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Ultra-competitive Scotties on tap Provincial women’s curling championship features three of top seven teams in Canada

You couldn’t ask for a better Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts than this week’s event.

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You couldn’t ask for a better Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts than this week’s event.

It’s surely one of the most competitive provincial women’s curling championships in years, as the draw features three of the top seven teams in Canada: Kaitlyn Lawes, Jennifer Jones, and Abby Ackland.

“It’s probably one of the toughest, if not the toughest field I’ve ever been a part of at a provincial championship,” Jones told the Free Press. “It’s great for Manitoba curling just to see all the new teams coming up and with the veterans still sticking around it’s going to be a great event.”

A 12-team field will battle it out for Manitoba supremacy at East St. Paul Arena, starting Wednesday.

Jones has won it eight times, but to get to nine she’ll likely have to get past her former teammate — Lawes.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Abby Ackland’s team is seeded No.3 heading into the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Lawes, the championship’s No.1 seed, heads into her first Manitoba Scotties as a skip. Lawes, Selena Njegovan, Jocelyn Peterman, and Kristin MacCuish have enjoyed tremendous success in their first year together as they’ve reached three event finals on the fall bonspiel circuit, winning two.

The squad took a break late in the year as Lawes gave birth to her first child, a baby girl named Myla, in mid-December. The group returned to action last week in Camrose, Alta., for the Grand Slam of Curling’s Canadian Open.

Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press files

This year's Manitoba Scotties will be Kaitlyn Lawes' first as a skip.

“It felt really good to get back. Physically, I was really lucky as I had a great pregnancy and my recovery is going really,” Lawes said. “So, it felt good to get back on the ice and figure out what I need to do to be able to play and make sure I’m still taking care of my little one and it went really well in that aspect.”

It didn’t go really well on the ice, though, as Lawes failed to qualify and suffered an 8-1 loss to Jones in their final game.

“They were still figuring some stuff out with Kaitlyn just coming back from having a baby. It was pretty incredible that she was on the ice already,” said Jones’ third, Mackenzie Zacharias, who beat Kristy Watling in the final of last year’s Manitoba Scotties.

Jones and Lawes missed last years Manitoba Scotties as they were preparing for the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“They’re just going to get better and better each time they play and we know that, too. But I think that game, what really worked for us is just we were able to make a few more key shots when we needed to.”

“They were still figuring some stuff out with Kaitlyn just coming back from having a baby. It was pretty incredible that she was on the ice already.”–Mackenzie Zacharias

The good news for Lawes, Jones, and potentially Ackland is that no matter what happens this week, they can still head to the Canadian Scotties in Kamloops, B.C., (Feb. 17-26) as one of the three wild-card entries. Jones is ranked third in the nation and Lawes is one spot behind her. If Rachel Homan captures the Ontario title this week, Ackland, No. 7 in the CTRS, should have enough points to take the third and final wild-card spot.

“You don’t even think about that. There’s so much pride in wearing the buffalo and representing Manitoba, even though I guess as a wild card you feel like you’re representing your province,” said Jones.

“Every time we step on the ice, we want to try to win. It’s such an honour to win a provincial championship.”

Rick Elvin / The Canadian Press files

Jennifer Jones has joined forces with Mackenzie Zacharias of Altona.

The five-day Scotties culminates with Sunday’s 2 p.m. championship game.

While a Lawes-Jones final would get people talking, it’s far from a guarantee to happen as Ackland, Chelsea Carey, and Beth Peterson are all capable of going on runs.

Carey, a two-time national champion, is back at Manitoba’s playdowns for the first time since winning the event in 2014. Carey, who played out of Alberta (2014-20) and Saskatchewan (2021-22), is currently ranked 25th in the CTRS, but with her résumé, you can’t count her out. Peterson, the No. 23-ranked team, is also a threat as her rink went 7-5 at the Canadian Scotties in 2021 as a wild card.

Ackland won the DeKalb Superspiel in Morris in early December and also reached the final of the RBC Dominion Securities Western Showdown in October before losing to the No. 3 team in the world, Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni.

Ackland’s squad is a young team on the rise, and this week could be its coming-out party.

2023 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Wednesday, Jan. 25 to Sunday, Jan. 29

East St. Paul Arena

2 vs. 3 semi-final: 9:30 a.m. Sunday

Championship game: 2 p.m. Sunday

Wednesay, Jan. 25 to Sunday, Jan. 29

East St. Paul Arena

2 vs. 3 semi-final: 9:30 a.m. Sunday

Championship game: 2 p.m. Sunday

The 12-team field:

Seed 1: Kaitlyn Lawes, Selena Njegovan, Jocelyn Peterman, Kristin MacCuish, Jill Officer (Fort Rouge)

Seed 2: Jennifer Jones, Karlee Burgess, Mackenzie Zacharias, Emily Zacharias, Lauren Lenentine (St. Vital/Altona)

Seed 3: Abby Ackland, Meghan Walter, Sara Oliver, Mackenzie Elias, Kaitlyn Jones (East St. Paul)

Seed 4: Chelsea Carey, Jolene Campbell, Liz Fyfe, Rachel Erickson (East St. Paul)

Seed 5: Beth Peterson, Jenna Loder, Katherine Doerksen, Melissa Gordon, Robyn Njegovan (Assiniboine)

Grace Beaudry, Emily Ogg, Madelyn Hollins, Mackenzie Arbuckle (St. Vital)

Alyssa Calvert, Stacey Irwin, Pam Robins, Roslynn Taylor (Carberry)

Emma Jensen, Lane Prokopowich, Becky Friesen, Julia Millan (Heather)

Katy Lukowich, Lauren Rajala, Mikaylah Lyburn, Makenna Hadway (Granite)

Lisa McLeod, Janelle Lach, Hallie McCannell, Jolene Callum (Portage)

Darcy Robertson, Gaetanne Gauthier, Rachel Kaatz, Kadriana Lott (AMCC)

Kristy Watling, Laura Burtnyk, Emilie Rafnson, Sarah Pyke (East St. Paul)

“They seem to be playing a lot and they’re having a lot of success against a lot of top teams. They’ve climbed up the world rankings pretty quickly so it’s exciting the next generation of curlers are doing so well and I think it’s just so great for the sport,” said Lawes.

“The more active players we have in the province just makes everyone else better and stronger. I’m super excited for their team to be doing so well and we’ll have to play well against them this week.”

Meanwhile, veteran skip and former winner Darcy Robertson leads a talented young crew from Assiniboine-Memorial,

While the Battle of the Prairies takes place in East St. Paul, the top team in the country and arguably the world, Gimli’s Kerri Einarson, can sit back as their tickets to Kamloops are already punched as the reigning, three-time Canadian champs. The eventual goal for this week’s winner is to knock Einarson off the top of the mountain, but for right now, the focus is all on earning the right to wear the buffalo jacket.

“It’s been such a special year and a fun one. It’s been really great to know Jen, getting to play with her and learn from her and I think winning this week would be the icing on top of the cake,” said Zacharias. “And hopefully we can take what we learn here at the Scotties and take it into nationals.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
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Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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Updated on Monday, January 23, 2023 7:31 PM CST: Corrects typo

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