BRANDON, Man. – The defending champ doesn’t want to let go and she’ll get a chance Sunday to keep her title for another year.
Ottawa’s Rachel Homan will attempt to defend her crown when she plays Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg in the women’s final of the 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup, presented by Meridian Manufacturing. She reached the final by defeating Kerri Einarson’s team from Winnipeg 9-4 in the women’s semifinal Saturday afternoon.
Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney, lead Lisa Weagle and coach Adam Kingsbury won the 2015 Home Hardware Canada Cup in Grande Prairie, Alta., last December. Defeat Jones and they can repeat.
Jones, however, got a bye into the final by finishing first at 5-1 in the seven-team round robin including a win over a 9-4 victory over Homan (4-2) Friday night.
The semifinal was tight for the first three ends. They went to the fourth tied 2-2 when Einarson, looking at a mess encircling the four-foot built by Homan and needing a piece of the button, had her draw against three not even reach the rings. Strong play the rest of the way enabled the team to cruise the rest of the way.
“The team played unreal. I struggled a little bit early, but the team played so strong. So did Einarson, it was a struggle the whole way,” said Homan. “We’re really excited to get back to the final and have a strong game against Jones.”
In some ways Homan didn’t mind having to play Saturday’s semifinal instead of sitting until Sunday like Jones.
“We got to get another really tough game under our belts and got to learn the ice again. When you’re in the final you’re sitting around waiting a lot longer than maybe you want to,” said Homan. “I know that Jones will be bringing a good game against us and we’re looking forward to it.”
Einarson and her team was one of just two teams of the 14 in both fields who didn’t play last year in Grande Prairie, so she felt her squad gained some valuable confidence and experience this week.
“Rachel has an awesome team. We had one bad end and that’s what did it for us,” said Einarson. “We learn from our mistakes and maybe we should have bailed a little bit earlier, but it happens.”
Earlier Saturday, Einarson advanced to the semifinal by beating Val Sweeting of Edmonton 8-6 in a tiebreaker game to determine third place. Einarson was making her first appearance in the Home Hardware Canada Cup while Sweeting reached the 2015 final against Homan.
One of the rewards for winning the event is a berth in the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Curling Trials in Ottawa a year from now. But since both Homan and Jones already have spots sewn up the berth will be determined in May 2017 based on the 2016-17 Canadian Team Ranking System.
The winning team will also receive $14,000 in addition to the $2,000 per round-robin victories it has already accumulated. The losing finalist will collect $9,000 while Einarson’s squad picks up $5,000,
The men’s semifinal Saturday night will showcase teams skipped by Reid Carruthers of Winnipeg and John Epping of Toronto. Epping survived a three-team tiebreaker to advance. He downed Steve Laycock of Saskatoon 7-5 in the afternoon after Laycock earlier eliminated 2014 Olympic champion Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., 9-3.
Epping executed an excellent in-off from the wings to punch out Laycock’s rock on the button and score two in the fifth end for a 5-2 lead to take control.
“It’s always fun to play in front of a crowd and make some big ones,” said Epping. “I had a really good game and made the big ones when I had to and that was probably the difference.”
Epping called a team meeting with third Mat Camm, second Pat Janssen, lead Tim March and coach Jim Wilson after they lost the first three games of the round robin. They’ve won four straight since.
“We were struggling with our technical tendencies,” said Epping. “We were all over the map. We had some great practices before we came here, but we went back to our old ways, and so I just told the boys to really focus on their technical side and that’s what they’ve done.”
The semifinal winner will face the Brad Gushue team of St. John’s, Nfld., skipped by Mark Nichols in Sunday’s final. The winner will get a trials berth.
The men’s and women’s champions of the Home Hardware Canada Cup earn $14,000 plus $2,000 per round-robin victory.
The men’s and women’s winner also gets a trip to Las Vegas in January to be part of Team North America at the 2017 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, are the big prizes available on Sunday.
The 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup continues with the men’s semifinal today at 6:30 p.m. (all times CST). The women’s final will be played Sunday at 1:30 p.m., and the men’s at 6:30 p.m.