Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones delivers a stone during the quarterfinals of the WestJet Players' Championship in Toronto. (Anil Mungal)

Jones, Sweeting secure spots in Players’ Championship semis

April 15, 2017, 10:46 PM

TORONTO — Eve Muirhead won the WestJet Players’ Championship the previous three times the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event was held at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.

Muirhead’s streak at the venue formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens has come to an end though as Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones escaped with a 6-5 win to eliminate the Scottish skip during Saturday’s quarterfinals in a rematch of last year’s final.

“They’re always a great team and we played them earlier in the round robin and they got us there, so we wanted to come out and play well,” said Jones, who earned her record fifth Players’ title in 2014 when the event was held in Summerside, P.E.I. “We weren’t as sharp as we’d like to be, but kind of hung around and found a way to win that game. We really had to grind that one out.”

Jones didn’t get off to a good start giving up a steal of one in the first, however, she bounced back with an amazing shot to get a three-count in the second.

Muirhead drew for two in the third and stole one in four to grab a 4-3 lead when Jones made a double raise but couldn’t connect on the third and went past Muirhead’s counter.

Jones got her single in the fifth to tie it and stole one in six as Muirhead’s last came right down on top of Jones’s counter that stayed for shot rock. Muirhead’s final throw in seven rolled heavy for another steal as Jones went up by two at 6-4 heading into the final frame.

Muirhead held the hammer coming home in eight, but misfired her last to only count one.

The 2014 Olympic gold medallist Jones said the ice was a little tricky as curlers had some issues on that particular sheet throughout the day.

“It had some straight spots and we just couldn’t figure out the speed on the ice,” Jones said, “but we’ll have to be sharper tomorrow.”

Jones will play Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni, who dispatched Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., 7-3.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg hammered her last shot in the eight end to secure the winning single and knock out top-seed Tracy Fleury of Sudbury, Ont., 6-5.

“I like throwing the bullet so that was nice,” Hasselborg said with a laugh.

Hasselborg took control in the first without hammer as Fleury faced a pair in the four-foot circle and rubbed and rolled off with her last to give up a steal of two. After Hasselborg hit a guard with her last in the second, Fleury took the lead on a draw for three.

Hasselborg blanked the third end and made a tap for two in the fourth to go up again. Fleury made a great one in the fifth running back two rocks and then pinballing the others to get her single to tie it 4-4.

Singles back-and-forth in six and seven kept things tight 5-5 heading into the final end.

“It was a solid game throughout,” Hasselborg said. “We controlled the ice and everyone was playing great, so it feels awesome.”

It was the second game of the day for Hasselborg, who needed an extra-end win over Allison Flaxey of Caledon, Ont., in the morning’s tiebreaker round to qualify for the playoffs.

Hasselborg goes up against Val Sweeting in the semifinals after the Edmonton skip stole her way into the lead and then held on late picking up a 4-3 extra-end win over Ottawa’s Rachel Homan to oust the reigning world champion.

Trailing 2-1, Sweeting stole one in six to tie it and swiped another in seven to pull ahead. Homan was held to one in eight to force OT. Sweeting hit and stuck for shot rock with her first skip stone in the extra and didn’t need to throw her second as Homan missed the mark.

Defending men’s champ Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., plays Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen and Sweden’s Niklas Edin goes up against Scotland’s Kyle Smith in the men’s semifinals. All four semis go down Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. Watch on Sportsnet and online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or (international).

NOTES: The WestJet Players’ Championship is the fourth and final major of the season. It’s also the penultimate event of the 2016-17 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season. … The season wraps up with the Humpty’s Champions Cup, April 25-30 in Calgary. Teams must win a high-profile event over the course of the year to qualify. All four remaining women’s teams have their berths locked up while just Smith on the men’s side needs to win the Players’ Championship to earn a spot with Gushue, Edin and McEwen already in with previous title victories. … The Rogers Grand Slam Cup, awarded to the overall season champions, will also be awarded following the conclusion of the WestJet Players’ Championship.