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Jennifer Jones Off And Running At Scotties

There’s something about Jennifer Jones and the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts. They go together like hand and glove. Much like it used to be with Nova Scotia’s Colleen Jones, the Scotties legend whose records the Manitoba Jones is trying to match, one by one.

The defending Scotties champion skip added another notch to the belt at the Civic Centre on Saturday night, tossing a last-rock come-around draw to the face of Quebec counter behind the button to record Team Canada’s first victory of this latest national women’s championship.

Jennifer Jones and Kaitlyn Lawes at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts(Photo by: Andrew Klaver)

“They (Quebec) played a perfect 10th end,” said Jones in the wake of her nationally-televised 7-6 win. “We didn’t play a bad 10th end but all you wanted was a shot and we had a shot and the girls swept it perfectly.”

Quebec’s Marie-France Larouche was chasing of most of the debate after missing a button draw for an opening deuce in the third end but manufactured deuces on the seventh and ninth ends to tie the score playing the final exchange.

“We’re pretty happy with how we played after a long day with the Hot Shots,” said Jones, who also won that skills competition for the first time.

“There’s always a little doubt (about the last shot) because I hadn’t thrown a lot of draws that game. The line was a little bit tight for a time but it just ended up perfect.”

Four others joined Jones with single wins on the day. British Columbia’s Kelly Scott whipped Stacie Devereaux of St. John’s 7-2 on the late draw while Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario all win their lone assignments in the afternoon.

New Brunswick’s Andrea Kelly of Oromocto had an opportunity to climb to the head of the pack with a second win Saturday night but watched her last freeze effort overcurl allowing Heather-Smith Dacey of Halifax to score two and an 8-7 win without employing the hammer.

Both teams finished 1-1 on the day along with Winnipeg’s Cathy Overton-Clapham who defeated Kerry Galusha of the Territories 7-4.

“We haven’t started off well in the past,” said Kelly, whose team has logged 5-6 records in three previous editions of the Hearts but is unbeaten in the last three provincial championships.

“I think we had a better day today. We’re learning more about strategy each time we come here, what you can and can’t do, what you can afford to do and what you can’ afford to do.”

Smith-Dacey has returned to the skip position this year after a long stint playing third. She was ticketed to play the position for Colleen Jones until she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and was forced to pull out prior to the provincial Scotties.

“I enjoy skipping,” said Smith-Dacey, “but it takes some time to get back in it. But, you know, it’s always an honour to be here no matter what position you’re playing.”

Scott, a two-time champ and 2007 world queen, stole three singles against the rookie team from The Rock.

“You can’t go by the scoreboard,” Scott said. “It was a battle. She made a lot of good shots early to keep the score close but later on she had some shots she didn’t finish off and that gave us a jump on the board.”

The Manitobans (1-1) got off to a quick 4-0 lead on the Polars, stealing three in the third end whn Galusha’s last rock picked up debris.

“We were fortunate there,” said Overton-Clapham, who was a part of defending champion Jones’s lineup but was dropped from that team at the end of last season.

“We’re still not as sharp as we could be. We’re still learning the ice and getting a feel for he draw weight.”

The heavy hometown favourites tripped leaving the starting gate in the afternoon, allowing back-to-back thefts of deuces to Kelly in an eventual 9-7 defeat.

Suzanne Birt’s Charlottetown unit cracked a promising three-ender in the first end but Kelly bounced back with deuces in the second and fourth to square the account. The thefts of two in the fifth and sixth ends decided the issue.

“We made a few great shots and had a couple of bad misses and maybe some missed communication on one or two,” said Birt, a former two-time Canadian and one-time world junior champion.

“The second steal of two really hurt us. There was missed communication. It was a wide open shot and it was really too bad.”

Birt was attempting a hit and stick to count but her shooter over-curled and rolled too far.

“We have to come out tomorrow in the next game and play better. We’ll be fine,” said the 29-year-old native of Summerside, P.E.I.

In other first-round games, Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland hit for three in the second end and stubbornly kept control against Overton-Clapham to record an 8-6 win. Saskatchewan led 7-2 after six ends and succeeded in warding off a couple of late Manitoba rallies.

“It was really important to get that first win,” said Holland. “We found out how important last year when we didn’t get it and didn’t play well, to boot. Playing well is the most important aspect.”

The same team from Kronau finished 6-and-5 at Sault Ste. Marie.

“We weren’t happy with how we finished last year so we’re determined. We are going to be better. I think we’re working harder, everybody’s a year older and a year wiser.”

Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary, the 2008 Scotties runnerup, clobbered Galusha of Yellowknife 9-2 and Ontario’s Rachel Homan of Ottawa hung a 9-3 whipping on Smith-Dacey’s Bluenosers.

“The ice will get pretty good after a couple of draws but right now draw weight is pretty patchy,” said Kleibrink, who played in he Canadian mixed champion at Charlottetown in 1986 with Mike Sali of Calgary.

“I suspect the ice is a bit green and I think you’ll see us hitting for the first couple of games, anyway. It looked like a struggle for everyone when you looked around. This is normal. It always gets better after a couple of games. The good news is it’s curling nicely so you can bury rocks.”

The 21-year-old Homan, the youngest skip in the tournament, admitted to a slight case of nerves stepping on the Scotties ice for the first time.

“It was the same in the provincial championship,” she said. “There were nerves, but good nerves. It’s pretty exciting.

“At least we know we’re not going to go 0-and-whatever. We weren’t really worried about it but it’s no fun when you get on a losing streak.”