Dramatic Finish!

Team Ontario-Homan skip Rachel Homan (front) stares intently down the sheet while gripping her stopwatch, shadowed by Team Manitoba-Jones skip Jennifer Jones (back), who does the same. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

Team Homan wriggles off the hook to advance to final

It’s taken a couple of years to work out the kinks, but the combination of Rachel Homan and Tracy Fleury has blossomed, as many curling fans expected it would. 

Skip Homan, with Fleury throwing third stones, defeated Team Manitoba-Jones, stealing two in a dramatic extra end to escape with a 6-4 win Saturday night in the Page 1/2 qualifying game in Calgary to advance to the 2024 Scotties Tournament of Hearts gold-medal final. 

“Unbelievable game. They played unbelievable, had us in a pile of trouble every end but we stuck with it,” said Homan, who has run through the Scotties unbeaten, but needed every shot in her arsenal — including one that was spectacular — to subdue a stubborn Manitoba team at the WinSport Event Centre. 

The lone evening game at the WinSport Event Centre was the latest clash between Homan and Jennifer Jones, skip of Team Manitoba-Jones. The long-time rivals have gone at it hammer and tong over the years, and once again produced a classic. 

It was a typical Jones-Homan game — well curled, well-thought out, with plenty of dramatic ebb and flow. 

Team Homan jumped to a 3-1 lead after four ends but Jones chipped away at it, and eventually looked poised to win in the 10th end, lying shot with a piece of the button, forcing Homan to draw for a bigger piece just to tie 4-4. 

She made it perfectly, with the rock twisting inwards just enough at the end to score. 

Team Ontario-Homan, of the Ottawa Curling Club, (R-L) skip Rachel Homan, vice-skip Tracy Fleury, second Emma Miskew, lead Sarah Wilkes, in the Page 1/2 playoff game. (Photo Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

“Unbelievable sweep by my sweepers to get that to the pin to continue the game,” said Homan. “Just the right side of the inch today.” 

Lead Sarah Wilkes was confident her skipper would make it. 

“Oh yeah. Absolutely. She’s Rachel Homan. 

In the extra end Jones had a difficult raise takeout to the button to win, but she couldn’t stick it and gave up the winning points 

The loss was a tough pill for Jones to swallow. Her team has been strong all week and may have deserved a better fate Saturday. A couple of raise-takeouts were well thrown but miraculously went through the ‘goalposts’ of enemy rocks in the house. 

“Just felt like a great game, back and forth, fun to play,” said Jones. “We let a couple of opportunities slip through our grasp.” 

Jones is looking to win her seventh national women’s curling championship, more than any other curler in the country. Jones, who lives in Ontario but is skipping the Manitobans, entered the 2024 Scotties tied with Colleen Jones and Jill Offer with six Scotties titles. 

Homan, a three-time Canadian champion and 2017 world champion, needed to do something to get her back on top of the curling world, so she recruited Fleury — a Sudbury, Ont., product — to hold the broom but throw third so she could concentrate on last rock. 

No one was quite sure how the new union would work. 

Last year they were knocked out in the championship round at the Scotties. This year, with Homan back skipping, it’s been gangbusters. The team, which includes second Emma Miskew and Wilkes, have lost only five games all season. 

Team Ontario-Homan will now await the winner of Sunday’s semifinal at noon (all times Mountain) between Team Manitoba-Jones and Team Manitoba-Cameron, skipped by Kate Cameron. The gold-medal final goes at 6 p.m. 

“I’ve said for 20 years if you know you’re going to win the semifinal it’s great to play in it,” said Jones. 

Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts are available at www.curling.ca/scoreboard/

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For ticket information for the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, go to www.curling.ca/2023scotties/tickets/