Scotties leaders advance; Jones beaten by Islanders

The gap widened Monday night as unbeaten Ontario and Saskatchewan assumed a two-game bulge on the remainder of the field at the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts. Ontario, skipped by 21-year-old Rachel Homan of Ottawa, never was in trouble as she outlasted two-time champion Kelly Scott of British Columbia 6-5. Scott scored on the last two ends to render a respectable final score.

Rachel Homan and Emma Miskew Talk at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts (Photo by: Andrew Klaver)

Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland kept pace with a tight 7-6 win over Marie-France Larouche of Ste-Romuald, Quebec. Defending champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg was tripped up 8-6 by home-province favourite Suzanne Birt of Charlottetown. The loss was the second of the piece for Jones who was left at 3-2 alongside Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary and Nova Scotia’s Heather Smith-Dacey of Halifax. A packed Civic Centre of 3,278 erupted in the seventh end of the Prince Edward Island-Team Canada scuffle when the Islanders cracked a mammoth four-ender to wipe out a 3-2 Jones lead. One end later, Jones flashed an attempted double takeout and P.E.I. was on easy street with an 8-3 lead. The defender scored three in the ninth but their rally fell short in the last end which wasn’t completed. “We just didn’t get very good angles, they didn’t set up very well, and they got their rocks in pretty good spots,” said Jones of the four-ender. “If I’m about a foot deeper on my first rock they probably only get one or two.” And, of the critical miss in the next end . . . “We figure we’d rather flash than over-curl but unfortunately it didn’t work out very well. We have to be sharper tomorrow . . . but that’s OK.” Birt, who had won only once going into the match, said her team responded to the fans. “They were awesome,” she said. “They gave us so much energy and we really came up with a great game so it’s a good feeling. “You have to get on a big roll in a long week like this. Hopefully tonight is the start of that big long roll.” Added P.E.I. vice-skip Shelly Bradley: “Here were thousands of people sweeping every rock and and throwing every rock and it felt pretty darn good.” Ontario took a 3-1 lead after three ends and fought off every offensive Scott and her teammates mounted. “It was a closer game tonight,” said the 21-year-old Homan, last year’s Canadian junior champion. “I think every game coming in here from now on will be like that. We’re expecting every game will be going to 10 ends.” The Ontario skip admitted to being something of a perfectionist. “I strive to play the best I can,” she said. “It’s tough when you’re just an inch off but that’s curling, right?” Holland stole a fourth-end deuce when Larouche missed a draw and the Quebec team was chasing the rest of the night. “I’m disappointed because I missed a few shots that cost us the game,” said Larouche. “But I try, I always try, so I will try again.” Holland, who went 6-5 at the Scotties last year, stated at the beginning of the tournament her team would show a marked improvement. “It’s fun to win,” she sad. “We’re not playing perfect by any means but when somebody misses the next person picks up their socks and makes it happen. It’s what you have to do to get some wins here.” The two unbeaten teams collide Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. (AT). “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing, we can’t control what they (Ontario) are doing, “ said the Saskatchewan vet. “Or what anybody else is doing for that matter.” In one other game Monday night, Kleibrink’s unit shook off a two-game losing streak and defeated Newfoundland’s Stacie Devereaux of St. John’s 8-5. Earlier, Jones fashioned a 9-3 victory over Andrea Kelly of New Brunswick that was keyed by three points in the first two ends. New Brunswick, P.E.I., B.C. and Quebec are 2-3 heading into Tuesday while Newfoundland, Manitoba and the Territories are 1-4. In other afternoon games, Nova Scotia’s Smith-Dacey staged an immense 12-6 hammering of B.C.’s Scott, while Larouche dropped Manitoba’s Cathy Overton-Clapham down the standings with a 7-6 defeat and Yellowknife’s Kerry Galusha got untracked to post her initial win after four losses, defeating Devereaux 7-6. “We’re starting to execute back-to-back shots and that’s more like us,” said the Nova Scotia skip. “We have two players new to the Scotties and, for me, I’m five weeks into my new role (as skip, replacing Colleen Jones) so it was going to take a bit of time to get going. “We know what we have so it doesn’t surprise me we played as well as we did. We played solid two games now. I’m seeing the glimmer and the glimpse of our team getting back here. “If we play like that we can make lots of noise. Just continue the back-to-back shotmaking, setting up the good ends and executing the points. It’s all about believing you can do it and getting comfortable with it.” Not the least excited about the opportunity to lock horns with Scott, a former two-time champion, was rookie Bluenose vice-skip Danielle Parsons. “Kelly’s an inspiration to Danielle,” said Smith-Dacey. “She’s always loved Kelly, so it was pretty cool for her to play that game today. You see people on TV and they’re idols of all of ours because they’ve achieved so much in the game.” Polar skip Koe, who says she won’t be satisfied with anything less than a best-ever 5-6 record, was elated with her team’s initial victory. “It’s feels so good to get a win,” he said. “No one likes a losing streak. We knew we could play better, we had better communications, we caught on to the ice better, we actually controlled some ends. It feels so much better.” The team adapted to the ice conditions, too. “Normally we like the finesse game but it’s tough to play that here. So we tried to keep this one more open, tried putting our rocks in the right positions by hitting and rolling and it worked.” Overton-Clapham, labouring under certain expectations after her departure from Team Canada at the end of last season, appeared bamboozled by her Manitoba’s poor showing. “Certainly I’m surprised,” she said. “We’re going to have to meet tonight and discuss what we have to do to get another win under our belts. “There just aren’t enough shots made. By the time I shoot we’re in trouble. We don’t even have the button available. It’s hard when you don’t have that. So we’re going to have to figure out why we’re not making enough shots.” Ontario thumped the Islanders 8-2 in the morning while Saskatchewan downed Alberta 8-6.