KINGSTON, Ont. – Ontario’s Rachel Homan showed her mettle as a skip and her skills as a team leader Sunday at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Her efforts paid off with a 9-6 win over Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones and her first national women’s curling title.
Homan helped calm teammate Lisa Weagle after she accidentally burned a rock in the fifth end. It could have been disastrous for a young team against an experienced four-time champion in Jones.
But the play didn’t faze the Ontario rink. Weagle responded with excellent sweeping to help Homan draw to the button to cap the end and maintain the team’s momentum.
Ontario would put up three points in the seventh and stole two more in the eighth to put the game out of reach.
“It’s the final game, so if you’re not going to stick together, it’s not going to work,” Homan said. “Win or lose, I’m just so proud of our team.”
Homan and her Ottawa Curling Club team of Weagle, Emma Miskew, Alison Kreviazuk and alternate Stephanie LeDrew will represent Canada at next month’s world women’s curling championship in Riga, Latvia.
The 23-year-old Homan displayed steely determination all week. She dropped just a single game in the round robin — to Jones — and beat her twice in a row in the playoffs.
The Ontario skip hugged her teammates and coach after the victory and was overcome with emotion while speaking to reporters after the win. She had to pause on occasion as tears of joy welled in her eyes.
“I can’t even comprehend what just happened right now,” Homan said. “It’s unbelievable.”
The partisan crowd at the K-Rock Centre roared its approval in the opening end as Homan jumped out to an early lead. Jones crashed on a guard and Homan made a nice draw to score three.
Jones cut into the lead by scoring one in the second end and adding another single in the fourth.
Play was delayed for a couple minutes in the fifth end when Weagle’s broom accidentally made contact with a stone at the 12-foot. The stone was raised by the broom and the rock actually popped up in the air when the thrown stone made contact with it.
“I just kind of lost track of where I was on the sheet,” Weagle said. “I knew we had to sweep it hard, so I tried to get in an extra brush stroke that I shouldn’t have and my broom got wedged in there.”
Two displaced stones had to be returned to their original spots and the Ontario stone was taken out of play. Weagle smiled it off but she appeared more anxious after the error.
“She’s a pretty level-headed person but it can definitely get the better of you if your teammates aren’t on your side,” Homan said. “I think she was maybe a little bit nervous about that but we backed her 100 per cent. We were right behind her.”
The Ontario skip came through with a draw on her final shot for a 4-2 lead.
“It’s her leadership that’s starting to get better and her ability to call a game really well,” said Ontario coach Earle Morris. “And that would be a good example of it right there.”
Jones tied the game with a double in the sixth end but Homan regained the lead in the seventh.
She cleared out two Manitoba stones from the eight-foot with her first shot. Jones was heavy with her final throw, leaving Homan with a draw to score three and the crowd erupted when she nailed it for a 7-4 lead.
Ontario padded its lead with a steal of two after Jones missed a triple takeout attempt in the eighth end.
“They played great,” Jones said. “They played lights out and they deserved to win today.”
Earlier in the day, B.C.’s Kelly Scott defeated Team Canada’s Heather Nedohin 10-8 to win the bronze medal.
Scott picked up a single in the ninth end and stole another point in the 10th for the victory. The result came after a disappointing loss to Nedohin in the 3-4 Page playoff game a day earlier.
“We brought our hit weights down today and really didn’t change anything other than that and had a great game out there,” Scott said. “So that’s how you want to leave an event like this.”
The game was a rematch of last year’s final in Red Deer, Alta., where Nedohin beat Scott 7-6 to win the gold.
It was a tough day for Nedohin, who dropped an 8-5 decision to Jones in the semifinal before falling to Scott. Homan beat Jones in the 1-2 Page playoff game on Saturday to lock up a berth in the championship game.
Homan won a Canadian junior title in 2010 and finished fourth in her only previous Scotties appearance in 2011.
“I thought this year we were right there with everybody else and we showed it,” Homan said. “It’s hard to describe how awesome that feels.”
It was a valiant effort by Jones, who underwent knee surgery last year and had a baby last fall. She missed part of the season but displayed her usual stellar form to go 11-0 over the round robin.
Jones became the first skip since British Columbia’s Linda Moore to go undefeated in round-robin play. Moore went 10-0 in 1985 and then won the final in Winnipeg.
Nova Scotia’s Colleen Jones holds the Scotties record with six titles. She returned as vice-skip on Mary-Anne Arsenault’s rink this year but they finished 5-6 and did not make the playoffs.
The Homan and Jones rinks receive $15,500 in prize money for reaching the final. Scott’s team gets $12,000 and Nedohin’s rink receives $7,000.
Homan’s team also receives $10,000 for wearing cresting at the world championship along with $40,000 from Own The Podium for training and competition expenses. Sport Canada will provide them with $144,000 over a two-year period.
Teams finishing fifth through 12th receive $3,400 each and all 12 teams receive $4,167 for title sponsor cresting.
Announced attendance for the final game was 4,444, bringing the total attendance to 65,285 for the tournament. That was down from the 96,590 who attended last year’s event in Red Deer, but still good for 12th on the all-time list dating back to 1982.
The men’s national championship — the Tim Hortons Brier — is set for March 2-10 in Edmonton. The winner will represent Canada at the March 30-April 7 world men’s curling championship in Victoria.
Notes: Bal Gosal, the minister of state for sport, was in attendance. … Manitoba claimed three first-team all-star nods. Jones and teammates Dawn Askin and Kaitlyn Lawes were joined by Kreviazuk. Homan was named to the second team with Canada’s Laine Peters, Manitoba’s Jill Officer and B.C.’s Jeanna Schraeder. The all-star teams were selected solely on players’ statistics during round-robin play. … B.C.’s Sasha Carter was the winner of the Marj Mitchell Sportsmanship Award and Andrew Klaver was the recipient of the Joan Mead Builder Award. Klaver has been the official tournament photographer for the past 23 years. … The 2014 Scotties will be held in Montreal.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version misspelled Stephanie LeDrew’s surname.