Jennifer Jones, John Epping win Shorty Jenkins Classic titles

Dawn McEwen, Jocelyn Peterman, Kaitlyn Lawes and Jennifer Jones celebrate with the Shorty Jenkins Classic women's title Sunday in Cornwall, Ont. (Jonathan Brazeau)

CORNWALL, Ont. — Jennifer Jones is off to a perfect start to the curling season.

Jones and her Winnipeg-based team opened their 2019-20 campaign posting an unblemished 7-0 record in the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic at the Cornwall Curling Club.

The nine-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling champion Jones capped the undefeated run with a 6-4 win over Team Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul in the all-Manitoba women’s final Sunday.

“The crowds, the fans, the volunteers and the ice were outstanding and it was a great field,” Jones said. “We hadn’t been on the ice yet, so it was nice to get the rust out of the way and play well.”

Team Jones finished last season winning the Curling World Cup’s Grand Final and picked up where they left off seamlessly.

“I thought we came out and played well and continued with how we did last season, which was nice,” Jones said. “We did some work over the summer and nice to see it paying off.”

After back-to-back blank ends to start, Jones’s patience paid off as she nailed an open hit to score four crucial points in the third end.

“Any time you can score a four is great, so we’ll definitely take it,” Jones said. “It’s nice to have control during the game and have hammer coming home.”

The teams alternated singles in four and five, Fleury tacked on another one in six and the plot thickened as Jones gave up a steal of two in seven as the gap narrowed to one point. Still, Jones held the hammer for the final frame and smashed out Fleury’s shot rock with the last rock of the game to secure the championship.

Jones is backed by third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Dawn McEwen and coach Viktor Kjell.

Team Jones finished pool play at 4-0, eliminated Japan’s Team Sayaka Yoshimura 6-1 in Saturday’s quarterfinals and shut out Team Un-Chi Gim of South Korea 9-0 in Sunday’s semifinals.

Fleury, third Selena Njegovan and lead Kristin MacCuish had a super spare this week with former Team Jones second Jill Officer filling in for Liz Fyfe. Officer, whose niece is MacCuish, stepped back from competitive curling last year.

Meanwhile, Toronto’s Team John Epping successfully defended the men’s title with a 5-3 victory over Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in a rematch of last year’s final.

“It’s awesome any time you can win a spiel, especially a field like this,” Epping said. “This was one of the best fields other than a Slam. It was pretty much a Slam field. It feels awesome.”

Epping scored a critical count of three in the fourth stanza that Jacobs was unable to overcome.

“They don’t come often against a great team like that,” Epping said regarding the three-ender. “Obviously, a turning point in that game was the three and we were able to hold on. Of course, we knew they’d keep clawing and fight their way back and maybe throw my last one.”

It’s not only Team Epping’s second consecutive Shorty Jenkins Classic title but also their second consecutive title on the season after winning the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard last Sunday.

This year’s victory was different for Epping as he now has former Team Jacobs third Ryan Fry on his side with Mat Camm sliding over to second and Brent Laing at lead. The 2014 Olympic gold medallist Jacobs added Marc Kennedy at third joining second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden.

Both finalists went 7-1 through the week with Epping’s lone loss coming against Jacobs during round-robin play. Epping ousted Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., 7-4 in the morning quarterfinals and Switzerland’s Team Peter de Cruz 7-2 in the early afternoon semis.

“It’s just nice to come out and play well,” Epping said. “Me personally, I was so-so during the round robin and kind of caught the hot hand today. It’s nice to get that feeling again. Any time you can play some really tough games early in the season to get ready for the bigger events later on is awesome.”

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