KINGSTON, ONT. — Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones will head into the final day of the round robin at the Canadian women’s curling championship with not much more to be determined than maybe a little slice of Canadian curling history.
With a pair of wins Thursday — a 9-7 thriller over Ontario’s Rachel Homan in the morning and a 7-1 shellacking of Quebec’s Allison Ross Thursday night — Jones improved to a perfect 9-0 and has now clinched a spot in Saturday’s coveted Page playoff 1 vs. 2 game, where the winner advances directly to Sunday’s final while the loser gets a second chance in the semifinal.
With one more win Friday — either in the afternoon over New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford or Friday night versus Saskatchewan’s Jill Shumay — Jones would clinch first place and the hammer in the 1 vs. 2 game, along with her choice of rocks.
With two more wins, Jones would lock down all those things and write a new chapter in curling’s history books as the first team to go undefeated in the Scotties round robin since way back in 1985 — and the first team of any kind to do it since the Scotties round robin became an 11-game affair.
What you have is a Manitoba team that appears to be on the fast track to Riga, Latvia, where next month’s women’s world curling championship will be held.
"Yay," Jones giggled. "We’re pretty excited. Usually, the last round-robin game, we have to do something good to get in a good spot, and this year it’s a little bit different.
"Hopefully, we can carry that momentum into tomorrow and then the playoffs."
Jones schooled Homan Thursday morning in the most highly anticipated round-robin game this week.
While both skips made some exceptionally difficult shots, Homan missed far more than Jones and paid dearly every time, most notably in the fourth end when a pair of Homan misses led to a Manitoba four-ender.
When the smoke settled, Jones had blistered the 23-year-old Homan 93-71 in shooting percentage at the skip position and snapped what was a 30-game winning streak for the Ontario foursome that dated back to a cashspiel in mid-November.
Homan was asked afterward if it felt a little like an overfilled balloon had finally burst.
"No, not at all. I’m so proud of my team for winning 30 games in a row — it’s unbelievable...
"I predicted we were going to lose a couple games. It’s nationals — it’s tough. There’s so many good teams and we’re just trying to get to the playoffs and we’re looking really good."
Lost a bit in all of Thursday’s focus on Manitoba-Ontario was defending champion Heather Nedohin, whose Canada team followed a loss to Manitoba on Wednesday with another to Saskatchewan on Thursday morning before rebounding with a 5-3 win over Alberta at night to head into Friday in third place with a 7-2 record.
That’s a game behind Homan, who followed the loss to Manitoba Thursday morning with a last-rock 6-5 win over Nova Scotia at night to remain alone in second place at 8-1.
B.C.’s Kelly Scott, meantime, has battled her way back into contention and now controls her own playoff fate after a pair of wins Thursday improved her team’s record to 6-3.
Scott finishes with a relatively soft schedule against Northwest Territories and Quebec and would do no worse than the fourth and final playoff spot if she wins.
"I think the way we’re playing, everything is winnable," said Scott. "I think we’ve got to be careful not to take anything lightly and to come out and play good. Especially going into playoffs, you want good, precision games."