SUMMERSIDE – The Jennifer Jones rink from Winnipeg capped off a memorable year in style early Sunday afternoon.
Jones, third stone Kaitlyn Lawes, second stone Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen defeated Canadian women’s champion Rachel Homan 5-2 in the championship game of the 2014 Players’ Championship at Eastlink Arena.
“It’s been amazing,” said Jones in reflecting on her rink’s 2013-14 season. “We’ve won two other Grand Slams on tour, which was unbelievable; then heading into the (Olympic) trials won the trials; won the Olympic gold medal, which was a dream come true, and to cap it off with a Players’ Championship, which is our favourite event on tour, is unbelievable.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more, and it far exceeded our expectations.”
The Players’ Championship is the Grand Slam of Curling’s final event of the season, and featured the top 12 men and 12 women’s teams on the World Curling Tour. Each division competed for $100,000 along with additional bonus money.
Overall, the Jones rink took home $36,000. They received the first-place prize of 19,000, $1,500 for each of the rink’s three round-robin wins for $4,500 and $12,500 in bonus money.
Homan received $24,000 – $12,000 runner-up prize, $4,500 for three round-robin wins and $7,500 in bonus money. Homan, who won the Masters in November, had an opportunity to win a $100,000 bonus for sweeping the two women’s Grand Slam events.
It was an emotional final for the Homan rink, which played its last game together as second stone Alison Kreviazuk is moving to Sweden.
Road to final
After both rinks finished round-robin play at 3-2, Homan and Jones each won two playoff games on Saturday. Jones stole a pair of extra-end wins – 8-7 over Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson in the semifinals and 7-5 against Scotland’s Eve Muirhead in the quarter-finals.
Homan outlasted Stefanie Lawton 7-5 in the quarter-finals, and pulled out a 4-3 extra-end win over Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni in the semifinals.
“We were playing one of the best teams in Rachel Homan’s team, they are just outstanding,” said Jones. “We knew we were going to have to come out and play our best, and it was a great battle back and forth.
“We just made enough shots to win. To be a part of this game against them, Ali’s last game, we have so much respect for them it’s unbelievable.”
Both skips were not surprised the game came down to the final shot. After the teams exchanged single points in the first two ends, Jones scored the only deuce of the game in the third to go up 3-1.
Homan closed to within 3-2 in the fifth end, but Jones restored the two-point lead, 4-2, in the sixth end.
“Finals are normally lower (scoring),” said Homan. “The ice straightens out and it’s harder to read, so normally you have closer games.”
Jones came up with two clutch shots in the final two ends. She hit a double takeout in the seventh end to get her rink out of trouble and force Homan to blank, and in the eighth end she hit a hit-and-roll that changed the complexion of the end and led to a steal of one after leaving Homan with a very difficult hammer shot.
“(A) double was possibly there, but I’m not sure if it would have stuck around,” said Homan referring to her final shot. “I don’t know.”
As for her two big shots, Jones commented: “We were looking at giving up a deuce in the seventh end, and we made the double to force the blank. Again in the eighth it looked like we were going to give up that deuce, and we made my hit and roll perfect, couldn’t ask for it to be any better. It basically sealed the game for us, and it was a great way to cap off the year.”