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Bernard still undefeated, Scott out at Trials

Cheryl Bernard is still unbeaten, Jennifer Jones is hanging on by her fingernails and Kelly Scott’s Olympic dream has been dashed following Wednesday morning’s action at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, presented by Monsanto.

Bernard and teammates Susan O’Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire, and Cori Bartel dug an early hole, but emerged for an 8-5 victory over Shannon Kleibrink in an all-Calgary battle for first place in the women’s standings at Rexall Place.

Bernard’s crew from the Calgary Curling Club is now a perfect 5-0, with some breathing room, and eyeing a first-place bye at these Canadian Curling Trials.

“It was a claw-back, but the team played really well in the back half (of the game), so it made a big difference,” said Bernard, whose squad trailed 3-0 after two ends. “I was really proud of the way we came back . . . we haven’t been down by a ton before.

“I think it’s easy to say, ‘OK, we’re 4-0,’ and sit back and think you can afford one loss, but really, in this field, you can’t afford a loss. I think we all did bear down a little bit, as evidenced with the shots, and made some more,” added Bernard.  “This format is different (without the Page Playoff system), where you get the bye to the final. So first place is important. But we’ll take . . . what we can get.”

Elsewhere on Wednesday morning, Winnipeg’s Jones lost a critical 6-4 decision to Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon, Kelowna’s Scott fell out of the running after getting clubbed 9-5 by Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., and Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., kept her slim playoff hopes alive by shading Calgary’s Crystal Webster 6-5 in 11 ends.

Bernard (5-0) has breathing room atop the women’s standings, with a logjam of Kleibrink, McCarville and Lawton at 3-2,  Holland and Jones holding 2-3 records. Webster and Scott are at 1-4.

Kleibrink (3-2) and her Calgary Winter Club crew of Amy Nixon, Bronwen Webster and Chelsey Bell were on the defensive in the final half of Wednesday’s game, often facing multiple red Bernard rocks in the rings when it came down to the short strokes.

The skip from Okotoks, Alta., missed her final shot of the eighth end to give Bernard a steal of two. Kleibrink made a pressure shot through a narrow port in the ninth to hit and stick for a single and a 5-5 tie, but in the 10th, Bernard wielded a deadly hammer, making a short runback onto Kleibrink’s shot rock, clearing it from the rings and scoring three for the 8-5 final.

In the first two ends, Kleibrink threatened to run away with the game. She missed a hit-and-roll in the first end for a potential four points, instead scoring two. One end later, Bernard was staring at four Kleibrink stones with her final shot, and came up short on a draw, but did hold her opponent to a steal of one and that 3-0 lead.

“I didn’t draw very much in the early part of the game, and as soon as I did, I got caught because it was way keener than it has been, and I threw a couple in the back of the house,” said Kleibrink, a bronze medalist at the 2006 Torino Olympics.

“(A 3-0 score) is nothing in a 10-end game; it’s kind of hard to defend. It wasn’t that we couldn’t hold the lead; we just didn’t throw our draw shots in the top of the house in eight, nine and 10,” added Kleibrink. “We learned a lot. We’re still in the middle of the pack. It’s not an opportunity lost; we have to go forward to make sure we use what we learned.”

Noted Bernard: “We were lucky to get away with just giving up a deuce.”

Jones, meanwhile, will need to win her last two games and get some help in order to make playoffs, which will feature a No. 2 vs. No. 3 semifinal.

“Stranger things have happened,” said Jones, the two-time defending Scotties champion and 2008 world champ, of her slim playoff hopes. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We’re all here to win.

“But it’s not over yet. You never know what can happen,” said Jones, whose St. Vital Curling Club team includes Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin.  We’ll come out strong tonight, hopefully, and we have two tough games left (against Bernard and Kleibrink). If we win them both, you never know what can happen.”

Lawton and her Nutana Curling Club team of Marliese Kasner, Sherri Singler and Lana Vey made a critical steal of two in the third end for a 4-1 lead, and never looked back.

“We played strong today, and we have to keep that going,” said Lawton. “We’re definitely playing stronger with every game . . . that’s the thing we need.”

Scott, meanwhile, won’t be back in the Olympic Trials final like she was in 2005 in Halifax.

Her Kelowna Curling Club crew of Jeanna Schraeder, Sasha Carter and Jacquie Armstrong went to great pains just to qualify for Edmonton at the Road to the Roar pre-Trials in Prince George, B.C., eventually earning one of two ‘C’-side tickets, but has fared no better here.

“It’s been a struggle. We had struggles in Prince George as well, so I don’t know what that’s trying to tell us,” she said. “We just want to finish on a good note, come out and have two real good games. That was our approach today, too — nothing to lose, just come out and play well, and enjoy it out there. It’s hard to enjoy it when you’re not playing well . . . it’s very disappointing.

“It’s been three years, waiting to get here, and then we come here and we have this type of performance,” added Scott. “It’s not what we wanted from ourselves. We put a lot of hours into preparing ourselves for this.”

McCarville, who defeated Scott in the ‘B’ final at Prince George, scored deuces in the first, second, fifth and sixth ends en route to Wednesday’s win.

“We caught on to the ice a little bit faster today,” said McCarville, whose Fort William Curling Club outfit includes Tara George, Kari MacLean and Lorraine Lang. “We still have two really big games (against Holland and Webster), and hopefully . . . at least be in a tiebreaker or playoffs of some sort.”

Holland, meanwhile, won her second game with a point in the 11th end against Webster.

“Three losses are (possibly) in . . . we know that. You’ve still got to win the next couple of games to make that happen,” said Holland, who heads up a Kronau Curling Club outfit of Kim Schneider, Tammy Schneider and Heather Kalenchuk. “This game, we put a lot of good shots together as a team, and that’s huge. That’s the way we’ve been playing together all year.”

Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. MT women’s draw will pit Bernard vs. Jones, Holland vs. McCarville, Webster vs. Scott and Lawton vs. Kleibrink.

Wednesday’s lone men’s draw, starting at 1 p.m., will see undefeated Glenn Howard (4-0) go up against Edmonton’s Kevin Koe (3-1). The two other Edmonton outfits, Kevin Martin (3-1) and Randy Ferbey (3-1), will also clash. Toronto’s Wayne Middaugh (0-4) plays Pat Simmons (1-3) of Davidson, Sask., while Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton (2-2) clashes with Jason Gunnlaugson (0-4) of Beausejour, Man.