MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones defeated Alberta’s Val Sweeting 6-5 in the gold-medal game Sunday night at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Jones hit an open draw with her last throw in the 10th end for her fifth career national title.
“It was a little close for comfort, but we managed to pull it off in the end,” Jones said.
It was a back-and-forth battle in front of an enthusiastic near-sellout crowd of 3,992 at Mosaic Place.
Jones opened with a deuce but Sweeting pulled even with a pair of her own in the second end. After a blank, Jones hit a takeout for one but Sweeting answered again with a single in the fifth.
The teams continued to exchange singles with Sweeting hitting a draw to the four-foot to tie the game at five in the ninth end. Jones had the hammer in the 10th and took advantage.
“We made eight great shots in the last end and that’s really what won it for us,” Jones said.
Jones missed the Scotties last year as she led her Winnipeg team of third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen to Olympic gold at the Sochi Games.
Sweeting, who lost to Rachel Homan in the 2014 final in Montreal, was joined by Edmonton teammates Lori Olson-Johns at third, second Dana Ferguson and lead Rachelle Brown.
“We made it here again and we played better and we lost to a great team,” Sweeting said. “They’ll represent us really well.”
Earlier in the day, Homan hit a draw to the four-foot for a 7-5 victory over Saskatchewan’s Stefanie Lawton in the third-place game.
The bronze capped a mixed week for the two-time champions. They have been trying to find their groove this season after the departure of coach Earle Morris and the addition of Joanne Courtney, who replaced longtime second Alison Kreviazuk.
“We’re building and we’re fast-tracking as much as we can,” Homan said. “I think we proved this week that we’re on the right track. Winning that bronze was really special for us.”
On Saturday, Lawton beat Homan 8-7 in the three-four Page Playoff game before losing the semifinal to Sweeting.
A few days after Homan won silver at last year’s world championship, Kreviazuk announced her plans to leave the team to be with her boyfriend in Sweden. Morris also ended his long run with the rink to coach his son John and Team Morris.
Courtney joined Homan, third Emma Miskew and lead Lisa Weagle last spring after a three-year run on Sweeting’s rink. The Homan side has not used a full-time coach this season.
Richard Hart, a member of Team Glenn Howard, handled coaching duties over the last week. The Ottawa team was in form Sunday as Homan threw at 90 per cent and the team came in at 87 per cent.
“That was clearly their best game of the week, hands down,” Hart said. “They just trusted the ice, they felt good about the ice. They just went through all their routines and processes perfectly and it showed. The results were amazing.”
The partisan crowd of 3,576 tried its best to support Lawton in her quest to win a medal for the first time in four career Scotties appearances.
She made a nice draw for one in the eighth end and stole another point in the ninth but couldn’t pull even.
“It wasn’t the game that we wanted out there,” Lawton said. “The girls played hard. I just wish I would have started a little stronger and maybe thrown a few more draws throughout the game.”
Lawton had the lowest shooting percentage of all players in the third-place game at 69 per cent. Her team of third Sherry Anderson, second Stephanie Schmidt and lead Marliese Kasner combined to shoot 75 per cent overall.
Homan beat Jones for her first Scotties title in 2013 at Kingston, Ont. Sweeting made her first Scotties final appearance last year.
Manitoba took three of the four first-team all-star nods. Lawes, Officer and McEwen earned the honour while Lawton took the nod as skip. Jones was named to the second team along with Olson-Johns, Schmidt and Weagle.
Total attendance for the tournament was 70,047.
Jones will represent Canada at the March 14-22 world women’s curling championship in Sapporo, Japan and receive $10,000 to wear cresting at the competition. Both teams in the Scotties final received $15,500, Homan’s rink earned $12,000 and Lawton’s team earned $7,000.
Jones will also receive additional funding and earn berths in the 2015 Canada Cup, the 2016 Continental Cup, the 2016 Scotties along with 45 Canadian Team Ranking System points. The second-place team gets 35 CTRS points while Homan gets 30 and Lawton gets 20 points.