Dogfight at the top

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. -- They are getting closer to reaching their peak here in the foothills of the Rockies now. But they ain't there just yet.

Manitoba's Jennifer Jones looked dominant against a pair of contending teams yesterday. First, she overwhelmed Ontario's Krista Scharf 8-5 in the morning, then blasted Alberta's Cheryl Bernard 10-3 at the Enmax Centre last night.

"Cheryl's a great team but we were pretty sharp and got the rolls," Jones said sympathetically. "And they were just a little bit short of them."

They were the two smoothest wins of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts week for Team 'Toba.

"I think we're sharper as the week goes on," said Jones, who stole deuces in both the first and second ends, then capped off the contest with a four-banger in seven. "We can play better and hopefully, we'll just keep getting stronger."

The Buffalo gals improved to 8-1, moving into a first-place tie with Team Canada's Kelly Scott and clinching a playoff spot.

"That's great," Jones said. "That's exactly where we wanted to be at the start of the week and we just want to be in a playoff. We've done that, now we just want to finish the week off strong and give ourselves a good shot."

But she stopped short of guaranteeing victory.

"I just hope we come out and play well (today) and we'll think about winning Saturday," she said.

Team 'Toba shot a collective 87% against Ontario, its second-best outing of the week.

"We played OK," said Manitoba third Cathy Overton-Clapham, who shot an impressive 91% versus Scharf. "We can still play better. We had some missed opportunities in the middle ends but we played well."

Although Jones had rattled off seven consecutive wins before last night's eighth straight victory, Overton-Clapham said it didn't feel like they had been on fire.

"But we seem to be getting stronger each game, which is good," she said. "We'd still like to win the rest of them, for sure. We'd like to be in that (Page playoff) one-two game if, we could. We just have to keep playing better with each game."

Jones may now be taking advantage of her familiarity with the surface groomed by Manitoba icemaker Hans Wuthrich.

Manitoba finishes up the round robin by playing Quebec's Chantal Osborne and Team Canada today.

BITERS: Although rumours continue that MCA executive director Ian Staniloff is the heir apparent to CCA CEO Dave Parkes, who is retiring next January, Staniloff said no one has asked him to apply. Although he did want the job a few years ago, he's not so sure about it now ... The Charleswood Curling Club will host a Brier send-off for Jeff Stoughton's team on Saturday at 7 p.m.


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