Was it the spirit of Sandra Schmirler? Was it Saskatchewan Roughrider pride that pervades everything to do with sports in the Wheat Province?
Sooner or later, the kinds of energy associated with these green kinds of things had to be taken into consideration at the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts.
And it turned from consideration to happening Sunday night at the Charlottetown Civic Centre when Amber Holland of Saskatchewan stunned defending Scotties champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg 8-7 in the event’s championship final.
There was a bundle of honours at stake for the Jones team — a record-tying four- straight title skein for skip Jones, plus numerous elevations for the remainder of the team.
None of them were realized.
And a large group of green clad fans who accompanied their team were boisterous in celebration when Jones’s last rock double-raise attempted resulted in a spinout that left Saskatchewan counting the winning boulder.
“It isn’t the end of the world and the sun is coming up tomorrow,” said Jones, the deposed four-time champion who won Scotties titles in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“We had a great game today and so much fun all week. Our team stuck together. I don’t think we would have had any more fun this week. Winning would have been nice but we’re pretty happy with how we did.” Holland’s Saskatchewan team from Kronau, near Regina, dominated the round-robin preliminary and were the strongest team on the week but suffered a glitch heading into the playoffs.
They lost the last game of the round- robin, then the Page One-Two playoff to Jones before rebounding to win the semi- final against Ontario and earn another crack at Jones in the Sunday night final.
“It was a long event so we prepared a little differently, we just tried to make sure we had the energy to get through it,” said a jubilant but controlled Holland after- ward.
“We worked hard on our performance and on our mental training and make sure we had the ability to stay focused like we needed to and think about what it would be like to wear the maple leaf.”
And wear it the Saskatchewan team will, at Esbjerg, Denmark, March 18-27 The match, in which Jones got off to an early 3-0 advantage in the first end, wound up tied playing the final exchange with the defender in control of the hammer.
It appeared Jones required an out-turn chip shot with her lst rock but she instead attempted a double-raise with the in-turn and didn’t bet all the angles correctly.
“When Jennifer threw the last rock,” said Saskatchewan vice-skip Kim Schneider, who had enjoyed an immense shooting performance like all of her teammates, “I was just holding my breath and all we could do was hope . . . and when it made contact I was screaming at Amber to sweep the rock. “We closed that out-turn off to make her play that shot. We thought she would play a softer weight and tap it. It ran a little straigher, didn’t come up and rolled off.”
Saskatchewan recovered with two in the second but couldn’t pull even until the sixth exchange when Jones ignored two enemy stones in counting positions and attempted an out-turn bury but left it open and Holland stuck for three.
After that it was a tight-fit until the last exchange when Saskatchewan manufactured the only theft of the contest.
“We decided to throw (the last one) hard and we hit it pretty much where we wanted to,” said Jones. “I could have hit a quarter-of-an-inch more but you know that’s curling and that’s what makes it so exciting. And they (Saskatchewan) played great today.
“It’s been a great ride but we have all sorts of events still to come and I think it’s just the beginning for this team”
Jones dumped veteran third Cathy Overton-Clapham prior to this season and replaced her with junior grad Kaitlyn Lawes.
“The only thing that might have different? If I’d made my last shot. I thought on my first shot I could have made it better. I could have won it on my first shot and it just hung.
“I don’t think I would have done anything different, we had the hammer coming home and that’s all your ever want and I had a shot to win.
“It was a good game from both teams, lots of rocks in play, good for TV. I don’ think anybody had control of it.”
The win was Saskatchewan’s 11th of the competition against three losses. The defending champion team finished 9-4. In the final, Saskatchewan shooters enjoyed an 84 per collective percentage to Team Canada’s 74 per cent“I think we’ll go to Denmark with the same focus with which we came in here,” said Schneider, whose sister Tammy plays second on the team with Heather Kalenchuk at lead. “We’re a close team and stick together and support one another.”
The Holland team was unanimous in its agreement the win would be dedicated to the memory of Schmirler, the last Saskatchewan (and Regina) skip to win the Scotties — in 1997.
“She was special,” said Kim Schneider, “and I was fairly young when she passed away and she was someone Saskatchewan curlers looked up to and really idolized.
“We knew we could do it. We’ve played all these teams all year. We’ve just worked hard at it.
“We wanted to stay focused and leave it all out there.
“In Denmark we’ll still be focusing on the same thing. Sticking together as a team with the same attitude. Focusing on what we need to do and not on what the other team needs to do.”
The Jones team included second Jill Officer, a four-time champ, and three-time winner Dawn Askin.