Cheryl Bernard’s black-clad express train is picking up a head of steam. And it’s closing in on the halfway mark en route to playoff contention in the women’s division of the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, presented by Monsanto.
Calgary’s Bernard, and her team of Susan O’Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire and Cori Bartel, won a pair of clutch matches on Monday at Rexall Place to construct a three-game unbeaten record and a one-game lead on her closest competitors in the eight-team round-robin Olympic-team debate.
Canadian champion Jennifer Jones, meanwhile, knew she had no margin for error Monday night and posted her first win in three games — at the expense of old foe Kelly Scott of Kelowna.
Bernard escaped with a 6-5 morning squeaker against Amber Holland of Kronau, SK, with the winning point in the last end decided by an umpire’s measurement. She returned on the night shift to hammer fellow Calgarian Crystal Webster 9-6 but took a while to close it out after amassing a 7-1 lead at the half.
“We had a few ends we didn’t like,” said Bernard of the late tilt. “It seemed like a long game. We were getting mentally tired. I’d like one that doesn’t go down to a measure or last rock and I thought this was it, but . ..”
The undisputed leader will now discover that while protecting an early lead is a tough assignment on arena ice, protecting a lead in the standings may be even tougher.
“Yah, everybody’s going to be gunning but I think some of the teams in contention will tend to play it carefully. But our next four games (vs. Scott Tuesday afternoon, Jones, Shannon Kleibrink and Stefanie Lawton) are really going to be tough. So we have to dig in and do what we gotta do.”
The dominant name in Canadian women’s curling for the past two years, Jones was the last skip to taste victory in this affair. But her Winnipeg team whaled Scott by an 11-5 margin with a smart double-kill to score five in the eighth end settling the issue.
Earlier in the day, Jones suffered a 9-3 thrashing at the hands of Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville. “We just didn’t have it again. We got outplayed . . . it’s disappointing,” said Jones, the two-time defending champion at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
But, following the eventide victory, she allowed, “We picked it up tonight, and we felt like our old selves.”
One game behind Bernard, Kleibrink and McCarville were running at 2-and-1 while the remaining four teams all were jammed alongside Jones at 1-and-2.
McCarville executed a peel-weight last-rock double takeout to rally for a deuce and a 6-5 victory over Lawton. Kleibrink, meanwhile, followed up on a 9-6 conquest of Scott in the morning with a 9-3 decision over Amber Holland, in a match that was far tighter than the final score indicated.
In Tuesday’s other women’s matches at 1 p.m. MT, Kleibrink plays McCarville, Lawton tackles Holland and Jones plays Webster.