KINGSTON, Ont. - The battle of unbeaten rinks at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts on Thursday delivered drama, back-and-forth scoring swings and plenty of excitement.
Manitoba's Jennifer Jones emerged triumphant after a stellar display of shotmaking gave her a 9-7 win, a guaranteed playoff berth and left Ontario's Rachel Homan with her first loss of the tournament.
Jones shot an impressive 93 per cent and always had an answer for her opponent. Homan was buoyed by the pro-Ontario crowd at the K-Rock Centre but it wasn't enough to prevent her from suffering her first defeat.
"I predicted that we were going to lose a couple of games — it's nationals and it's tough," Homan said. "There are so many good teams. We're just trying to get to the playoffs so we're looking really good."
Jones then improved to 9-0 in the evening draw with a 7-1 victory over Quebec's Allison Ross (3-6), while Homan (8-1) kept pace with a 6-5 victory over Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault (4-5).
In other Draw 14 action Thursday night, Team Canada's Heather Nedohin (7-2) topped Alberta's Kristie Moore (1-8) by a count of 5-3 and sits alone in third, while B.C.'s Kelly Scott is fourth at 6-3 following a 9-2 victory over Saskatchewan's Jill Shumay.
Shumay and New Brunswick's Andrea Crawford are tied for fifth at 5-4.
The top four rinks in the 12-team field will qualify for the playoffs on the weekend.
Jones is focused on qualifying for the 1-2 Page playoff game and said she's not really concerned about maintaining a perfect record.
"We had one loss in our provincials and it kind of gave us a kick in the pants," she said after beating Homan. "Right now I feel like we're playing well and we don't need that kick in the pants. So hopefully that's true."
Jones took the lead with a pair in the eighth end against Homan and added a steal of one in the ninth.
Round-robin play continues through Friday evening.
Jones displayed the consistency that she's known for throughout her win over Homan, who shot just 71 per cent for the game. The young Ontario skip blew a chance to tie the game by coming up light with her final stone in the ninth end.
"Both teams played really well, both had some big ends and it just came down to a couple of shots here and there," Homan said.
Manitoba shot 84 per cent as a team while Ontario finished at 75 per cent.
Homan opened the scoring with a draw to the button in the first end and stole a point in the second for a 2-0 lead. Jones came roaring back in the fourth when Homan missed a freeze attempt, leaving the Manitoba skip with a hit to score four.
Homan's confidence wasn't affected as she came through with a highlight-reel shot in the fifth end. The Ontario skip feathered her stone between two guards and followed with a tapback to score three and move back into the lead at 5-4.
Jones answered in the sixth end with a pair before Homan took the lead again with a takeout to score two in the seventh. Jones replied by drawing to the button for two in the eighth end.
She extended her arm in the air and had a big smile on her face when she completed the victory.
"Her eyes never leave the prize and that's hard to do," said Nova Scotia vice-skip Colleen Jones, who lost to Manitoba last Monday. "She's not distracted. She comes on the ice and she's all business."
Notes: Attendance was 2,607 for the morning session, a crowd of 2,580 took in the afternoon draw, while 2,812 watched the evening matchups. Capacity is 5,700. ... Canadian skip Jim Armstrong locked up a berth in the Page playoff 1-2 game at the world wheelchair curling championship on Thursday with a 7-6 win over Norway at the Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi, Russia. Canada will play Sweden on Friday.