exercise in the parking lot. They’re either curling or in their rooms.

“It’s a pretty big parking lot (at the hotel) so there’s lots of room to go walking and that’s the key to avoiding cabin fever of being in our rooms all the time,” said Pinksen. “We got a load of groceries as well so we can make use of the fridges and microwaves.”

See the next edition of Nunavut News for the recap of the ladies’ progress.

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