(by Jonathan Brazeau)
CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. — Jennifer Jones is on a quest to capture a record-tying 10th Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s title.
Jennifer Jones slides to victory over Tracy Fleury on Dec. 14, 2019, in Conception Bay South, N.L., and into the Boost National women’s final. (Anil Mungal)
Jones and her Winnipeg squad scored a 10-9 extra-end win over Team Tracy Fleury during Saturday’s all-Manitoba semifinal at the Boost National to advance to the championship game at CBS Arena.
It was in the Boost National two years ago when Jones claimed her ninth title in the elite series, which was the most in the women’s division at the time. Ottawa’s Rachel Homan has since surpassed Jones with a 10th championship victory at the start of 2019.
Team Jones overcame a 0-2 start in the round-robin with four consecutive wins including a 7-5 victory over Team Eve Muirhead during the quarterfinals earlier Saturday.
“It’s incredible,” Jones said. “We’ve had to really grind out. We lost our first two games, just to grind out some wins and we’ve had some really close games. It’s fun for sure to be in the final.”
Edmonton’s Laura Walker is filling in for lead Dawn McEwen, who was not feeling well and did not make it to the event.
“It’s just a privilege to be on the ice with Laura,” Jones said. “She’s just a true competitor and a great teammate.”
“She’s a heck of a player,” she said. “She’s incredible, a great person and we know her quite well. Jocelyn and her are friends. It was just a natural thought and she was willing to come last minute. She’s just been outstanding, great to be around, making a ton of shots and sweeping her butt off so we’re pretty fortunate.”
Fleury, who won her first GSOC title at the Masters in October, went 4-0 through pool play and beat Team Robyn Silvernagle 6-3 in the quarterfinals to remain undefeated heading in the semis. She converted for a deuce in the opening end but Jones responded with a draw for three points and the lead in the second.
After Fleury was forced to a single in three to tie it, Jones drew again for a multiple score grabbing two in the fourth end to go up 5-3 at the break.
Fleury jumped back ahead by one with a three count in the fifth. Jones appeared to have a hold on the game taking two in six and stealing two in seven to make it 9-6, but she left Fleury an opportunity to count the tying three in the eighth end and send it into an extra end. Jones secured the win with a double bump to the button.
“I just had to kind of nose hit on my last one in the eighth end, it rolled about a foot too far and she made a nice shot for the three,” Jones said. “It wasn’t going great in the extra and the girls made a great shot for me on my last one.”
Jones will take on Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg in Sunday’s final. Hasselborg, who won her third GSOC title at last month’s KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge, also needed an extra-end nail-biter to prevail over Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa 5-4.
Team Fujisawa only played as a trio this week as lead Yurika Yoshida remained at home due to illness.
Meanwhile, Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., will clash with Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin in the men’s final.
Jacobs, who won his fifth GSOC men’s title at the Tour Challenge, topped local favourites Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., 5-3. Edin, fresh off of winning his seventh European Championship, defeated Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat 7-4.
Team Jacobs escaped with a steal in the extra end to bounce Team Brendan Bottcher 4-3 during the quarterfinals but came out firing on all cylinders against Gushue. The club shot a sharp 99 per cent as a unit with third Marc Kennedy and second E.J. Harnden both earning perfect scores.
“That feels great,” Kennedy said. “That’s arguably the best team in the world. Their rock placement is unreal. They’re just like robots. Any time you have a chance to beat those guys, you’ve obviously played pretty well and we did. We played great, turned the hammer in the second end and held on to it from there. A great battle, lots of great shots and pretty proud of my teammates after a long day. It’s good, it feels good.”
The 11-time GSOC title winner Gushue, who finished runner-up to Jacobs in the Tour Challenge, started with the hammer but was forced to settle for a single in the first. Jacobs hit for three points in the second and never trailed again with only singles on the scoreboard from there. Jacobs held the hammer coming home and just needed to peel out Gushue’s shot rock to advance.
“E.J. made a ton of double peels and we made a bunch of draws, defensive draws that made it tough on them and they weren’t able to get their rocks in the right spots,” Kennedy said. “Good defence and in the five-rock rule that’s not easy. We managed to keep them from getting a big number on the board and that was the difference.”
Jacobs beat Edin 4-2 in a tight round-robin battle and Kennedy expects more of the same in the rematch.
“It’ll take lots,” Kennedy said. “Lots of good shots and he’s obviously playing well again since the European Championship, so we’ll have to have our A-game. They’re always fun to play against, you know Oskar (Eriksson) and him are going to make a ton of shots. Hopefully, it’ll be entertaining for everyone and hopefully, some of the crowd still comes back tomorrow but it should be a good one.”
Watch the men’s final at 1:30 p.m. NT (Noon ET) on Sportsnet and CBC followed by the women’s final at 5:30 p.m. NT (4 p.m. ET) on Sportsnet. Stream online via Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or Yare (international).
NOTES: The Boost National is the third event and second major of the 2019-20 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Qualification is based on the WCF World Team Ranking system. … A $300,000 combined purse is on the line, split equally between both divisions, with the winners receiving $35,000 each plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup in Olds, Alta. … Teams also earn points towards the Pinty’s Cup awarded to the season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April.