Kerri Einarson’s bid for a four-peat is alive and well, but Jennifer Jones is also a win away from rewriting the record books in Canadian women’s curling.
Six-time national champion Jones booked an express ticket to Sunday’s final of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts when her Manitoba team beat Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville 8-5 in a Saturday night playoff game in Kamloops, B.C.
Einarson, winner of three straight Hearts, avoided elimination with a 9-4 victory over Nova Scotia’s Christina Black in Saturday’s earlier playoff contest.
Einarson meets McCarville in Sunday afternoon’s semifinal with the winner moving onto face Jones for the title.
Jones will play in her 10th Hearts final. The 46-year-old can become the first woman to win seven Canadian women’s championships.
“It doesn’t feel different because of that. It just feel different because as you get closer to the end of our career, you never know when it could be the last,” Jones said.
Jones employed a five-player rotation with a new team this season. For her teammates under the age of 25, a victory Sunday would be their first Hearts crown.
“We’re excited to help her reach that record, but it’s also a big record for us too,” third Karlee Burgess said. “All four of us being so young, being able to win our first Scotties with the best in the world, with Jen, it would be an amazing story.”
Jones recovered from giving up a steal of one in each of the first three ends to McCarville by scoring two in the fourth and stealing one in the fifth and eighth ends.
Tied up coming home, Jones didn’t have to throw her final stone when McCarville was light on a draw.
“We struggled big time and we just kind of got lucky those first three ends,” McCarville said. “We weren’t throwing it very well. We knew we had to pick up and we still didn’t and things started going their way a little bit, but we just have to regroup for tomorrow.”
Jones’ young teammates staying patient when Manitoba trailed was a good dress rehearsal for Sunday, the skip said.
“I think it was massive,” Jones said “For us to kind of start the way we (did), get down a little bit early, and then found a way to hang in there and come back, it will show a lot of character for tomorrow.”
Einarson, Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Harris need two wins Sunday to be just the second team in history to win four straight. Colleen Jones’ team was the first from 2001 to 2004.
Their semifinal against McCarville is a rematch of last year’s championship game in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Einarson’s foursome recovered from dropping a playoff game to Jones the previous evening — Einarson’s first loss of the tournament — with a commanding performance Saturday.
Einarson also got more run support from her lineup than Black did. Her vice Sweeting and the front end of Birchard and Harris outcurled their Nova Scotia counterparts by several percentage points.
“My team played amazing,” Einarson said. “They definitely outplayed the other team and Christina had a couple of tough ones she had to make to just score, and she made them, but we felt really comfortable out there.”
Sweepers can make or break the outcome of a delivered stone, so Einarson was also the beneficiary of workhorse efforts by Sweeting, Birchard and Harris.
Harris is pregnant and due in June.
“She is a champ. Holy smokes,” Einarson said. “She’s got a little one in her and it’s motivating her to just push through. I don’t think I could do it.”
Einarson took the longer route to last year’s victory in Thunder Bay.
Her team won the sudden-death playoff game, the semifinal and then the final 9-6 over McCarville.
“Our backs are against the wall and I know, with us, we never let up,” Einarson said.
“We’re just going to keep grinding it out and playing like we know we can. I feel like this is the best we’ve played yet.”
Nova Scotia’s marathon, three-game day Friday caught up to them Saturday.
Black stole a point in an extra end in back-to-back playoff games, including a tiebreaker, to make the final four. Black eliminated three-time champ Rachel Homan of Ontario with the second win.
Nova Scotia then lost to McCarville to end up facing three-time champ Einarson on Saturday.
Black’s talent for difficult, pressure draws was on display again Saturday, but she made those shots to simply survive.
Nova Scotia didn’t generate a two-point end with last rock, while Einarson scored deuces with hammer in the third, fifth, seventh and ninth ends.
“I think our fatigue from the three games yesterday kind of set in today,” Black acknowledged. “Our throws were a little bit lighter than we were calling on a few shots.
“They’re an incredible team and they gave us a few chances and we didn’t capitalize. If they give you a little bit of a chance you better capitalize because they don’t give you very many chances.”
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press