In the end, the champs were still champs and the rookies were still rookies. And, perhaps, both looked the parts.
Defending champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg skipped her team of Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jill Officer and Dawn Askin to a third straight Scotties Tournament Of Hearts title on Sunday afternoon with an extra-end 8-7 championship-final victory over Kathy O’Rourke’s Prince Edward Island upstarts.
If you’d come in late on the week’s scenario you might have thought this would be something less than a tight-fit. After all, P.E.I. never has produced a Canadian women’s curling champion.
But those who had seen the previous two collisions of these teams knew the match would be anything but a runaway.
In fact, the Islanders jockeyed in front 6-3 after six ends with a stolen deuce and appeared headed home and dry.
But, then, the heat was turned up over the last five ends, the Jones team stole three points and exhibited the reasons why they’ve won four titles in six years and will represent Canada for the third consecutive year at the World women’s curling championship. The event is slated March 20-28 at Swift Current, SK.
“It blows my mind,” said skip Jones during the aftermath. “Three in a row! Four overall! I never ever in a million years expected this would happen.
“But we’re a team. We laugh together, we have fun together, we cry together, and we play our hearts out together. I wouldn’t want to have done this with anybody else.”
Jones compiled a 10-win, three-loss record over the nine-day championship at the Essar Centre.
The win was the fifth Scotties success for third Overton-Clapham, moving her one behind leader Colleen Jones in the record book and alongside the legendary Joyce
McKee of Saskatchewan and Nova Scotians Mary Anne Arsenault, Nancy Delahunt and Kim Kelly.
Jones and Officer joined four-time winners Vera Pezer and Lee Morrison of Saskatoon. Pezer and Colleen Jones are the only previous skips with three straight wins. The latter, in fact, won four in a row.
Lead Askin joined a crowd of three-time Scotties winners.
“It doesn’t matter how you win as long as you win,” said Jones. “We’re a scrappy team and we weren’t going to just give it to them on a silver platter.
“It doesn’t get any easier but it feels just as good when you win. To be part of winning three in a row is pretty incredible.”
The P.E.I. team (9-and-5) from Charlottetown, favourites of a crowd of 3,911, featured 21-year-olds Erin Carmody and Geri-Lynn Ramsay throwing fourth and third rocks respectively, with 45-year-old O’Rourke directing traffic and delivering second stones and 39-year-old Tricia Affleck leading.
The Islanders defeated Team Canada 9-5 during the round-robin preliminaries, then lost 8-5 in the Page One-Two playoff prior to Sunday’s final.
It was the first-ever appearance in a Canadian women’s curling championship final for a team from P.E.I.
“We’d like to have made history and finished that off,” said O’Rourke, “but we gave it our best and it just turned out to be a couple of inches short.”
“We were a bit disappointed on how we started the game. We had rocks that would curl more and it cost us early. But we also had rocks that curl more and that meant we could bury behind some guards and we knew if we hung in there anything could happen. We’ve proved that before and we proved it again today.”
Here’s how the match went.
Carmody made up for early-end miscues with a last-rock double-kill to hold the fort in the first end and Jones hit with her last and scored one on a close measure.
Following a blank second, the Islanders engineered a third-end deuce. Jones rolled out on her last hit and Carmody drew for the pair.
In the fourth, Jones grabbed some momentum with a hit and a roll behind corner cover with her first rock. Carmody couldn’t bury an attempted to draw behind the guards and Jones had an open hit for a go-ahead deuce.
But the Islanders matched that in the fifth when Jones narrowly missed a cross-rings double leaving Carmody a routine draw.
The match really took a 90-degree turn in the sixth when Carmody stuffed both her stones in the four-foot behind cover with the out-turn. Jones’s first attempt to follow hung out and her second in-turn draw to bite the button was inches short, leaving the Islanders a crushing theft of two and a 6-3 advantage.
Jones drew the eight-foot looking at three in seventh, then stole a point in the eighth when Carmody’s last raise over-curled. O’Rourke may have been guilty on the sweeping line call because the stone appeared to be perfect.
In the ninth, Carmody had an open out-turn draw to the full eight for the single looking at two eight-foot biters but the rock ground to a halt inches short, yielding a shocking steal of two and the lead.
Carmody had a difficult shot at a double to win in the 10th but her rock sailed wide. And in the extra exchange Jones was faced with a peel-weight kill and executed the last rock for the win.
“I think we had our chances out there but they came on strong, they were amazing. It was a real close final,” offered Carmody.
“It was disappointing to fall short like that but, you know, there are a lot of years to come. We had a bit of trouble holding it together after a good start. A couple of misses here and there and that was the game. Probably a little inexperience showed, too.”
She said her last-rock draw in the ninth, when the defending champs took control, “caught a little fudge and just died”.
“We missed the draw against two and the sweepers got fooled, it got to the fudge way quicker than we thought,” explained O’Rourke. “I don’t think it was nerves, that’s just what happens some times.
“I knew when we got the lead it wouldn’t be enough against a great team like Jennifer’s. I knew they’d keep fighting and coming at us because that’s what a really good team does. But we took it to the very end.”
Overton-Clapham said the match reminded her of 2005 in St. John’s when the team won its first title.
“We were getting outplayed there (by Jenn Hanna) and we stuck together and stole some points and got back in it.”
Overton-Clapham agreed she thought “experience would play a role in the game” on Sunday.
It undoubtedly did.