Big Three expected to dominate at Scotties

JIM BENDER

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

REGINA -- They're the Big Three of the women's curling world. And one of them is expected to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

No one can afford to stumble in the slightest because this may be the greatest women's Hearts field ever assembled. And that's appropriate, as it's being played in the Saskatchewan capital where everyone is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Sandra Schmirler winning Olympic gold.

Team Canada's Kelly Scott, Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink and Manitoba's Jennifer Jones comprise the Big Three.

Scott has quietly become the Colleen Jones of this Hearts tourney. Jones dominated by playing a dull defensive game with deadly accuracy. Just like Scott. And, like Jones, Scott seems to thrive on the Scotties stage.

Scott is seeking to become the third women's squad to win three straight, but has an added incentive this year as the women's worlds are in Vernon, B.C. (March 22-30), which would be like playing in her own backyard.

"I don't know if three-in-a-row is a big motivating factor but, after the fact, it would be special because it would be pretty special to say we're one of the few teams that did it," Scott, the reigning women's world champ, told the Canadian Press.

The others were Colleen Jones, who won four straight, and Saskatchewan's Vera Pezer.

Then there's Kleibrink. While others may have promoted Jennifer Jones as the top team on the tour all season, they are dead wrong.

Kleibrink leads both the money list and the all-important Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) points standings. Kleibrink had a down year after winning Olympic bronze in 2006 but is ready to challenge for top spot.

Kleibrink has yet to win a national championship and this is where we remind you she defeated Scott in the 2005 Olympic trials final.

While Jennifer Jones won everything but the Canadian crown last year, she's been inconsistent lately. Those close to her say she was really bothered by the reaction to a burned-brush controversy during the Manitoba provincials.

Yet she's still second on the cash tour and the CTRS standings. After the Hearts, she will be defending her titles at both the Canada Cup and the Players' Championship.

Not to suggest this is a three-nag race by any means. Ontario's Sherry Middaugh and hometown fave Michelle Englot (formerly Ridgway) should be right in there. However, Englot may be playing with a heavy heart as her dad died suddenly yesterday.


Photos