They eliminated two more teams, including defending Canadian champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg, as they cemented final round-robin results in the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, women’s division, Thursday afternoon at Rexall Place.
When the smoke cleared, week-long leader Cheryl Bernard (6-1) of Calgary had lost her first game but still planned a 48-hour respite before playing in Saturday’s championship final, defender Shannon Kleibrink (5-2) of Calgary qualified for Friday night’s semi-final and the teams of Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay and Saskatchewan’s Stefanie Lawton and Amber Holland (all 4-3) face tiebreaker assignments.
McCarville and Lawton, of Saskatoon, face off in a sudden-death affair at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, with the winner drawing Holland of Kronau for an opponent at 1 p.m. The survivor there will be back on the freeze at 6 p.m. in the semi-final against Kleibrink.
The Calgary skip helped drum the Jones team out of the running Thursday, triumphing 10-9 in an extra-end with a last-rock draw to the four-foot ring. Kleibrink led 8-4 after six ends, having recorded a crushing four-spot, but Jones kept clawing back.
“You always have trouble putting them away,” said Kleibrink, a bronze medal winner at the 2006 Olympics. “Why? Because they’re good. Because they’ll use any rocks. If the ice curls they’ll use a rock in the top-12 to come around. You’re never safe. Every time they had one to come around, they made it perfect. Next thing you know you’re giving up a deuce. What can you do?”
Jones outscored Kleibrink 5-2 over the last five ends but still fell short.
Kleibrink said her team’s primary goal Thursday was “to relax and make sure we played well so we could carry some momentum through to the semi-final. I think we did that,” she added. “She (Jones) forced us into some pretty tough shots.”
Elsewhere, Lawton upended Bernard 6-5 with a final-end deuce to remain alive in the hunt for Olympic glory while McCarville dealt Calgary’s Crystal Webster (2-5) a 6-5 setback and Holland rifled reeling Kelly Scott (1-6) of Kelowna by a 10-4 count.
“Of course it’s a surprise,” Kleibrink said of the pre-playoff Jones demise. “I think everybody thought that Jennifer would be there, at least in a tiebreaker, maybe the semi-final, but that’s the way curling goes, it just wasn’t their week.”
Kleibrink finished the Trials round robin in the same fashion at Halifax four years ago. She won the semi over Lawton, then stopped Scott in the final. Both were tight fits. Two and a half years later, she dominated the Scotties but lost to Jones in a sudden-death, last-rock, extra-end final.
“Everybody wants to be in that final, directly,” said Kleibrink, “but I honestly think the semi-final winner has a better chance. I think if you couldn’t win the semi then you wouldn’t have won the final. So you might as well play in it.”
Bernard’s last rock over-curled, allowing Lawton a draw-weight rub-in for her winning deuce.
“I think we were a little flat but I’m not worried about losing any momentum,” said Bernard. “We’ll work out, throw rocks, decide what rocks we’re going to throw, have a couple of practices tomorrow and the next day, and try to keep busy. The worst thing for me or any of our team is to sit around and think. If you knew you were guaranteed, as the old saying goes, then, yeah, you’d rather be playing. We’ll try to simulate as much games activity as we can when we go out to practise.”
The last time Bernard awaited a one-game shot for something of this magnitude? A matter of 13 years! That would be the 1996 Scotties final against Marilyn Bodogh of St. Catharines.
“It’s been awhile,” admitted Bernard, who lost that Scotties title. “Hopefully all these years of experience will come through and make it worthwhile.”
Jones variously described the disappointment of bombing out as “hugely” and “incredibly”.
“We’ve worked three years for this and things just didn’t go our way, we had one bad end in every game we lost,” said Canada’s rep in the last two world women’s championship. Unfortunately that cost us but we got outplayed and I hope whoever wins is going to go on and do Canada proud. We didn’t play as well as we’d like, I don’t know why. If I knew why we would have corrected it. Hopefully we’ll come out in the Scotties (as Team Canada starting in late January at Sault Ste. Marie) and play better there.
“If we rack our brains and try to figure this out we’ll drive ourselves crazy. We’ll just have to say it wasn’t our week and move on. It’s just curling. I want to go to the Olympics. So does every Canadian. But you can’t make some things happen and it just wasn’t meant to be.”