KINGSTON, ONT. -- If and when Rachel Homan finally loses a game at the Canadian women's curling championship this week, it will be for the first time in over three months.
The 23-year-old Ontario skip and her young team -- third Emma Miskew, 24; second Alison Kreviazuk, 24; and lead Lisa Weagle, 27 -- were riding a remarkable 24-game winning streak coming into this event that dates back to mid-November.
Since a loss to Winnipeg's Chelsea Carey on Nov. 12 in the semifinal of a cashspiel in Saskatoon, the Homan foursome went undefeated to win a Grand Slam of Curling event in Brantford and then ran the table through their zone, regionals and the Ontario championship.
And it's not like Homan just got hot in the last three months, either. Since last September, the Ottawa-based team has a record of 37-8 on the World Curling Tour and is first on the money list by a wide measure with $52,300 in earnings this season.
The second-place team? With almost $20,000 less, Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton at $34,500.
All of which is to say that there's a good reason some people think this is the year of Homan's coming-out party, the year a relative newcomer finally breaks through at a national championship that has been dominated for close to two decades by the same old names, including a pair of Joneses.
The unknown isn't whether Homan is good enough to win, but rather whether she can keep it together when the lights get hottest next weekend.
Homan got off to a great start here Saturday, winning the pre-event skills competition and then drilling Newfoundland 8-1 -- making it 25 wins in a row.
But these events are won on the second weekend, not the first, and it bears noting that Homan also had a pretty good start in her rookie performance at this event in 2011, only to unravel on the final weekend. And that unravelling wasn't something entirely new, either, for a skip who has a long and checkered history in the big game.
Homan lost two Ontario junior women's finals before finally breaking through in 2009. But then after going 10-2 in the round-robin at the 2009 Canadian Juniors and earning a bye to the final, Homan was denied once again, this time by a young Manitoba skip named Kaitlyn Lawes.
Homan went on to win the Canadian Juniors the next year, only to then be denied by Sweden in the final of the Junior Worlds. Sense a theme on this resumé?
The general consensus seems to be that the most likely matchup in next Sunday's final is Jones versus Homan and Homan says her team is determined this week not to let all the high expectations for her foursome as the home team turn up the heat so high on them that they get overcooked.
"We're just going to have fun with it and not look at it as more of a spotlight," Homan said.