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Team Canada, Anything but idle

Among the visitors this past week at the Essar Centre was Rex Goudie of Canadian Idol. As for Jennifer Jones’ two-time defending Scotties champs? They were determined on Saturday not to be Canadian idle.

Team Canada's Cathy Overton-Clapham and Jennifer Jones contemplate their next move. (Photo: CCA/Brennan Schnell)

By virtue of its 8-5 victory over Prince Edward Island in the Page One-Two playoff game on Friday night, Jones’ Team Canada rink earned a berth in Sunday afternoon’s 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts championship final at 2:30 p.m. ET — and a rare Saturday off.

This is the Jones crew’s sixth straight appearance at the Canadian women’s curling championship, but they haven’t taken the direct route to the final since 2005, when they edged Kelly Scott’s British Columbia outfit 8-7 in the Page One-Two game, then clipped Jenn Hanna’s Ontario rink 8-6 in the national championship showdown.

“The biggest thing when you have a day off is to keep yourself occupied,” said longtime Team Canada second Jill Officer, following Friday night’s win over the Islanders. “I remember there not being a whole lot to do on the Saturday in St. John’s that year, and we did a lot of sitting around.

“I think we’ve learned to manage that spare time a little better since then. It’s different now, given that it’s five years later,” added Officer. “We know a little better, how to approach things like that.

“It shouldn’t be too much problem. There’s the (annual awards brunch); we’ve got practice time booked; and (Saturday’s Page three-Four and semifinal) games are on, so we’ll be watching some of those. So I think it’ll be OK.”

In the final analysis, it hasn’t mattered much to the Jones quartet how they get to the big dance. They’ve proven they can do it the easy way — or the hard way.

During each of the past two Scotties, at Regina in 2008 and Victoria in 2009, Jones and Co. finished with four round-robin losses, meaning they had to win a tiebreaker, the Page Three-Four game, and the semifinal to qualify for the national showdown.

Their victims in the final were Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink, by a 6-4 count, in 2008 and B.C.’s Marla Mallett, by an 8-5 score, in 2009. In 2008, they would go on to win a world championship at Vernon, B.C.

But Team Canada third Cathy Overton-Clapham noted that the Scotties is very much a nine-day grind. And with two games a day for the first six days, a day off during this granite marathon is a rare treasure.

“When you’re playing in those tiebreakers, you don’t have a whole lot of time to think, and it’s really mentally and physically exhausting,” said Overton-Clapham, whose squad finished this year’s round robin in the Soo with an 8-3 record, identical to that of P.E.I.

“I think the rest is going to be nice,” added Overton-Clapham following Friday’s win over the Islanders. “Time to rejuvenate and get ready for Sunday’s game. Just try to be ready to come out and be our best on Sunday.”

Officer said she wasn’t concerned about her team losing its edge without some sort of Saturday playoff stimulation.

“We’re going to be out on the ice, and we’ll have an opportunity to throw some rocks up and down for a while, and that’s important and that’s key,” she said. “As long as we stay relaxed and come out on Sunday and do our thing, we’ll be OK.”