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Star-studded field nearly complete for 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

The top three teams in Canada, and many of the sport’s most familiar names, have qualified for what should be a memorable 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, beginning Feb. 14 in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Val Sweeting, Jennifer Jones and Rachel Homan are all headed to Moose Jaw, Sask., for the 2015 Scotties. (Photos, CCA/Michael Burns)

Val Sweeting, Jennifer Jones and Rachel Homan are all headed to Moose Jaw, Sask., for the 2015 Scotties. (Photos, CCA/Michael Burns)

Two-time defending champion Rachel Homan and her Ottawa team — third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney, lead Lisa Weagle and coach Richard Hart — will be pushed extremely hard when the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship kicks off at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw.

Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault.

Nova Scotia’s Mary-Anne Arsenault.

Among the survivors of various provincial finals on the weekend were the reigning Olympic gold-medallist (Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg), the champion of the 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup, presented by Meridian Manufacturing (Alberta’s Val Sweeting of Edmonton), a three-time Canada Cup champion (Saskatchewan’s Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon), a five-time Scotties and two-time world champion (Nova Scotia’s Mary-Anne Arsenault of Halifax) and a Scotties veteran who’ll be making her 12th appearance at the event (Newfoundland/Labrador’s Heather Strong of St. John’s).

The complete field for Moose Jaw will be filled out this coming Sunday in Fredericton Junction when New Brunswick determines its champion.

Jones, backed up by third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer, lead Dawn McEwen and coach Wendy Morgan, will take aim at her fifth Scotties crown after winning the Manitoba Scotties on Sunday in Winkler, beating Kerri Einarson 5-2 in the final.

Sweeting, meanwhile, teamed with third Lori Olson-Johns, second Dana Ferguson, lead Rachelle Brown and coach Garry Coderre to win her second straight Alberta title, beating Chelsea Carey 9-7 in the final at Lacombe. Sweeting beat Homan in the Home Hardware Canada Cup final after losing the Scotties final to Homan last year in Montreal.

Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton.

Saskatchewan’s Stefanie Lawton.

Jones, Homan and Sweeting were all part of Team Canada’s triumph at the recent World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by SecurTek Monitoring Solutions, earlier this month in Calgary.

Lawton, meanwhile, showed no signs of rust in winning her fourth Saskatchewan title. Lawton took the first half of the season off after giving birth in October; she’ll be joined by third Sherry Anderson, second Sherri Singler, lead Marliese Kasner and coach Rick Folk as the home team in Moose Jaw. She beat Michelle Englot 6-3 in the Saskatchewan final at Assiniboia.

Arsenault will be skipping at her third Scotties after winning her Scotties and world titles playing second for the legendary Colleen Jones team. Teaming with third Christina Black, second Jane Snyder, lead Jennifer Baxter and coach Peter Corkum, Arsenault beat Theresa Breen 7-5 at Dartmouth.

Strong, meanwhile, won her 12th Newfoundland/Labrador title, with a 6-4 triumph over Stephanie Guzwell in the final in St. John’s. Strong will make the trip to Moose Jaw with third Stephanie Korab, second Jessica Cunningham, lead Kathryn Cooper and coach Geoff Cunningham.

Newfoundland/Labrador's Heather Strong.

Newfoundland/Labrador’s Heather Strong.

Here’s a look at the rest of the field, including the participants in the pre-qualifying round that will be staged Feb. 12-14:

B.C. — Patti Knezevic (third Kristen Fewster, second Jen Rusnell, lead Rhonda Camozzi; Prince George), won her first B.C. title with a 5-3 triumph over Sarah Wark at Maple Ridge.

Ontario — Julie Hastings (third Christy Trombley, second Stacey Smith, lead Katrina Collins; Toronto) claimed her first Ontario championship, beating six-time champion Sherry Middaugh 9-5 at Penetanguishene.

Northern Ontario — Tracy Horgan (third Jennifer Horgan, second Jenna Enge, lead Amanda Gates, alternate Courtney Chenier, Andrea Ronnebeck; Sudbury) will wear Northern Ontario colours at the Scotties for the first time; she’s a former Ontario women’s champ.

Quebec — Lauren Mann (third Amélie Blais, second Brittany O’Rourke, lead Anne-Marie Filteau; Montreal) prevailed in Victoriaville, beating Roxanne Perron 10-6 in the final.

Prince Edward Island — Suzanne Birt (third Shelly Bradley, second Michelle McQuaid, lead Susan McInnis, coach Peter Gallant) won her eighth P.E.I. title, beating Kathy O’Rourke 10-4 in an all-Charlottetown final Monday in Summerside.

Yukon — Whitehorse’s Sarah Koltun (Chelsea Duncan, second Patty Wallingham and lead Jenna Duncan) is making her second straight trip to the national Scotties.

Northwest Territories — Kerry Galusha of Yellowknife (third Megan Cormier, second Danielle Derry, lead Shona Barbour) has appeared in 11 previous Scotties.

For the first time in the history of the Scotties, there will be a pre-qualifying round to determine the final entry into the 12-team main draw of the Canadian championship.

Team Canada is joined in the main draw by the 10 teams with the best combined records in the previous three Scotties, meaning first-time participant Northern Ontario, along with the Yukon and Northwest Territories will play off for the 12th and final berth. Nunavut declined an opportunity to participate.

Northern Ontario, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories will play a single round-robin at Mosaic Place, with the teams with the two best records advancing to the play-in game, which will be contested Saturday, Feb. 14, at 2 p.m. (all times Central), concurrent with the opening draw of the Scotties round-robin. Admission to the pre-qualifying rounds is free.

The schedule for the pre-qualifying round:

Thursday, Feb. 12
7 p.m. — Northwest Territories vs. Northern Ontario
Friday, Feb. 13
8 a.m. — Northern Ontario vs. Yukon
3:30 p.m. — Yukon vs. Northwest Territories
Saturday, Feb. 14
2 p.m. — Pre-qualifying final

TSN/RDS2, the official broadcast partner of the CCA’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the Scotties, leading to the gold-medal game on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.

The winner of the 2015 Scotties will represent Canada at the ZEN-NOH World Women’s Championship, March 14-22 in Sapporo, Japan, in addition to qualifying for the 2015 Home Hardware Canada Cup in Grande Prairie, Alta., the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup in Las Vegas and the 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Grande Prairie.

For ticket information, go to http://www.curling.ca/2015scotties-en/tickets/