Jennifer Jones knocked out of Manitoba Scotties for the first time since 2004

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It is, if not the end of an era, certainly the end of a historic streak: Jennifer Jones will not compete in a Manitoba final.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/01/2017 (2128 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It is, if not the end of an era, certainly the end of a historic streak: Jennifer Jones will not compete in a Manitoba final.

The reigning Olympic champion fell 8-6 to Darcy Robertson in Sunday morning’s provincial semifinal, toppled in a disastrous game mired by misses and mistakes. Robertson will go through to face Michelle Englot in the 3 p.m. final.

“We’re obviously hugely disappointed,” Jones said, after. “Life will go on tomorrow, so we’ve always had pretty good perspective on that. We’ll try to learn from this, and figure it out, and hopefully never let this happen again.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jennifer Jones during practice Tuesday afternoon prior to the start of the 2017 Manitoba Scotties at the Eric Coy Arena.

Contrasted against that disappointment, Robertson — who embraced the underdog role — was euphoric. A veteran of 21 provincial appearances, this will be her first trip to a final since 2007, when she lost the championship to Jones.

The rest of Robertson’s Pembina Curling Club team, which includes third Karen Klein and the longtime front end of second Vanessa Foster and lead Michelle Madden, will be making their debut in a provincial final.

“It’s so exciting,” Robertson said, of leading them right to the end. “They’ve just been playing great, and we’re having a great year. The team has really grown together.”

Until now, Jones had won every Manitoba championship she’d competed for since 2005; she was absent only in years she entered the national Scotties as reigning Canadian champion, or in 2014 when she went to the Olympics.

The last time anyone knocked Jones out of the playoffs was in 2004, when Joelle Brown bested her in the 2-vs-2 Page playoff game.

So that’s what made the semifinal turn so stunning; it was a match in which the drama rested on the history and what was at stake, far more than the play. To put it simply, both teams missed, a lot: Team Jones’ were the most costly.

“We just didn’t play well in the last couple of days,” Jones said. “We just didn’t put draws in the right spot, and you can’t do that if you want to win the game… they played quite well, and put lots of pressure on us.”

The struggles began in the very first end. With hammer, all Jones needed was to draw to the full 12-foot for a single; it flew heavy, handing Robertson a steal of two. From there, the game unravelled on a series of small disasters.

Team Jones third Kaitlyn Lawes struggled mightily. Jones finished with a draw shot percentage of under 20 per cent.

She wasn’t the only one. In the eighth, Robertson’s final draw slouched in far too light, giving Jones a steal of one and a 6-6 tie game. “The ice was tricky,” Robertson said. “It was a struggle for draw weight today for everybody.”

After the steal, Jones’ team seemed to rally. In fact, for a few minutes in the ninth, it looked as if they might be able to dig out a last-minute path to the win — but then Jones’ first shot in nine, a guard, didn’t even cross the hog line.

That opened a window for Robertson to throw a critical double kill, cleaning out Jones’ rocks. With hammer, she took a deuce and an 8-6 lead. “That (hogged rock) gave us an out, definitely,” Robertson said. “That was huge.”

In retrospect, Jones too thought that was where their chances fell apart.

“I thought that steal in eight, we kind of changed the momentum,” she said. “But giving back two… maybe we didn’t play the right shot. We probably should have tried to force in nine, and we just didn’t get anything going in 10.”

Though the loss may be the bookend to a historic streak in Manitoba curling, Jones isn’t done yet. There are more top events ahead, on the elite grand slam circuit; and the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang are looming.

In December, Jones won the elite Canada Cup, rising above a rarified field that looked very much like the field that will compete at the 2017 Roar of the Rings Olympic curling trials. Those will be held in Ottawa this December.

The Sunday afternoon provincial final begins at 3 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Sportsnet One.

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin
Reporter-at-large

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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