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Bernard clinches first, Kleibrink second at Trials

Cheryl Bernard and her Calgary team are within one victory of representing Canada at the Vancouver Olympic Games.

Amazingly, the 43-year-old Bernard doesn’t even have to win her last round-robin fixture today at Rexall Place to clinch first place in the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, women’s division, and move directly to Saturday’s 6 p.m. final.

Directing third Susan O’Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire and lead Cori Bartel, the hot-shooting Bernard swept another two-game assignment Wednesday and appropriately put her stamp on a place in the final by thrashing defending Canadian champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg 8-5.

It left Bernard with a 6-and-0 record, two games in front of arch-rival Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary, who was Bernard’s victim 8-5 during the morning shift.

At 4-and-2, Kleibrink has clinched second place overall, and a berth in Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinal.

“Our game seems to be getting stronger and stronger,” said Bernard. “So that’s what feels the best, is that we’re playing better and better. And that was evident in that we didn’t come down to a last rock or a measure in the 10th end for the first time.”

The week-long leaders cranked a four-spot on the board in the fourth end against Jones and refused to allow the nation’s most dominant team of the past two years back into it.

So now it’s one big game.

“We’ve still got lots to do,” said Bernard. “And it’s a sudden-death game, so we’ll enjoy this a little bit tonight, and then get back to business for Saturday.”

What about the two-day layoff prior to the final?

“You know, we’re going to have to address that, I’m sure. But we’ve been in that situation before, where we’ve sat out, so we’ll have to talk as a team and see how we’re going to address it. But we’ll get lots of time to practise here, so we won’t be off the ice the entire time.”

Among other things, Wednesday’s penultimate round effectively only reduced the contenders to seven.

Mathematically sidelined was Kelly Scott of Kelowna at 1-5. A crazy parlay of four results in today’s final round would leave five teams tied for the third playoff berth with 3-4 records.

In other late finishers, defending Olympian Kleibrink rebounded to stop Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon 6-5, Amber Holland of Kronau, SK., won her second of the day, 4-3 over Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay with a 10th-end deuce and Crystal Webster of Calgary dumped Scott 11-3.

Kleibrink is 4-and-2 heading to today’s final round while Lawton, McCarville and Holland are 3-and-3, Jones and Webster 2-and-4. And the final-round matches at 1 p.m. shape up like this:

Cheryl Bernard (6-0) — 1 p.m. vs. Stefanie Lawton
Shannon Kleibrink (4-2) — 1 p.m. vs. Jennifer Jones
Krista McCarville (3-3) — 1 p.m. vs. Crystal Webster
Stefanie Lawton (3-3) — 1 p.m. vs. Cheryl Bernard
Amber Holland (3-3) — 1 p.m. vs. Kelly Scott

Jones and Webster had one foot and the other leg in the grave and needed all sorts of help to survive today.

“We controlled out own fate and didn’t play as well as we needed,” said Jones. “We’re still alive, which is great, but we need a thousand things to go our way. It’s just been a disappointing week. I feel like I let the girls down, but that’s curling, I guess.”

Kleibrink stole a fourth-end single for a 3-1 lead against Lawton, then went up 5-2 with a deuce in the sixth.

“The team’s playing awesome,” said Kleibrink. “If we can just continue that, then we have a good chance.  You have to park a game if you play kind of lousy, like we did this morning, and we did that and we came back strong. This is probably the best we’ve played all year. It feels real good.”

Holland maintained control of an open defensive battle through to the eighth end when McCarville broke up a 2-2 affair by stealing a go-ahead single. But, after blanking the ninth, Holland stationed a pair in the 10th.

“The only deuce of the game, so that was a good time to get it,” said Holland. She added that her team had to repeat the effort today. “You can’t focus on all that other stuff (playoffs), otherwise it just wreaks havoc in the world of where you need to be. Just go out there and make shots the best you can.”

Webster hit Scott with three in the second end and ran away from the frustrated Kelowna outfit. Scott failed to generate more than three singles in a match that lasted only eight ends.