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Jones, Fleury set for Scotties Wild Card clash

Winner advances to main Scotties Tournament of Hearts draw beginning Saturday
The Scotties Tournament of Hearts might not officially begin until Saturday afternoon, but there’s a monster of a game for fans to check out on Friday night at Mosaic Place.

The Wild Card game -- featuring the top two teams from the Canadian Team Ranking System standings -- is set to take the ice at 7:30 p.m., and oh what a contest it will be.

And the best part?

It’s completely free for fans to attend.

None other than eight-time Scotties champion Jennifer Jones and CTRS leader Tracy Fleury will do battle in the event, with the winner advancing to the main draw and the loser going home.

“It’s just nice to be here and have a second chance, not a lot of teams have that opportunity so we’re just trying to embrace it and come out strong tomorrow and have a good game,” Fleury said Thursday evening after their first practice session.

Both rinks are especially familiar with one another: they, along with Manitoba representative Kerri Einarson, made up the final three teams in the Manitoba Scotties playdowns while also holding down the top three CTRS spots. That meant no matter what happened, all three would be in Moose Jaw this week. The only question now is for how long.

In the end, Jones would fall 8-6 to Einarson in the final after downing Fleury 8-7 in an extra end in the semifinal.

“We didn’t really think too much about that, we really wanted to win that game and this is a hard game to win,” Jones said. “You’re playing against another good team, you want to take the opportunity you can and unfortunately we didn’t win that final, so we’re happy that now we have a second chance.”

Fleury – who takes the ice with third Selena Njegovan, second Liz Fyfe and lead Krista MacCuish – is a four-time former Scotties competitor, including 2015 in Moose Jaw. The fact the two teams will be doing battle again with so much on the line only a couple weeks after a similar intense contest is just part of the business in her eyes.

“I think there are so many good teams in Canada that it’s going to be tough regardless,” Fleury said. “We’ve had the opportunity to play against them quite a bit this season, we enjoy playing against them because it’s always a good game with lots of rocks in play. We’re looking forward to it.”

Jones and her rink of third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Dawn McEwen need no introduction, especially to curling fans in Moose Jaw – one of her eight titles came in 2015 at Mosaic Place.

“Obviously we have great memories of this building, what a beautiful facility it is,” Jones said. “We were super excited about coming back to Moose Jaw and we’d really love to win that game to have an opportunity to play next week.”

And having the opportunity to play the Wild Card game in front of a packed house would be a nice bonus.

“It would be amazing, that’s one thing I remembered about Moose Jaw, just how incredible the curling fans were,” Jones said. “It was one of the best Scotties we’ve played in just with the hospitality and the people… [whereever we go] people are excited that we’re in town, so regardless of what happens on the ice the people of Moose Jaw are going to put on a good show.”