Manitoba leans on veteran leadership of skip Jennifer Jones at Hearts
48-year-old Jones, under-25 teammates reach championship round in Kamloops, B.C.
Six-time Canadian curling champion Jennifer Jones exudes a poise that's propelled her young team to the playoffs at this year's Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
The 48-year-old Jones and her under-25 teammates reached the championship round in Kamloops, B.C., by stealing a point in an extra end for a 7-6 win Wednesday over Casey Scheidegger's wild card team.
"An absolute massive win," Jones said with a relieved laugh. "Needed that one."
Jones and Northern Ontario's Krista McCarville co-led Pool B with 6-1 records. Defending champion Kerri Einarson was the lone unbeaten team atop Pool A at 6-0.
The other three berths were still in play heading into Wednesday evening's draw.
From winning an Olympic gold medal in 2014, to her two world titles, to playing in her 17th national women's championship, there's scarcely a strategy or shot Jones hasn't played in her curling career.
Facing four opposing stones clustered on the four-foot rings in the fifth end at the Sandman Centre, Jones's businesslike demeanour gave no indication her team was in trouble.
She got rid of two to give up a steal of two and trail 4-2.
WATCH | Jones, Einarson could break Scotties records:
Jones then got to work plotting stolen points, which her team produced in the seventh, eighth and extra ends.
The skip's tricky double takeout attempt to score two nearly won the game in the 10th end for Manitoba.
With a Manitoba stone on the four-foot rings behind cover in the extra end, Scheidegger's draw attempt for the win was light.
"The experience of Jenn playing in so many tight games, pressure games, going down two early in the game, we still have lots of game left," third Karlee Burgess said.
MacKenzie Zacharias, who is Jones's vice throwing second stones, Burgess and co-leads Emily Zacharias and Lauren Lenentine appeared in the 2021 and 2022 Hearts going 3-5 in their debut and losing a tiebreaker game last year.
"We've always wanted to win," MacKenzie Zacharias said. "This year, with Jenn, we know she's been here a bunch of times. She's been able to help us with that experience we don't have.
"We've played a lot of up and down games. She settles it with some of those big shots.
"We know that we're never out of it."
All about sharing
When Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman and Dawn McEwen disbanded last spring, the veteran skip joined the young Winnipeg foursome and employed a five-player rotation this season.
"I really wanted them to take my experience and maybe shorten their experience time, right?" Jones said.
"If I can show them all the things I've learned a long the way, then maybe they don't have to go through 20 years learning everything I've learned."
The top three teams in each pool of nine at Thursday's conclusion of the preliminary round advance. The six teams will be seeded by record. Saturday's four Page playoff teams will emerge from that group. The semifinal and final are Sunday.
Ties for third will be solved by tiebreaker games Friday morning.
Only one tiebreaker per pool will be played, so head-to-head results and then last-stone draw ranking will eliminate teams if more than two are tied for third.
McCarville's 10-2 win over Yukon assured last year's finalist a berth in the playoff round. Three-time champion Rachel Homan of Ontario stayed in the playoff hunt in Pool B at 4-2. Homan caps pool play Thursday against New Brunswick and Scheidegger's wild card 2.
Alberta's Kayla Skrlik, B.C.'s Clancy Grandy and Quebec's Laurie St-Georges were deadlocked at 4-2 behind Einarson in Pool A.
Skrlik's 7-4 defeat of Nova Scotia's Christina Black was Alberta's fourth straight win. Grandy was a 7-5 winner over Kaitlyn Lawes's wild card 1. Nova Scotia fell to 4-3 and Lawes to 3-3.
New Brunswick's Andrea Kelly and Northwest Territories' Kerry Galusha were even at 3-3 in Pool B following Kelly's 8-7 win over Stacie Curtis of Newfoundland and Labrador (1-5).
Jones, her former teammate Jill Officer and Colleen Jones are the only women to own six Canadian women's championships.
Jones is well-versed in the execution level needed for her young teammates to claim their first.
"They're ready," she said. "We're almost there. We just have a couple of ends, where they're a couple of sloppy ends.
"If we can just get away from those, we're feeling pretty good."
With COVID-19 restrictions preventing the sale of tickets the last two years, Jones's teammates will experience Hearts playoffs in front of spectators for the first time Friday.
"It's fun to see the sparkle in their eyes," the skip said. "I'm loving every second of this."