LONDON, Ont. -- The defending champs have somehow coughed and sputtered their way to the top of the heap.
Despite some uneven efforts, Team Canada's Jennifer Jones pulled out two more victories at the Scott Tournament of Hearts yesterday to improve to 7-2 and a share of first place.
Meanwhile, the last hopes of Manitoba's Janet Harvey came to an abrupt and brutal halt.
Ironically, Harvey has actually out-shot Jones in some games but Jones was the one who found ways to produce wins. For example, Jones shot only 54% in a 12-8 victory over New Brunswick's Andrea Kelly at the John Labatt Centre yesterday morning. After blowing an 8-4 lead, Jones cracked a four in the 10th end.
In the afternoon, Jones shot a much better 88% but still needed an extra end to edge Ontario's Krista Scharf 8-5.
"We persevere and we've learned how to do that," said Canada second Jill Officer. "I mean, you're going to have tight games in this field. This is not an easy field. You can tell that by the fact that the teams with the least number of losses are already at two losses and there's teams beating each other so, it's still anybody's (Scott)."
Jones has also pulled out squeakers against Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
"Every team's playing great against us and not missing anything," Jones said. "So, it's building a lot of character and a lot of momentum going into the playoffs. We're winning close games and that's important.
"We're getting there but we still need to be a bit sharper."
Indeed. Jones, who has won three straight, will face fellow contenders B.C. and Alberta today.
"Those are huge games and we're going to have to win one of them to make the playoffs probably so, we'll have to come out sharp," Jones said.
"We knew that coming into this whole week that it would be a big day, regardless so, we're going to have to come out with our A game," Officer underscored.
Meanwhile, Harvey battled to the bitter end, and it was bitter. She was nailed for a hogline violation attempting to make the winning shot versus Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones in the 10th end. A measure gave the former champ a steal of two and a 7-6 triumph.
"Pretty much the story of the week, I'd say," said a clearly agitated Harvey. "I didn't think I was over, I didn't think I threw it any different than I've thrown any of the other rocks but you know what? Whatever, that's the way it goes.
"It was an awful game on both sides. The ice was really tricky and flat and it wasn't a well-curled game at all. But whatever, we still had control of the game as usual and let it slip. I guess you'd call that a bad break, I don't know. Whatever, the story of the week."
Even Colleen Jones felt she escaped.
"That was bizarre, that was just totally bizarre," she said. "It was like divine intervention."
Jones, however, felt that Harvey's rock looked heavy, suggesting she likely would have missed the shot anyway.
Harvey had started the day with a hard-fought 7-6 win over P.E.I.'s Suzanne Gaudet.
"It's been very frustrating," said Manitoba lead Carey Burgess. "We really feel we didn't play that badly. We had our moments where we definitely struggled. We had a couple of poor games but it seemed like we were on the wrong side of the inch all week. We didn't get any breaks. You've got to play well and you need some breaks.
"I think we're a better team than what our record shows."
With two games left, Harvey is 3-6 and in danger of setting the Manitoba mark for futility at the Scott (but not all-time), which now stands at 4-7.