Birt upends Jones at Scotties

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:02 PM ET

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - It took eight draws, but the previously sedate Charlottetown Civic Centre finally came alive at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

What has often been a library atmosphere turned raucous as a wrestling match -- for a minute or two, anyway -- when provincial favourite Suzanne Birt body-slammed three-time defending champion Jennifer Jones, 8-6.

The biggest shot of the biggest upset, so far -- Birt's draw for four in the seventh end -- drew a standing ovation, led by P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz, from a near-capacity crowd of 3,278.

It only got louder when Birt supplied the head lock in the next end, stealing two, courtesy of a rare Jones flash on a double-takeout attempt.

It may not be curling etiquette to cheer somebody's misses, but it was in vogue on this Monday night.

"That's just the way it is," a sheepish, but ecstatic, Birt said. "It was just so exciting. We love the energy they create."

At 2-3, Birt still has work to do to climb into the thick of the playoff race.

It remains to be seen, too, how much of a dent she, and the fans, left in the psyche of Jones' Team Canada foursome, which has dropped two of its last three to sit at 3-2, good only for a share of third place.

"We've got to be sharper," Jones said. "But that's OK. We're still hanging in."

The bigger question might be who, if anybody, can slow down frontrunners Ontario and Saskatchewan, who continue to roll over the competition.

Ontario 21-year-old Rachel Homan, who's splitting her time this week between skipping and writing mid-term University of Ottawa exams, improved to 5-0 with a 6-5 win over B.C.

At the same time, Saskatchewan's Amber Holland was winning her fifth in a row, 7-6 over Quebec.

As always, Homan wasn't satisfied. She did, after all, shoot "only" 81%, a significant drop from the sizzling 97% score she put up in an early Monday win over PEI.

"That was kind of a rough game for our team," she said. "We can play better. There's definitely more to come."

Holland, too, sees room for improvement in her western side, but says relying on each other is their strength right now.

"If someone doesn't do something right, the next person picks up their socks and makes something happen," the 36-year-old said.

Neither side appears vulnerable to basking in their early success, not the Scotties rookie, nor the Saskatchewan veteran.

"Those are done," Holland said of her wins. "Whatever our record is, it doesn't matter. We have to focus on the game at hand. It's the only way you can approach this week."

The game at hand is a head-to-head meeting for first place, Tuesday afternoon.

"Every game coming in here is going to be intense," Homan said.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more intense 21-year-old, as Homan's competitiveness has been matched only by her coolness under fire.

Starting to warm up is Nova Scotia's Heather Smith-Dacey, who won her second straight, 12-6, over B.C., to sit in a tie for third with Team Canada and Alberta, at 3-2.

Alberta's Kleibrink snapped a two-game losing streak with her 8-5 win over Newfoundland, on a Monday that saw two teams remain on fire.

And the city of Charlottetown finally catch on.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

Twitter@friesensunmedia


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