Sudbury native Tracy Fleury will be making her fourth appearance at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts next month in Sydney, NS though it might be just a smidge tougher than usual to recognize the highly accomplished curler.
Fleury, along with her newly-formed team of Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish, will be proudly sporting the emblazoned bison after capturing the Manitoba Provincial Scotties on Sunday, coming from behind to defeat the Kerri Einarson rink (Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard, Briane Meilleur) 13-7 in the championship affair.
Not only has Fleury made two previous trips to the event donning the Northern Ontario team colours with the Sudbury-based rink of Jennifer Wylie, Jenna Enge and Amanda Gates, but the quartet also represented Ontario prior to the "Green and Gold" N ONT crew being granted a berth in the Canadian women's curling championship.
Adding to the storyline for this particular final is the fact that Fleury was effectively recruited by the trio of Njegovan, Fyfe and MacCuish, once their previous skip, Kerri Einarson, no less, opted to find a new team, by which time Team Fleury had formally announced their intentions to disband.
It all made for a very interesting week in Gimli, MB, a stretch in which Fleury and company would post an impressive round robin record of 6-1, losing only to the Darcy Robertson (7-0) rink in an 8-7 affair that highlighted play in the Asham Express Group pool.
Another eight teams were busy over in the Asham Group pool, with Einarson leading the way at 6-1, and Beth Peterson and Abby Ackland deadlocking for second place at 5-2.
The Bayer Page Playoff structure would see Team Ackland advance to the semi-finals thanks to an 8-7 win over Peterson. Come Saturday evening, Team Fleury earned their spot directly in the final thanks to an 8-6 victory over Robertson in the second vs first match-up, while Einarson edged Ackland 6-4 in the third vs fourth place battle.
Einarson maintained her roll the next morning, ousting Robertson by a final score of 11-4, and appeared to be in great shape when her team scored five in the second end of the gold medal affair, leading the Fleury quartet 5-1 early.
True to her nature, Fleury was not about to panic, chipping away gradually with a pair in the third and three more in the fifth, by which time the scoreboard would now read 6-6.
A steal of two by Fleury in the sixth spelled the beginning of the end for Einarson, as the eventual champions forced them to take one in seven, and followed with a two-three run in eight and nine.
The Manitoba reps will now sit back and wait for the balance of the field to be confirmed, including the NOCA winners, with the Northern Ontario men's and women's provincials starting on Wednesday afternoon in Nipigon.
The Krista McCarville rink that includes Sudbury natives Kendra Lilly (vice) and Jennifer Gates (second), along with lead Sarah Potts, would have to be considered the pre-bonspiel favourites in the four-team women's field that includes a Curl Sudbury entry in the form of Kira Brunton, Lyndsey Berlett, Jessica Leonard and Mikaela Cheslock.
On the men's side, the target is clearly set on the backs of the Brad Jacobs foursome, fending off an eight-team grouping that also includes rinks skipped by Tanner Horgan (Curl Sudbury), Dustin Montpellier (Copper Cliff), Robbie Gordon (Curl Sudbury) and Jordan Chandler (Curl Sudbury).