NORTH BAY, Ont. — In eight years with this team, Kaitlyn Lawes has won at least one of everything, almost.
Maple Leaf jackets. Canada Cups. Grand slam cash. Olympic gold medals.
Yet there is one thing the hot-shot third has never won with Jennifer Jones. It’s the same thing she’s been chasing since she was a Manitoba junior phenom, but has never taken home: a world championship.
So, weeks ago, when second Jill Officer announced she would step back from full-time play after this season, Lawes joined her in front of the media at Fort Rouge Curling Club. In just nine simple words, she said it all.
"I really want to win that worlds with Jill," she said, stressing the weight of their upcoming visit.
Now, she and the rest of Team Jones are just one win away from making that happen.
On Saturday night, the foursome continued their unbeaten streak through these worlds, going 9-7 over Team USA skip Jamie Sinclair in a whiplash semifinal. It was a nailbiter near the end — but it got them to the final.
Now, they will set up for a golden afternoon clash today against Anna Hasselborg of Sweden. And though Lawes declined to think past that — she’s focused on the "process," she said — the prize still glitters brightly.
"How lucky for us to have been to two world championships with this lineup," Lawes mused. "It’s been such a special journey. To be able to finish it off would be the icing on the cake. I really hope we can do this for Jill."
No better place to do it. All week, North Bay’s 63-year-old Memorial Gardens arena has been rocking, and the sold-out crowd of nearly 3,800 on Saturday night was no exception. A sea of red-and-white. A storm of cheers.
"Every time we step out on the ice, you feel like a rock star," Lawes said. "It’s so much fun... Before this game, we just said, ‘let’s soak this in,’ because you never know if you’re ever going to see a crowd like that ever again."
No doubt, Canada’s roller-coaster through the semifinal gave that thunderous crowd some heart palpitations.
At first, the team came out roaring. In the first end, Team USA third Alex Carlson’s attempted double takeout knocked a Canada guard into the house instead; a gift to Canada, and one Jones was quite happy to accept.
Sinclair tried to limit the damage, but in the end, all Jones had to throw was a simple nose-hit for three.
The Americans kept struggling through the early game. In the second end, a wicked Jones double-kill left Sinclair nothing to do but a hit for a single; in the third, Canada capitalized on USA misses to nab a deuce.
By the time they headed into the mid-game break, Team USA was trailing 6-2. Yet, in a post-end huddle, the Americans vowed to keep fighting. They might give up another big end, they figured, but there’s no sense playing cautious against Jennifer Jones when you’re already down by four.
"We said ‘if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down in flames,’" Sinclair said.
That strategy paid off. Sinclair was able to collect a deuce in the sixth to narrow the gap; meanwhile, the Canadian machine was slowing. Jones faltered on a difficult last draw in seven to settle for only a single.
Another deuce for Team USA in the eighth, and suddenly Canada’s lead had narrowed to 7-6.
In the ninth, a slew of Canada misses gave Sinclair and her team a window. Sinclair threw a pretty tap through a port to bury one at the top of the button; Jones’ hammer couldn’t knock it back far enough to stop a steal of one.
Suddenly, the game was tied up 7-7, with Jones holding hammer coming home.
They managed to hang on. A pair of surgical ticks from lead Dawn McEwen kept the house wide open to start the 10th; Canada never let USA set up much of a steal threat. Jones’ final shot, a hit for two, struck its mark.
Still, it was an unnerving turnabout for Canada, especially on the brink of a championship final.
The Achilles heel in their game, as it has been for much of the week at Memorial Gardens, were the draws. Through 14 hits in the game, Jones fired 98 per cent; but on six draws, she slumped to a 33 per cent rate.
"I wish I could have a couple of those draws back," Jones said. "I threw what I wanted to throw, and we guessed wrong. So, we’ll have to guess a little bit better tomorrow."
They’ll have their hands full against Team Sweden. When the two teams met in the round robin, Jones and her crew trounced Hasselborg’s crew 8-4 in just eight ends. But the Swedes are better than that suggests.
So, count on today’s championship game to be a battle, a clash of Olympic champions past and present.
The last time they played in a world championship final was in 2015, when they fought to the end in Sapporo, Japan. That time, they were simply outplayed by Swiss skip Alina Paetz, and instead took home the silver.
If Canada can win this time, it’ll be the second world gold for the trio of Jones, Officer and McEwen. (It would also be the second consecutive year a Canadian team ran undefeated, after Rachel Homan did it last year.)
In fact, it’s been exactly 10 years since Jones claimed her first worlds, a 2008 victory in Vernon, B.C. Maybe there would be poetry in doing it again a decade later, again on home territory and again with friend Officer.
Yet Jones knows better than to make promises. They made it to the end. The rest will have to play out.
"With it being Jill’s last one with us, I think it’s really special we’re just in that game," she said. "All I ever say is, we can guarantee that we’re going to give it our all tomorrow and leave it all on the ice."
Meanwhile, Sinclair’s rookie worlds aren’t over: she’ll challenge Russia’s Victoria Moiseeva for a bronze medal.
A podium finish would be a fine result for the 26-year-old skip, who is currently ranked 16th in the world. A dual citizen, she actually grew up in Ontario; in fact, she won a 2007 Canada Games gold playing lead for Homan.
Sinclair hit the World Curling Tour circuit hard this year, with promising results. Here, she had a middling 6-6 round robin finish, but upset rising Korean star EunJung Kim in qualification, even scoring a seven-ender.
A darn good debut, all told. So, no wonder Sinclair was bright-eyed and smiling after the loss to Jones.
"It wasn’t the start we hoped for, but it was a heck of a game, heck of a battle, and I’m super proud of the girls for hanging in there and never giving up," she said. "We’ve learned a lot."
Read more by Melissa Martin.