KINGSTON, Ont. - After plowing through the competition in the round robin, Manitoba's Jennifer Jones was due for an off-game at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Ontario's Rachel Homan took full advantage Saturday night and will now play in the gold-medal game at the national women's curling championship for the first time.
Homan's young rink from Ottawa came through with a strong, confident performance for an 8-5 victory over Jones in the 1-2 Page playoff game. Ontario was aggressive and capitalized when the four-time champion made some uncharacteristic errors.
"My team shot lights out," Homan said. "We didn't miss much. There was nothing more we could have done. We won it in 10 and hopefully we can win the final in 10 as well."
Jones will play Team Canada's Heather Nedohin in the semifinal Sunday morning with the winner to play Homan in the evening. The semifinal loser will play B.C.'s Kelly Scott for the bronze medal in the afternoon game.
Nedohin beat Scott 8-4 in the 3-4 Page playoff game earlier Saturday.
Homan energized the crowd of 3,858 at the K-Rock Centre by jumping out to an early lead and not letting up. She shot an impressive 89 per cent and her teammates were just as steady.
It was yet another solid performance from a team that went 10-1 in the round robin.
"We accomplished all our goals this week and we've got one more," Homan said. "We're not going to stop. Whoever it is that comes through, we're really going to prepare for the final."
Jones won all 11 games heading into the weekend and handed Homan her only loss of the round robin. But the veteran Manitoba skip shot just 79 per cent on Saturday, the lowest percentage of the eight curlers on the ice.
"We tried to fight back and I just missed the wrong shots at the wrong time and hopefully I won't do that tomorrow," Jones said.
Ontario shot 88 per cent as a team, just ahead of Manitoba at 87 per cent.
Jones started off slowly and never really got on track. She hit a guard in the first end and Homan would score two for the early lead.
Jones bounced back in the second end with a takeout to tie the game. But Homan used her final throw of the third end to gently tap her own stone in the four-foot to restore the two-point cushion.
Jones picked up a single in the fourth end and Homan followed with a draw to the button in the fifth to make it 5-3.
"We went at them right away, tons of rocks in play the whole game," Homan said. "The crowd was into it and my team played amazing."
Homan hit a nice double takeout in the sixth end and Jones flubbed her shot to give Ontario a steal of one. Jones capped the seventh with a heavy draw and Ontario picked up another single.
Jones rebounded with a nice draw to score two in the eighth but Homan drew to the button in the ninth for one.
"We got some opportunities and we 100 per cent capitalized," Homan said.
Earlier in the day, Nedohin's team shot 90 per cent for a comfortable win over Scott. The defending champion looked much steadier after some inconsistent play over the last two days of the round robin.
"We are battlers, we play strong and we handle adversity really well at times," Nedohin said. "We may not get a W when we want it, but I think that's the strength within our team. We can rebound after a loss and we learn from our mistakes and go forward.
"I can't emphasize it more, that's how Team Nedohin plays."
Nedohin finished the round robin with a 7-4 record, the same mark she had last year entering the final weekend. She went on to record three straight victories for the gold medal.
"We will rebound after losses and it's that confidence of keep going, keep executing and keep to our game plan," Nedohin said. "I think we've got a tough road ahead because the next game is just as important."
Scott, who lost to Nedohin in last year's title game, threw just 71 per cent on the day. British Columbia threw 82 per cent as a team.
Canada opened with a single and made it 2-0 with a steal in the third end.
Nedohin stole another point in the fourth end when Scott came up short with her draw, barely making the eight-foot. Her confidence was restored in the fifth when she hit the button to get on the board and prevent Canada from scoring three.
However, Scott faltered in the sixth end when she missed a takeout attempt. The defending champion scored three with a split to move ahead 6-1.
Scott, who was 8-3 in the round robin, hit a double takeout for a single in the seventh end. Nedohin answered with a pair in the eighth and the rout was on.
"We overcurled or undercurled when we couldn't afford to," Scott said. "I don't think we really have to change anything, just start fresh tomorrow."
Announced attendance for the early game was 3,798. Venue capacity is 5,700.
Jones, a four-time champion, became the first skip since British Columbia's Linda Moore to go undefeated for the round robin. Moore went 10-0 in 1985 and then won the final in Winnipeg.
Homan finished fourth two years ago in her only other Scotties appearance.
The Scotties winner will represent Canada at the March 16-24 world women's curling championship in Riga, Latvia.
The top two teams at the Scotties receive $15,500 in prize money, the third-place team gets $12,000 and the fourth-place team receives $7,000. Teams finishing fifth through 12th receive $3,400 each.
All 12 teams receive $4,167 for title sponsor cresting.
The winner also receives $10,000 for wearing cresting at the world championship along with $40,000 from Own The Podium for training and competition expenses. Sport Canada will provide them with $144,000 over a two-year period.
The men's national championship — the Tim Hortons Brier — is set for March 2-10 in Edmonton. The winner will represent Canada at the March 30-April 7 world men's curling championship in Victoria.