Jennifer Jones throws a stoneTHE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Team Canada’s playoff hopes in women’s curling much brighter after 7-6 win over the United States

Jennifer Jones had one of the easiest game-winning draws of her career, anywhere inside the 12 foot, to slip past the United States 7-6 Wednesday morning in Beijing to improve Team Canada’s playoff chances.

The third straight win – on the heels of three consecutive losses – moved Canada to 4-3 and a tie for third place in the standings with Japan. Switzerland remains first at 7-1 followed by Sweden at 5-2. Right behind Canada and Japan are three teams with four losses.

“We did take a little look at the standings, which we don’t normally do, so we knew exactly where we were at and this was a must win game,” Jones said. “We did what we needed to do, but there’s still two games left.”

Canada’s final two games of the round robin are against 3-5 China, who upset Great Britain 8-4 on Wednesday, and 2-5 Denmark.

Jennifer Jones yells at her sweepers as they sweep a stone
Canadian skip Jennifer Jones, top left, and second Jocelyn Peterman, right, call on third Kaitlyn Lawes and lead Dawn McEwen to sweep as they face the team from the Russian Olympic Committee at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Monday, February 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Dawn McEwen were in position to put the game away in the ninth but let that chance slip away. The 47-year-old Jones, the oldest Canadian athlete in Beijing, had a short, straight run back for three and a 9-5 lead but was narrow and left the U.S. to steal one for the 6-6 tie.

“I thought out of my hand I made it,” said Jones, who shot 88 percent over the final five ends and 78 overall. “But tied with (hammer) is all you ever want … we weren’t too disappointed. We had the hammer and that’s what we wanted.”

In the recurring theme, Canada began without the hammer and for the third straight game it didn’t hurt the Jones team. The U.S. was sitting three and looking at a multiple score end until Jones perfectly executed a triple that left Canada counting with a stone at the back of the house. U.S. skip Tabitha Peterson went for the blank but failed to roll out and forced to take one.

“It wasn’t looking very good, but when her stone stopped I knew it was real close to making a triple if I hit about a quarter or a third (of the stone),” said Jones. “I threw it good, they swept it and they all went away. It was a great way to start the game and gave us a lot of confidence.”

Lawes, who had some struggles with weight early on but produced some key shots in the later ends, said that first end put Team Canada in the right frame of mind.

“Jenn’s made a lot of those,” she said. “We put her in some tough situations in the first end. But she’s made some great hero shots and it just set the tone of the rest of the game.”

Jones had an easy draw for two in the second and a steal of two in the third. Jones slid a tough draw to the back of the button to sit two and Peterson’s attempt to raise her own stone from the eight foot failed.

But the U.S., also fighting for its playoff life, refused to quit, getting singles in the fourth and fifth and two in the eighth. Team Canada continually allowed the U.S. to build ends and create problems for Canada but Jones, for the most part, managed to bail out the team.

Team Canada had some issues with sweeping their stones, either too much or too little, preventing them from getting rocks into the right positions on numerous occasions. Fortunately, Jones had Peterman, who shot 89 percent, and McEwen, at 94 percent, playing major roles in setting up the ends.