Add in last year's finalist along with the host team and there's plenty of star power in the playoff mix at Mosaic Place.
As expected, the so-called Big Four of Jennifer Jones, Rachel Homan, Val Sweeting and Stefanie Lawton delivered in round-robin play at the women's national curling championship to set the stage for an intriguing final weekend.
Jones beat Sweeting twice on Friday to move into Sunday's gold-medal game. The Manitoba skip, who won Olympic gold a year ago in Sochi, locked up the No. 1 seed with a 10-5 win in the morning and then beat the Alberta skip 8-6 in the evening rematch in the one-two Page Playoff game.
"As long as we're in the final, I'm a happy woman," Jones said.
Sweeting stormed out to nine straight wins in the round robin but limps into the semifinal on a three-game losing skid. She'll play the winner of Saturday morning's three-four Page Playoff between Homan's Canada rink and Lawton's Saskatchewan team.
"It really sucks to lose three in a row but we're still in this," Sweeting said, fighting through tears. "The dream is still alive so we need to shake that off and come back strong."
The semifinal winner will advance to play Jones for the gold on Sunday while the loser plays the three-four game loser for the bronze.
Homan beat Northern Ontario's Tracy Horgan 6-4 on Friday morning in a winner-moves-on game. Homan stole a pair in the ninth end and ran Horgan out of the rocks in the 10th to lock up the fourth seed.
"Every game is a new game and everyone is gunning for that final Sunday," Homan said. "Every team is going to be tough and we have to play as well as we can to make it there."
In the evening, Jones scored four in the opening end and never trailed the rest of the way. Sweeting did well to pull even with a deuce in the seventh end before Jones restored her lead with two points in the eighth.
Sweeting got one back in the ninth with a takeout but Jones used the hammer for a single in the 10th.
"We fought really hard," Sweeting said. "She made a really good shot to set up that four but we battled and I'm really proud of the team."
Jones triumphantly held both arms in the air after nailing the draw to the four-foot as the 3,735 spectators roared their approval.
She closed out round-robin play with a 10-1 record while Sweeting, who lost to Homan in last year's final, settled for the second seed at 9-2.
Homan (7-4) is aiming to join Jones (2008-'10), Colleen Jones ('01-'04) and Vera Pezer (1971-'73) as the only curlers who have skipped their rinks to three straight national women's titles.
Horgan, meanwhile, put in a good effort against the reigning champion, but was a little heavy with a tap attempt on her final throw in the ninth end and it proved costly.
"They put a bit of pressure on, it was such a junky end," Horgan said. "I think we just got caught between two shots. So it hit in the exact wrong spot."
Lawton (8-3) defeated Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt 5-4 to claim the third seed.
New Brunswick's Sylvie Robichaud defeated Ontario's Julie Hastings 9-5 in the other round-robin game Friday. Horgan finished alone in fifth at 6-5, ahead of Hastings and Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault at 5-6.
Heather Strong of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick were tied at 4-7 and Quebec's Lauren Mann finished at 3-8.
Patti Knezevic of British Columbia was last overall at 1-9. As a result, B.C. will fall into the qualification round at the 2016 Scotties in Grande Prairie, Alta.
B.C. will be joined by the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, who were both eliminated in this year's inaugural qualification round. Nunavut can also enter a team if it decides to participate.
This was the first time that Northern Ontario had its own team at this event. Horgan won three straight games in this year's qualifier to reach the 12-team main draw.
The Scotties winner will represent Canada at the March 14-22 world women's curling championship in Sapporo, Japan.
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