Homan beats Jones in clash of women's curling heavyweights at Tournament of Hearts

CALGARY — They may meet again in the Canadian women's curling championship playoffs, but the intense on-ice battles between Rachel Homan and Jennifer Jones are coming to an end.

Homan beat Jones 7-5 at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts on Tuesday night in an entertaining tussle of tough, tight shots befitting a pair of skips with nine national titles between them.

It became a heavily marketed matchup when Curling Canada declared last spring that Homan and Jones had pre-qualified for this year's Hearts based on their Canadian rankings.

Six-time champ Jones has said this season will be her last in team curling, although she'll continue in mixed doubles with her husband Brent Laing.

Homan had to beat Jones in the 2013 final to win her first of her three Hearts crowns.

"You know that it's going to be a good game and a battle right to the end, right down to the last inch there," Homan said. "It's going to be weird to not have her at the Scotties. She's always such a fierce competitor. Kudos to her for an amazing career."

Homan got better shot support Tuesday from her more experienced lineup of Tracy Fleury, Emma Miskew and Sarah Wilkes.

Jones, 49, took over a team of curlers almost half her age two years ago and reached last year's Hearts final with them.

The skip made sure Tuesday that Karlee Burgess, Emma Zacharias and Lauren Lenentine were all involved in discussions over difficult options.

"We're one team and it's 'how big of a risk do we want to take and are we all on board?' I always try to get everyone involved," Jones said. "I'm going to really miss them."

Homan's tricky double takeout through guards in front of the rings with her final shot of the 10th secured the victory.

Her Ontario foursome was the only unbeaten team in Pool B at 5-0 after wins over Jones and Manitoba's Kate Cameron on Tuesday.

"Tired? No. Buzzing," Homan said. "We've still got some improvements to make."

Homan faces B.C.'s Clancy Grandy (5-1) and Jones (4-1) meets Cameron (3-2) on Wednesday afternoon in matchups with playoff implications.

The top three teams in each pool Thursday advance to Friday's six-team playoff round, from which Saturday's four Page playoff teams will be determined.

Tiebreaker games have been eliminated from the format. Head-to-head results followed by cumulative draw-the-button scores that precede each game solve ties.

The winner of Sunday's final represents Canada in the world championship March 16-24 in Sydney, N.S., and earns a return trip to the 2025 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as defending champion.

Alberta's Selena Sturmay had the only other unbeaten team in the field at 5-0 atop Pool A, with defending champion Kerri Einarson chasing her at 5-1.

"The further we get into this event, definitely there's more and more pressure, but at the end of the day, we're just looking to improve with every game and that's what I think we've done," said Sturmay, who is skipping a team in the Hearts for the first time.

Einarson continued to curl without regular lead Briane Harris, who was declared ineligible to compete on opening day for reasons still unexplained by Curling Canada or the skip. Alternate Krysten Karwacki has played in Harris's absence.

Quebec's Laurie St-Georges and Northern Ontario's Krista McCarville (3-2), Saskatchewan's Skylar Ackerman (3-3), Manitoba's Kaitlyn Lawes and B.C's Corryn Brown (2-3), Newfoundland and Labrador's Stacie Curtis (1-4) and Prince Edward Island's Jane DiCarlo (0-6) rounded out Pool A.

Nova Scotia's Heather Smith (2-3) ranked ahead of Pool B's four-loss group of Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories, New Brunswick's Melissa Adams and Ontario's Danielle Inglis. Yukon's Bayly Scoffin was 0-5.

Galusha posted the biggest comeback in tournament history Tuesday morning. Down 7-0 after three ends, Galusha scored three in the ninth end and stole one in the 10th en route to a 10-9 win over Inglis.

Curling Canada said it's the largest comeback at a national championship since British Columbia overcame a 10-point deficit at the Canadian Ladies Curling Association Championship in Calgary's old Stampede Corral on Feb. 26, 1970.

The championship's been the Scotties Tournament of Hearts since 1982.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2024.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press