Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jones turns to Page 1

Tops round robin, needs playoff win tonight to make another final

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RED DEER, Alta. -- The years change. The other teams change. Sometimes, even, the players on her own team change.

But what doesn't change, almost without exception and for a very long time now, is that Manitoba's Jennifer Jones competes in the final of the Canadian women's curling championship every year.

Six times in the last seven years Jones has skipped in the final of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts -- including the last four in a row.

And with one more win tonight, Jones will make it a fifth straight final appearance.

With a 7-4 victory over Quebec's Marie-France Larouche on Thursday afternoon and then 5-3 over Ontario's Tracy Horgan Thursday night, Jones finished the round robin at 9-2 to lock up first-place overall and a berth in tonight's Page playoff 1 vs. 2 game (8:30 p.m., TSN) against a familiar rival in B.C.'s Kelly Scott.

Tonight's winner advances straight to Sunday afternoon's final.

"I'm just happy to be playing in the 1-2 game," said Jones. "We had a great game against B.C. in the round robin and I expect nothing less (tonight). Hopefully we'll have the hammer this time and won't have to steal."

Jones had to steal an extra end in an 8-6 round-robin win over B.C. on Tuesday. She will get both hammer and choice of rocks tonight.

Scott, who finished the round robin alone in second place at 8-3, was thrilled to get a second chance against Jones in the 1-2 game.

"Awesome, right where we want to be," said Scott, who stole the 10th end in a 7-6 win over New Brunswick. "We've been hoping for this all week long. We're going to embrace it. We're so up to come out and play a good game (tonight)."

Manitoba has a six-game winning streak heading into the playoffs and Jones, not surprisingly, likes what she sees in her team right now.

"The girls just played great in front of me and made my life easy," Jones said after the win over Quebec. "It was probably our best game as a team and we just want to try and build on that."

Jones has played in the last four Canadian women's curling finals, winning three of them -- in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

She was beaten in last year's final, however, by Team Canada's Amber Holland.

This will also be the third straight year Jones is playing in the coveted Page playoff 1 vs. 2 game, where the losers have the luxury of getting a second chance in Saturday night's semifinal against the winner of Saturday afternoon's Page playoff 3 vs. 4 game between Alberta's Heather Nedohin and Quebec's Larouche, who finished the round robin tied at 7-4.

Jones won the 1 vs. 2 game in each of the past two years and was asked if her team's myriad of big-game experience gives them the advantage now that the final weekend is here.

"I don't think it's necessary, but it never hurts," she said. "It's definitely on our side. We have tons of experience in a lot of different ways."

Jones has won this event through the tiebreakers in both 2008 and 2009, as well as winning the Manitoba provincials in Portage la Prairie last month the same way.

But this week has been decidedly less eventful.

With the exception of some dramatics Monday night, which saw the Jones foursome get burned by a burned rock in a loss to Canada, the Manitobans have pretty much done exactly what they were expected to do in an event where they were heavily favoured.

They've drilled the teams they were expected to drill -- 8-2 over the Territories, 8-3 over Nova Scotia -- and did just enough to win against everyone else, including winning two extra-end games. And the teams they did lose to -- Canada and Alberta -- were teams that you would reasonably expect to have a chance to beat them.

Drama

Put it together and the news out of the Jones rink this week is that there really hasn't been much news. But the lack of drama doesn't equate with the effort expended.

"It's never easy," said Jones lead Dawn Askin. "It's always tough games out there. You have to go out and play your best and if you don't, you're going to lose.

"My whole thing is just go out, relax and try to be confident in yourself."

A first-place finish in the round-robin, a six-game winning streak and a berth in the 1 vs. 2 game -- there is no reason right now for anyone on the Jones team to feel any other way.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 24, 2012 C4

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