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Champ falls to Intimidator

Jones perfect at Scotties after Nedohin's defence falters

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KINGSTON, Ont. -- Heather Nedohin is the defending champion at the Canadian women's curling championship, but she was playing scared against Manitoba's Jennifer Jones Wednesday.

Jones has that effect on other teams. Part of it comes from the fact she's a four-time Canadian champion and has long had a reputation for always being able to make the big shot when her team needs it.

But more than anything, Jones intimidates other teams with the relentlessly aggressive nature of her game and, just as daunting, the way she always seems to inflict maximum damage whenever her opponents inevitably make a mistake.

It's been that way at this event for years now, but seldom will you see a more clear-cut example of how intimidating Jones can be to an opponent than was on display against Team Canada's Nedohin Wednesday afternoon.

After being forced to take 1 with the hammer in the first end, Nedohin spent the next three ends running for her life, electing to rip guards instead of go around them and just generally doing her absolute utmost to keep the sheet clean.

It was a ridiculously defensive style that would have been at home back in the 1980s and the final result was predictable -- Jones waited patiently until Nedohin finally made a mistake and then made her pay, cracking a deuce in the fourth end, then stealing one more in the fifth end en route to an 8-5 victory over the previously undefeated Nedohin.

The win improved Manitoba's record to 7-0 and Jones was unusually blunt after the game in describing her opponent's unusual approach.

"I was a little bit surprised to see them go defensive," Jones said. "We like to play with lots of rocks. It's just more fun. It's what curling is all about -- to get some rocks in play. And that's why we play it that way."

Asked if she thought it was a case of her reputation preceding her, Jones offered this reply: "Maybe. I'm not sure. You'd have to ask her."

So we did. Nedohin briefly protested, but then ultimately admitted she played the way she did because, basically, she is scared of what Jennifer Jones can do.

"I think that's a team that makes great shots, and you have to watch it," Nedohin said.

"If they like to play with a bunch of rocks, I kind of like to tone it down for them a little."

Now, it's one thing not to play to another team's strengths, but quite another to let an opponent completely change your own style of play -- particularly when that style won you a Canadian championship last year.

To her credit, Nedohin tried to mix it up with Jones after falling behind, but by then it was in a losing cause as Jones seized control of the game and never let go the rest of the way.

And so with that, Jones has now passed her first serious test this week with flying colours heading into the most anticipated round-robin game of the week -- this morning's contest versus Ontario's Rachel Homan (8 a.m., TSN).

Homan is also 7-0 after an 8-2 victory Wednesday afternoon over Saskatchewan, setting up a head-to-head clash today between the last two undefeated teams remaining in the field.

The last time a team at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts went a perfect 11-0 in the round robin was in 1985, when B.C.'s Linda Moore did it.

Jones was asked if the prospect of making a little curling history this week added even more meaning to her matchup versus Homan today.

"Not really, but it would be great to go through undefeated, obviously," she said.

"It means you're playing well and getting on a bit of a roll, but a lot of times a loss in the round robin isn't a bad thing, too.

"But hopefully we go out and play well -- that's all I want to do is keep getting better."

Unlike Nedohin, the 23-year-old Homan, who loves the aggressive game as much as Jones does, promises she will be bringing it against Manitoba.

"We don't change our game depending on who we play. We're going to treat them just like any other team and keep with our strategy.

"We like rocks in play, we like making big shots, and we can play defensive as well."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

more scotties coverage D4

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2013 D1

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