RED DEER, ALTA. - She's had a couple of stumbles early in the week, but Manitoba's Jennifer Jones is poised to make another run at a Scotties title.
Even though she repeatedly claimed she was unaware of it, Jones and her crew clinched first place and a spot in Friday night's 1-2 Page Playoff game.
"I just found out 30 seconds ago we're playing on Friday night," said Jones. "I had no idea. None whatsoever. I knew we were in the playoffs, but I didn't know we clinched first until after the game.
"In a round-robin, it's such a long week. If you look at the standings too often, you get exhausted. We just didn't think about it."
And, they did it with yet another dominating performance. The fact their 7-4 afternoon win was against a surging Quebec team that was on a five game-win streak made it all that much more impressive.
"Yeah, it's a great thing," said Jones. "I felt the girls played great in front of me and made my life easy. It was probably our best game as a team. We just want to build on that and be sharp come Friday."
Jones will be looking for her fourth title in five years and fifth overall since 2005.
"We played a good 10 ends," said Jones. "We didn't really take an end off. All you want to do is get in the playoffs. We're in and we're thrilled."
Jones and her team are now two wins away from regaining the Scotties crown they lost on a 10th-end steal to Amber Holland in 2011.
"Experience never hurts," said Jones. "We've been here before and we know what to expect. We have tons of experience in a lot of different ways. You never expect to go in undefeated, but I'm happy with the way we're playing. There have been a couple of blips along the way, but I'm pretty happy with our performance."
Alberta's Heather Nedohin will play Quebec's Marie-France Larouche in Saturday's 3-4 game.
Team Canada's Amber Holland was eliminated by Saskatchewan rival Michelle Englot after losing her fourth game in five starts. Holland is the first Team Canada to miss the playoffs since Kelly Scott in 2008.
"It kinda sucks," said Holland. "You know, it's been a great year wearing the Maple Leaf and we enjoyed it."
B.C.'s Scott needed a steal to beat New Brunswick 7-6 and will play Jones in the 1-2 game.
"It's been a crazy week," said Scott, who definitely has felt the love of the crowd.
"I've had a few people comment, ÔYou hang tough, you keep fighting. It's going to be your greatest championship yet,' " said Scott. "You know, really, at the end of the week, win or lose, it is a success story in our book.
"Wow, if we could come away with the title and everything we've dealt with, yeah, it would be a story."
Once Larouche caught onto the ice after a 2-3 start, she became a formidable opponent, even with a brand-new supporting cast.
Quebec was the only team to be assured of at least a tiebreaker spot before the final draw.
"In our club, my dad (and team coach Camil Larouche) makes the ice," said Larouche, who lost the 2004 final here to Colleen Jones. "It's not his fault, but there's not a lot of curl. I love the ice here, because I know I can trust the ice and I know when I put the broom down, I'm sure it will get to the right place."