Hearts top spot crowded

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Lonely at the top? Not at the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

Nearly halfway through the round-robin at the Canadian women's curling championship at the John Labatt Centre and there's a four-way tie for the lead at 4-1.

Defending champion Jennifer Jones of Team Canada and Hearts rookie Eve Belisle of Quebec both got there with wins last night, joining Kelly Scott of B.C. and Andrea Kelly of New Brunswick, who had the night draw off.

Behind them at 3-2 are six-time champion Colleen Jones of Nova Scotia and 1998 champion Cathy King of Alberta.

Jennifer Jones had a couple of comfortable wins, beating winless Kerry Koe of the Territories 9-5 in the night draw and Suzanne Gaudet (2-3) of P.E.I. 9-4 in the afternoon.

"We had a lot going on the first two days, but we felt a little more rested today," Jones said. "We're getting there. Today the ice was really good and let us play the way we wanted to, but we've still got to play better, get a little more precise."

Belisle, meanwhile, joined the first-place crowd with a 7-5 wins over Tracy Streifel (1-4) of Saskatchewan in the afternoon and Krista Scharf (2-3) of Ontario in the night draw.

"I am comfortable," Belisle said when it was suggested she appeared that way. "I'm not nervous at all, although nerves usually help me.

"We've never played in an arena before, but we seem to be reading the ice really well. And having a crowd cheering your shots is awesome."

Belisle still has games left against Alberta, B.C., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, so yesterday's wins were vital.

"We can still afford to lose a couple more," she said. "Then again, we can still go 4-7."

Scott handed Nova Scotia its first loss, scoring two in the 10th for a 7-6 win in the morning draw, then followed up with an 11-6 win over Heather Strong (2-3) of Newfoundland and Labrador in the afternoon.

"We're kind of getting into our groove. We're playing with a lot more confidence than we started out with," said Scott, the Olympic trials runner-up who has won four straight since an opening loss to Saskatchewan.

"I'm seeing a lot of similarities with the trials. We snuck out a few close ones there, too. We're building with every game and our draw weight's getting better."

It's been a very long season for Scott and her rink of Jeanna Schraeder, Sasha Carter and Renee Simons.

"We haven't had a break since September," Scott said. "We had some summer ice and we've been cashspieling every other weekend. Then came the trials and the B.C. playdowns and the Canada Cup and now this. It's kind of like the season that never ends, but it's hard to get fatigued when you're playing in fun events like this."

Kelly, meanwhile, scored one in the 10th to edge Alberta 7-6 in the morning, then made a great split for three in the ninth to beat Janet Harvey (1-4) of Manitoba 7-4 in the afternoon.

"I don't think we've ever led the pack before, so to do it at our first Hearts is great," said the 2005 Canadian junior champ, who credited third Kristen MacDiarmid with two great shots that helped set up the decisive split against Manitoba. "She made a couple of great shots in the eighth to get us out of a scrape, too. Everyone's playing well right now."

Colleen Jones had a chance to make it a five-way tie for the lead, but Strong made a nice pick for three in the 10th for an 8-5 win in night draw.

"We just played a good game and when we play a good game, we're capable of keeping it close against anybody," Strong said. "We wanted a split today at worst and we were happy to get it."

"Those were two hard losses," Colleen Jones said. "Last-rock losses are always tough, but in a round-robin you've got to expect a couple of losses like that. You just have to find a way to bounce back. Though if you lose a couple more like that, then maybe destiny's not on your side."

In the other night game, Alberta stole its first five points in a 9-2 win over Manitoba. In the other morning games, Ontario stole two in the 10th for a 7-5 win over Saskatchewan while P.E.I. stole two in the 10th and one in the extra end to beat the Territories 7-6.


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