RED DEER -- It has been said over the years that it almost seems sometimes like Jennifer Jones manufactures adversity on purpose, precisely because she thrives so much on it.
Jones has always been at her very best when the circumstances have appeared at their most dire and she has four Canadian women's curling championships on her resume precisely because she’s had the unique ability to keep her head about her when everyone was losing theirs.
But this time, the adversity was manufactured for her by the most unlikely of sources -- her most trusted friend and longest serving teammate, Team Manitoba second Jill Officer.
Officer -- herself a four-time Canadian champion -- had a costly slip and fall here at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts Monday night while sweeping Jones’s final rock of the sixth end in Manitoba’s game against Team Canada’s Amber Holland.
While Officer got up from the fall physically unscathed, it cost her team a back-breaking steal of two in what ended up being a 7-3 loss to Holland.
Officer was on the verge of tears as she emerged from the ice last night. "I feel bad obviously. But I didn’t do it on purpose and my team knows that too. It’s just too bad."
Really too bad. Here was the situation:
With the game tied 1-1 and Jones throwing an open hit-and-stick with the final rock of the sixth end, Officer slipped just a few feet short of the house and burned the moving rock, deflecting what appeared to be an easily made shot through the back of the house without it touching either of the Team Canada counters.
And so instead of Manitoba counting a single and taking a 2-1 lead, they had instead surrendered a steal of two to Holland and trailed 3-1. Holland would steal again the very next end and then seal the deal in the ninth end with a walk-off three-ender.
It was a costly loss in a big game. Manitoba’s Jones had improved to 3-1 with an 8-5 win over Newfoundland earlier in the day and they were tied with Holland for second place heading into a game that was a rematch of the 2011 Canadian women’s final won by Holland.
Last night’s win vaulted Holland into a tie at 4-1 for first place this morning with BC’s Kelly Scott, who suffered her first loss last night in an 8-7 loss to Nova Scotia’s Heather Smith-Dacey.
Manitoba, on the other hand, dropped to 3-2 and is now in a three-way tie for third place with Saskatchewan and New Brunswick heading into a pair of games today. Manitoba plays this morning against a resurgent Nova Scotia team who won both their games yesterday after opening at 0-3. And then this afternoon, they play Saskatchewan’s Michelle Englot.
Manitoba has now lost two of their last three games and it would have been easy to resort to some finger-pointing last night, but Jones was having none of it. "That’s curling, and there’s nobody else I’d want to have sweeping my rocks than Jill," Jones said. "I know she feels terrible, but that’s just the way it goes. We still had lots of game left and we just didn’t make enough shots after that. But we’ll be back fighting (today)."
Holland said she felt for Officer. "You feel bad because you know Jen had the shot made, but unfortunately that’s the sport," said Holland, who said she had no hesitation in putting the deuce on the board for her team.
"It’s a burned rock. Yeah -- no hesitation."
The irony was Officer’s slip came in a game where Canada was already playing without their regular second, Tammy Schneider, who left the game after she hurt her knee falling during a second end delivery.
Officer’s slip also overshadowed what has otherwise been a remarkable performance so far this week by the Manitoba second, who took the entire winter off from curling to have a baby in mid-December and only returned to the ice a month ago. Through eight draws, Officer, a four-time Scotties all-star, is shooting 82 percent and leading all seconds in shooting percentage.
Officer finished the game against Holland and said afterward that she was physically OK despite the fall.