PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — National champions, world champions, Olympians and more. There’s a star-studded line-up at the 2018 Canad Inns Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Trials, but indisputably one of the most notable teams is the pairing of Jennifer Jones (Shanty Bay, Ont.) and Mark Nichols (St. John’s).
Combined, the pair have six national and two world championships in the men’s and women’s competition, and two Olympic gold medals. They’re one of two all-Olympian duos on the ice at Stride Place (Jones’s teammate Kaitlyn Lawes is paired with John Morris) and seeking their second trips to the Winter Games, next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Jones and Nichols improved to 3-1 in Pool A 0n Wednesday afternoon after defeating 2014 Canadian mixed doubles champions Kim and Wayne Tuck (Strathroy, Ont.) in a close 8-5 game.
It was a tough battle for the Jones/Nichols tandem. With every blow dealt, the Tucks offered some kind of counter. Down by one in the third, Jones slipped her shot around a guard and tapped her own rock into the four-foot to score two. Halfway through the game, the teams were tied 3-3.
Jones and Nichols started the second half of the game with a draw for two after a missed runback from Kim Tuck. But Jones and Nichols could not shake off the Tucks yet. Kim and Wayne scored two on their power play in the sixth end to tie the game 5-5.
But Jones and Nichols replied with their own power play in the seventh end. They kept the end free of centre guards, which gave Jones a hit for two to lead 7-5.
Needing to steal or keep the Tucks to one point, Jones cemented her final rock onto the button with backing, forcing Kim into a hard-weight double. While the line was close, she couldn’t get Jones’s shot stone moving enough to score.
“Mark swept it perfectly,” Jones said of her final shot that made the difference. “We were in a little bit of trouble, but I didn’t have my best game so it was nice to make my last shot.”
There was a battle between the top two teams in the pool on sheet D. Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant galloped over Nancy Martin and Catlin Schneider 10-2. The team didn’t look back after scoring three points in the first and capped the victory off with scores of three in the fifth and sixth ends, leaving Gallant and Peterman perfect at 4-0 while Martin and Schneider dropped to 3-2.
Jill Officer and Reid Carruthers bested fellow Manitobans Shannon Birchard and Jason Gunnlaugson 7-5 after running them out of rocks in the final end. The win puts them at 3-1 while Birchard/Gunnlaugson fall to 1-4.
Dawn and Mike McEwen attempted to win three in a row, but Sherry Just and Tyrel Griffith dashed those hopes. Just and Griffith won 9-5, putting both teams at 2-3 in the standings.
During the 1:30 p.m. draw Laura Crocker and Geoff Walker improved to 4-0 with a 10-4 win against Nicole Westlund-Stewart and Tyler Stewart (0-4). Val Sweeting and Brad Gushue (1-2) picked up their first win by scoring, four points in the final end against Sherry Middaugh and John Epping (1-3), winning 10-8. Chelsea Carey and Colin Hodgson (2-1) had an opportunity to defeat Dana Ferguson and Brendan Bottcher (4-0), but dropped the game 6-5 after narrowly missing a quiet weight double. Kalynn Park and Charley Thomas (2-2) also picked up a 6-4 win against Marliese Kasner and Dustin Kalthoff (0-3).
The 2018 Canad Inns Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials continue with draws today at 4:15 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9:45 p.m. (all times CST).