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Jones clears her path to Home Hardware Canada Cup final

BRANDON, Man. – The Jennifer Jones team used the first-end hammer all week long to construct a path to the women’s final of the 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup, presented by Meridian Manufacturing.

Jones downed defending champion Rachel Homan of Ottawa 9-4 in a showdown for first place as the seven-team round robin concluded Friday night. Jones finished first at 5-1. Homan was 4-2 and advanced to the event’s semifinal Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (all times CST).

In all six round-robin games, the Jones team earned the hammer with the pre-game draw to the button. In four of the games, Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer, lead Dawn McEwen and coach Wendy Morgan came away with at least two points in the first end. In another they got one. They did surrender a first-end steal to Val Sweeting earlier Friday in what was their only loss.

“It was very nice, I’m not going to lie,” said Jones of having the hammer all the way through. “It worked out really well this week. I don’t know if the hammer matters as much in a 10-end game but it’s definitely a nice start and we were able to get some deuces early and take control of games.”

In the first end against Homan, it looked like Jones was in trouble but she ended up having an open draw for two when Homan’s final shot nicked a guard.

“We made a skip’s deuce in the first end when the end wasn’t going our way. It kind of changed the momentum early. It was key tonight and hopefully key in the final,” said Jones, who extended the lead to 5-1 after four ends.

The bonus for Jones is by finishing first her team automatically receives the first-end hammer.

“We wanted to win that one, get ourselves into the final and get a day off, and I thought we came out and played well and took advantage of a couple of misses by them, and never really looked back,” said Jones.

Jones dismissed a suggestion the team had sent a message to Homan’s.

“We play each other so much over the course of the year and there’s a mutual respect amongst all of the teams. I don’t know if it’s about sending a message, but we’re playing well and hopefully we win one more game and capture the Canada Cup,” said Jones.

Homan will face the winner of a tiebreaker between Kerri Einarson of Winnipeg and Edmonton’s Val Sweeting, who beat Jones 6-4 Friday afternoon to finish 3-3. Einarson earned her spot by downing Chelsea Carey of Calgary 8-6. It was a game in which the winner was guaranteed a tiebreaker spot.

“That feels awesome. I just wish we would have played like that my last couple of games or else we wouldn’t be in the tiebreaker right now,” said Einarson. “But that’s OK. We’ll just come out and hopefully shoot like that tomorrow.

“We get a chance and that’s all we asked for when we came to this event.”

Einarson started this week with a pair of wins on opening day Wednesday, including a mild upset victory over Homan. But the Winnipeggers followed with three consecutive losses. The foursome, though, managed to set those defeats aside and play confidently in downing the 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts champions Friday.

Einarson, third Selena Kaatz, second Liz Fyfe, lead Kirsten MacCuish and coach Patti Wuthrich rolled past Carey scoring deuces in the first, fourth, sixth and ninth ends.

“If we keep playing like that we really shouldn’t have a problem (in the tiebreakers).”

Sudbury’s Tracy Fleury had a chance to make it a three-way tiebreaker, but she finished 2-4 following a 6-5 loss to Kelsey Rocque (2-4) of Edmonton.

Kerri Einarson, top, looks over the shoulder of Chelsea Carey during Friday night's game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Kerri Einarson, top, looks over the shoulder of Chelsea Carey during Friday night’s game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

On the men’s side, Toronto’s John Epping did his team and three others a big favour, although one of them didn’t take advantage, by edging 2014 Olympic champion Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., 7-6 in the final draw.

After all the rocks had cleared, Epping, Jacobs and Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock were all tied for third with 3-3 records, forcing a pair of tiebreaker games Saturday. Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen also had a shot at joining them but suffered a 7-6 extra-end loss to defending champion Kevin Koe of Calgary. McEwen and Koe finished at the bottom of the standings at 2-4.

Jacobs will play Laycock Saturday at 8:30 a.m., with the winner facing Epping at 1:30 p.m. for the right to advance to Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal against Reid Carruthers of Winnipeg. Like Carruthers, the Brad Gushue team skipped by Mark Nichols, finished the round robin 4-2 but was awarded the bye into Sunday’s 6:30 p.m. final by virtue of a 7-6 victory over Carruthers on Thursday.

Jacobs could have made all the nightmare tiebreaker scenarios moot by beating Epping. All of the team’s good work in establishing a 4-2 lead after six ends Friday evaporated when Epping scored three in the seventh and stole two more in the eighth.

“It kind of looked like we were out of it for a while, down two and then got a very fortunate break when Brad missed – that’s very rare – and took advantage of it,” said Epping.

It was the third consecutive win for Epping after losing his first three games.

“It just seems like we don’t do anything easy,” said Epping. “This is just kind of normal for us. We’re up for the challenge. It’s great experience for the guys, this is a big event in front of lot of people with a lot on the line. That’s the biggest thing for me with this team (third Mat Camm, second Pat Janssen, lead Tim March and coach Jim Wilson).

“If we can keep rolling, make some big shots [Saturday] then you know what, we can win two or three games easily.”

The men’s and women’s champions of the Home Hardware Canada Cup earn $14,000 plus $2,000 per round-robin victory, but the big prize is a berth in the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials 12 months hence in Ottawa, where Canada’s Olympic four-player teams will be decided.

The winner also gets a trip to Las Vegas in January to be part of Team North America at the 2017 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, are the big prizes available on Sunday.

TSN/TSN2 and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the Hardware Canada Cup. Click here for the complete schedule

The Home Hardware Canada Cup format calls for the men’s and women’s teams to play a three-day round robin, with the first-place teams advancing to their respective finals on Sunday, while the second- and third-place teams meet in semifinals on Saturday, after any required tiebreakers, to determine the other finalists.

For ticket information for the 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup, go to www.curling.ca/2016canadacup/tickets/

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/?lang=fr