Scotties newcomers start with tough test

JIM BENDER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 3:40 AM ET

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. -- Manitoba's Jill Thurston has never skipped at a national Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

In fact, she's only competed in one and that was as a third.

None of her teammates has thrown a single rock in anger in a Canadian women's championship. That's the setting when they start the tourney against Team Canada's Jennifer Jones, who is seeking her third straight title, tonight.

"Obviously, to play Jennifer the first game will be a tough game but I think that playing her in the first one is probably best for us because she doesn't know anything more about the ice than we do, and we could catch them at an early stage and maybe catch them a little off-guard," Thurston said.

"I honestly think it's the perfect time to play them because they've still got to get used to the ice and to draw weight," added Manitoba third Kristen Phillips. "But that's a great team and I have a ton of respect for them."

Thurston and Jones have history together as Jones played third when Thurston skipped a Manitoba junior women's squad to the 1991 Canadian final. B.C. skip Kelly Scott was the lead.

HOMECOMING: Ontario third Tara George will be playing in front of hometown fans as she grew up in The Soo.

"It's great to be home," said George, who moved to Thunder Bay for university and curling. "This town has always gotten behind its athletes and I'm happy to be here."

George expects many friends and family to cheer her on at the Essar Centre this week.

HOT SHOTS: Team Canada lead Dawn Askin led the Hot Shots preliminaries with 25 points and was the only member of her team to make today's playoffs. Thurston (second at 22 points) and Phillips were also among the final eight. The others to qualify were Saskatchewan second Tammy Schneider, Quebec third Brenda Nicholls, Ontario lead Kari MacLean, Saskatchewan skip Amber Holland and Yukon/NWT lead Danielle Ellis (on a tie-breaker).

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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