Four-time Canadian champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba was riding a four-game winning streak and a one-game lead atop the Scotties Tournament of Hearts standings on Wednesday night. But the story of the tournament heading into the last two-games-for-each-team today may have been slender Quebecois Marie-France Larouche who also is on a four-win skein as she attempts to match her best-ever Scotties record (10-4) established the last time the tournament was played at the Enmax Centrium in 2004.
Larouche, with her new team of Brenda Nicholls, Amelie Blais and Anne Marie Filtreau of St-Romuald, across the wide St. Lawrence from Quebec City, polished off Saskatchewan’s Michelle Englot (4-5) of Regina 10-6 Wednesday night to finish one game off Jones’s 7-and-2 pace at 6-and-3, tied with Kelly Scott of British Columbia and defending champion Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., both of whom split their decisions on Day Five of the championship.
Larouche said the turning point in her run to date was a victory over Holland on Tuesday night when she executed a double-kill on last rock and Holland gassed a follow-up draw to lose the verdict.
“We’ve had good preparation and sometimes there’s just one shot and when you make it all the momentum follows,” Larouche said.
“I think that’s what’s happened for us. I’m just very confident in my draw weight and my team is confident, too, because they are coming around all the guards first. Today we were very aggressive. We played two games with a lot of rocks in play.” (Continued Below…)
Draw 14 Photos
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Larouche had to develop a totally new lineup this year. Her relatively untested front-end duet won 10 games at the Canadian Juniors two years in a row (2004, 2005) with Marie-Christine Cantin of St-Romuald.
“They are very good players,” said Larouche. “They finished fourth in Quebec last year.”
She reiterated that Red Deer seems to be a talisman location for her.
“I’m extremely happy about that. We play very well now and I think we gain more confidence with every game,” she said.
Alberta’s Heather Nedohin of Edmonton and Becky Atkinson’s New Brunswick crew headed into the final day with 5-4 records.
Here’s how the final round-robin draws shape up for the playoff contenders:
Manitoba (7-2): 1:30 p.m. Quebec (6-3); 7:30 p.m. Ontario (4-5).
British Columbia (6-3): 8:30 a.m. P.E.I. (2-7); 7:30 p.m. New Brunswick (5-4).
Team Canada (6-3): 8:30 a.m. Territories (2-7); 7:30 p.m. Saskatchewan (4-5).
Quebec (6-3): 8:30 a.m. Ontario (4-5); 7:30 p.m. Manitoba (7-2).
Alberta (5-4): 8:30 a.m. Newfoundland/Labrador (3-6); 7:30 p.m. Nova Scotia (4-5).
New Brunswick (5-4): 1:30 p.m. P.E.I. (2-7); 7:30 p.m. British Columbia (6-3).
Manitoba’s Jones, with Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin, remained at the head of the pack with a breezy 8-2 waxing of the Territories Cathy Galusha.
“We’re in a good spot,” said Jones, who is rarely out of a promising promising in this affair. “We control our own destiny. We have to win at least one more tomorrow and hopefully two. We want to end the round robin strong.
“We just had one of her best games as a team. I feel we’re getting better every game which is exactly what you want to do. You want to be at your best at the end of the week.”(Continued Below…)
Draw 14 Media Scrum
In other late-shift encounters, Newfoundland’s Heather Strong picked up a spoiler role and hammered New Brunswick’s Atkinson 8-4 while Heather Smith-Dacey of Nova Scotia won her fourth of the week, 7-6 in an extra end over Kim Dolan’s Charlottetown side from Spud Island.
Strong said the sight of the Black and Gold stirred memories of a last-round demise three years ago.
“I remember playing Andrea Kelly and I think we were sort of in her position, right on the bubble, and she gave us a really painful loss in the last game of the round robin,” she recalled.
“I was thinking about that going out there today. A little revenge, yes. We’re all friends but we’re all competitors, too.
“We’ll try to do it again in the last games, go out and throw rocks and try to represent our province as best we can.
“Sure this has been a disappointing week for us. I’ve been here 10 times now and I know a lot of great beaches on which I could be spending my vacation if I didn’t think we had a shot here. But that’s it. This is where we’re at.”
At 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning, Quebec faces rookie Tracy Horgan of Ontario (4-5) while Newfoundland plays Alberta’s Nedohin, Team Canada tackles the Territories, and British Columbia goes against P.E.I.