EDMONTON — Cheryl Bernard didn’t need any tenth end magic to clinch her spot in the women’s final at the Canadian Olympic curling trials.
Bernard, who has been the talk of the tournament not only because of her perfect record but also because of the dramatic way she’s closed out matches, took control against No. 1 seed Jennifer Jones early Wednesday night and held on for an 8-5 victory.
“I could handle more of those games,” Bernard said, grateful to have finally taken a contest that didn’t come down to the last rock.
Bernard kicked off the tournament with a five-point double takeout in the tenth end against Ontario’s Krista McCarville. One draw later, she picked up another nail-biting win against Saskatchewan’s Amber Holland with a final shot so close it had to be measured three times.
In draw three, Bernard withstood a late charge from fellow Calgarian Crystal Webster to win 9-6. Tuesday, she scored four in the tenth to beat B.C.’s Kelly Scott 9-7.
And in the first of two Wednesday draws, Bernard scored three in the final end against another Calgary curler, Shannon Kleibrink, to come out on top 8-5.
But while dramatic tenth ends have been her calling card throughout the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings curling trials in Edmonton, Bernard’s win against Jones that improved her tournament record to 6-0 had an entirely different feel.
She slowed down the pace and played cautiously in the first few frames, causing Jones to at one point snicker to a teammate, “This is going to be the most boring game I’ve ever curled.”
Bernard scored four soon after to jump out to a commanding lead.
By clinching first place, Bernard has earned a spot in the tournament final. She’ll play the winner of a semifinal matchup between the second- and third-place teams and the victor will then represent Canada at the 2010 Olympics.
Just who occupies the two semifinal spots is still up in the air.
Heading into today’s final round robin draw, Kleibrink sits in second with a 4-2 record. She defeated Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton 6-5 Wednesday night to ensure she will at least compete in a playoff tiebreaker.
McCarville had a chance to clinch her own playoff tiebreaker but lost to Holland in the evening draw. Lawton, McCarville and Holland are all tied for third place with records of 3-3.
Jones and Webster are tied for sixth in the standings with records of 2-4 and both could force their way into playoff tiebreakers, but they’ll need a lot of help.
Jones and Webster need to win their own matches in the seventh draw and must hope Lawton, McCarville and Holland all lose.
After her loss to Bernard, Jones seemed resigned to the fact that her Olympic dream was over.
“We controlled our own fate today and we came in and didn’t play as well as we needed to and so we’re disappointed,” she said.
“Yeah, we’re still alive, which is great, but we need a thousand things to go our way.”
Jones, the defending national women’s champion who has dominated the Canadian circuit in recent years, came to the Olympic trials as a favourite to represent Canada in 2010.
From program guides handed out to Rexall Place visitors, to television trailers surrounding the arena, Jones’ likeness has been splashed everywhere, with her win at the trials seemingly a foregone conclusion for many.
But she and her rink have struggled all week, and those struggles spilled over into the match with Bernard.
Jones missed a draw in the fourth end, setting up Bernard’s big frame.
On another draw in the seventh, one that would have tied the game, Jones sent her hammer straight through the house, much to the surprise of herself and the 8,280 in attendance at Rexall Place.
“I felt like I let the girls down. That’s curling, I guess,” she said.
Scott, the former world champion, sits in eighth place in the standings heading into the final draw with a record of 1-5.