Sask., Canada to face off in Scotties final

Saskatchewan skip Amber Holland smiles after making a shot against Ontario in the semi-final game...

Saskatchewan skip Amber Holland smiles after making a shot against Ontario in the semi-final game at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts curling championship in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on February 26, 2011. (SHAUN BEST/Reuters)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:58 PM ET

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. -- Around the world, Holland is known for wooden shoes, wind mills and tulips.

Today, she's one province's hope for the Hearts -- and its first Canadian women's curling championship since the late Sandra Schmirler turned the trick in 1997.

Amber Holland of tiny Dilke, Sask., will play the role of David against the game's Goliath, four-time champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg, in Sunday's final at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

This rock fight was set up by Holland's 7-5 win over Rachel Homan's upstart Ontario squad in Saturday's semifinal.

And while Holland might be the fan favourite in a city that's pulled for underdogs all week, she knows she won't top the betting line.

"Most of the media and all the people at home look at Team Canada as the favourite," the 36-year-old skip said, Saturday. "They're Team Canada. You can't take that away from them."

Actually, that's exactly what Holland plans to do.

Jones, though, has been relentless at this level. In capturing three straight Hearts titles, the 36-year-old corporate lawyer is undefeated in her last 11 playoff games, going back to 2007.

"You know she's comin' with everything," Holland said. "If we can stay the course... keep the pressure on them and make our shots, the rest will take care of itself."

Holland took care of Ontario by building a 5-2 advantage at the break, then refusing to let her opponent off the mat, unlike her Friday game against Jones, where an identical three-point lead evaporated.

"We lost a little bit of focus, probably. This time we were determined not to let that happen," she said. "It wasn't even deja vu. We really just need to focus on the shots and not watch the scoreboard. Play like you have a one-point lead and not a three-point lead."

That approach will be mandatory against Jones, who hasn't met a hole she doesn't think she can climb out of.

In last year's final, for example, she trailed PEI, 6-3, at the break, only to storm back for title No. 4.

Invaluable experience for someone who'll be playing in her sixth Hearts final, compared to Holland, in her first.

"I've never gotten nervous," Jones said. "You get excited. And that's what you play for, that little adrenaline rush. Those are the big games that you love so much.

"We know what to expect, obviously. We've been there before. But it's going to be a tough game. We just want the hammer coming home. That's all you want."

A fourth straight win for Jones would match the record for consecutive crowns set by Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones.

For Holland, it's about ending a dry spell in a province where curling may not be king, but it's got royal blood.

Taking the hard road to the final has already earned her comparisons to the Canadian Football League's lovable heartbreakers, the Roughriders.

"Somebody e-mailed me today and said, 'Just like the Riders, keeping us all on the edge of our seats,' " Holland said. "I hear it all the time. Not only do we have a Brier drought, but we're starting on the women's drought."

One more win, though, and it's over.

Goliath is waiting.

David, choose your rocks.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

Twitter@friesensunmedia


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