ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- It will be the fearless young hot shots from Ontario against the Manitoba dream team in today's Scott Tournament of Hearts championship game. Manitoba's Jennifer Jones, a 30-year-old Winnipeg lawyer, will face Jenn Hanna, a 25-year-old from Ottawa who works on Parliament Hill, in a game that has huge implications today (11:30 a.m., CBC).
The winner will not only be crowned the Canadian women's curling champion, but will receive a coveted berth in the 2005 Olympic trials in Halifax.
"It's just an exciting opportunity," Jones said yesterday after watching Hanna dispatch Kelly Scott of B.C. 9-7 in the semifinal at Mile One Stadium. "I feel very relaxed, more relaxed than I thought I'd feel. I'm much calmer now than I ever was before."
The Jones foursome, dubbed a dream team after former Canadian champions Cathy Overton-Clapham and Cathy Gauthier signed on along with Jill Officer last year, could have claimed an Olympic trials berth yesterday had Scott (who already has a trials spot) beaten the red-hot Hanna.
But now the squad will have to settle for a chance to earn the berth with a victory while becoming the first Manitoba team since Connie Laliberte in 1995 to win the Canadian women's title.
"I never thought that I'd win a trials spot on losing, so I'd like to go out and try to win (today), and if we do that we get the trials spot and we get to be Canadian champions, so that will be something I've always dreamed of," Jones said.
One thing's for sure, you can expect a lot of rocks in play during today's final. Both skips have made an art form out of cluttered houses this week.
"We've played that way all year, and we won't change a thing (today)," Jones said. "They are a great team, and they like to junk it up a bit too. I'm expecting a lot of great shots to be made."
Jones and Hanna have met only twice before -- once earlier in the tournament and once at a bonspiel in Ontario last year. Jones won both games.
But Hanna is on the kind of roll people dream about, having reeled off four straight wins in elimination games and giving a growing throng of supporters plenty to cheer about.
"They are obviously on a bit of a roll, and they will probably use that to their advantage, but we're on a bit of a roll, too, so I'm expecting a very good game," said Jones, whose team reached the final by beating Scott in a Page playoff game Friday night.
Given what she's done this week, beating four-time defending champion Colleen Jones and former Canadian champ Cathy King twice during the round-robin, Hanna is not likely to be intimidated by the experienced Manitoba foursome.
"(It will be an) extremely tough game," Hanna said. "They are the best team here, and that's being honest. We know we will have to play very well and we plan on it."
Even an independent third party with knowledge of both teams had trouble picking a winner yesterday.
"I'd say both are fearless, both play with a ton of confidence and don't mind rocks in play," said Scott. "Jennifer Jones has a strong team of experienced players, and Jenn Hanna has a team of young and fearless competitors. They can come up with doubles to score big ends, and they can make delicate finesse shots, so we should see a bunch of different shots."