“It’s Homan-ly possible!”
The message on one fan’s handheld sign at the K-Rock Centre was a reference to Ontario skip Rachel Homan’s impressive ability to pull off seemingly impossible shots, something she had done game after game en route to a dominant 10-1 run in the round robin.
As of Saturday night, however, it could well mean knocking off the previously unbeaten and looking unbeatable Jennifer Jones.
Homan’s up-and-coming Ottawa-based rink accomplished just that in the one-two game, claiming an 8-5 victory that handed the veteran Manitoba skip her first loss of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and just the 19 loss in 120 career games at the event for the four-time champ.
The win puts the 23-year-old Homan – playing in just her second Scotties after her team became the youngest to ever represent Ontario in 2011 – directly into Sunday night’s final, where she will await the winner of that morning’s semi-final between Jones and defending champ Heather Nedohin.
“That was amazing,” Homan said. “A full team effort. As the game went on, they made a couple mistakes, we got some opportunities and we 100 per cent capitalized. As soon as they messed up, by inches, we were all over them.”
Ontario’s impressive upset came with the youngsters – the team’s oldest regular, lead Lisa Weagle, is just 27 – stealing four of their points in the first seven ends after Manitoba had conceded so few in that fashion all week.
Two of those came right away, too. Homan stole a pair in the first end when Jones, facing a house with four Ontario stones in it, missed the triple takeout with last rock.
The teams exchanged two-point ends with the hammer in the second and third, putting Homan up 4-2 after three and in control. That gave way to a fourth end where Jones was forced to draw to the button for a single point with her final shot to prevent another steal.
Homan then settled for one with the final stone, giving her team a 5-3 lead after five in a score that was eerily similar to the teams’ first meeting on Thursday in the round robin.
That game, Ontario’s only loss to date, was a nail-biter, with Jones narrowly winning 9-7 after it went down to the skips’ final stones in the 10 end.
Homan had led 5-4 at the midway point, making one of the best shots of the week to score Ontario a three-pointer, but her team faltered in the second half as the pressure of being the home favourite mounted and Manitoba scored five points in the next four ends.
That didn’t happen on Saturday. Instead, a calm and collected Homan only increased her lead, stealing singles in the sixth and seventh to make it 7-3 and hanging on through the final three ends with a safe, defensive approach.
The victory came with Ontario’s second, third and skip all curling 86 per cent or better, part of what third Emma Miskew described as a nearly flawless game with only two missed shots.
“That was an amazing game out there,” Miskew said.
Jones, meanwhile, was uncharacteristically off, curling only 79 per cent after not dipping below 81 all week en route to averaging 86 during round robin play.
“We tried to fight back and I just missed the wrong shots at the wrong time,” Jones said. “Hopefully I won’t do that tomorrow.”
Now Homan will get Sunday morning and afternoon off to prepare for the biggest game of her young career, one in which she’ll face a decorated former champ for the right to represent Canada at next month’s world championships in Riga, Latvia.
Homan-ly possible indeed.
“It’s nice to come back and really show we can play,” Homan said of her team’s success at its second Scotties after finishing fourth two years ago. “Guaranteed ourselves first or second. It’s just been an unbelievable experience.
“We accomplished all our goals this week and we’ve got one more. And we’re not going to stop.”
Scotties all-star teams announced
First all-star team: Jennifer Jones, Manitoba (skip); Kaitlyn Lawes, Manitoba (third); Alison Kreviazuk, Ontario (second); Dawn Askin, Manitoba (lead)
Second all-star team: Rachel Homan, Ontario (skip); Jeanna Schraeder, British Columbia (third); Jill Officer, Manitoba (second); Laine Peters, Team Canada (lead)