Stefanie Lawton is the big winner of a week-long trip to Winnipeg next December.
While that might not sound like much of a prize -- Winnipeg in December is not exactly Paris in April -- the Saskatoon skip was overjoyed Sunday morning at the prospect of spending a week with us in the dead of winter next year.
"It's huge. The Olympic Trials are something we've been working on for a long time," Lawton said following a 6-4 win over Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones team in Sunday's women's final of the Canada Cup of Curling in Moose Jaw. "You kind of count points all year -- the last couple of years -- and to get that berth and not have to worry about counting points and worry about where you rank on the (Canadian Team Ranking System) that's nice, for sure. It feels really good."
With the win, Lawton becomes the third women's team now qualified for next December's Canadian Curling Trials at MTS Centre, where Canada's curling representatives for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi will be determined.
Lawton joins Jones, who qualified by winning the Canada Cup last year, and Edmonton's Heather Nedohin, who qualified by winning the Canadian women's curling championship last February.
Five more women's Trials berths are still to be determined. Three will be awarded at the end of this winter to the top three teams on the CTRS who still require berths and two more will be determined next November at a Pre-Trials qualifying bonspiel.
The Lawton team -- third Sherry Anderson, second Sherri Singler and lead Marliese Kasner -- have always excelled on the cashspiel circuit, but Lawton has earned a reputation over the years for wilting under pressure in the big game.
But the tight collar was nowhere in evidence on Sunday as Lawton repeatedly made big shots to bail her team out of trouble. In just the first five ends, Lawton authored four double takeouts to almost single-handedly carry her team to a 4-2 lead heading into the break.
Jones skip Kaitlyn Lawes -- who was skipping the Jones team in Moose Jaw for one final event before their namesake returns next month after giving birth in November -- squandered what few opportunities Lawton did leave her to score, most notably rolling out on an open hit in the sixth end that would have provided a game-tying deuce.
Still, at game's end, it was Lawes who out-shot Lawton 80-74, her third game in a row in which she shot 80 per cent or better. But it was Lawes who tipped her cap to Lawton.
"She was on fire. She was determined to make those and she did," Lawes said of Lawton. "It's a little disappointing but at the same time we were really, really happy to be playing in that final and it was a good week for us."
While the reconfigured Jones team -- Ontario's Kirsten Wall filled in for Lawes at third, joining the traditional Jones front end of Jill Officer and Dawn Askin -- lost their final game together, Lawes said the cashspiel season they spent together can only be judged as a success.
"We had such a great first half to the season. If you had told us we'd be in the final of the Canada Cup going into it, we'd have said it's a great way to end it off. It is a new team and, you know, I've never skipped at a Canada Cup before. So we're very pleased with our performance."
With $17,000 in winnings in Moose Jaw, the Jones foursome will head into the New Year in third on the World Curling Tour money list, behind Lawton and Ontario's Rachel Homan.
Meanwhile, in addition to the Trials berth, Lawton earned $24,000 overall with Sunday's win and also picked up a chance to play in the 2014 Continental Cup in Las Vegas. It was the third time Lawton has won the Canada Cup.