NORTH BAY, Ont. — When the North Bay Memorial Gardens had emptied out and with the midnight hour approaching, two members of the Canadian team returned to the ice for a late-night practice session.
Their perfect round-robin record at the world women's curling championship didn't matter. Skip Jennifer Jones and lead Dawn McEwen wanted to come out and throw a few more stones.
It certainly wasn't required for the top-ranked team in the world, especially with an early alarm clock beckoning. But it does speak to the drive and work ethic of Jones and her Winnipeg team.
"She's always seeking perfection but she inspires that within her athletes as well that play for her," said national team coach Elaine Dagg-Jackson.
Canada returned to the ice Thursday morning for an 8-7 win over Russia's Victoria Moiseeva.
Jones had the hammer in the final end and drew to the four-foot ring for the win. The stone was a little heavy out of her hand but slowed down just in time.
"That wasn't my best game for sure but we made some big shots and managed to score more points than them and pull out a win," Jones said.
Canada extended its winning streak to 10 games in the evening with a 14-6 victory over Italy's Diana Gaspari.
Jones and Olympic champion Anna Hasselborg of Sweden secured playoff spots in the morning draw. Hasselborg later improved to 10-1 with a 9-8 extra-end victory over Russia.
South Korea's EunJung Kim (7-3) also locked up a playoff berth with a 9-5 win over Japan's Tori Koana. American Jamie Sinclair defeated Germany's Daniela Jentsch 7-5 in the other evening game.
Round-robin play continues through Friday night. The top six teams will advance.
The United States and Russia were tied in fourth place at 6-4. The Czech Republic's Anna Kubeskova was 5-5 while Japan, China's Yilun Jiang and Switzerland's Binia Feltscher were 4-6.
Canada's morning victory capped a tough three-game stretch that included wins over South Korea and Sweden.
"I think it's really good that Team Canada gets challenged," Dagg-Jackson said. "We don't want to be walking through this thing."
Late-night practice sessions are usually an opportunity for team alternates to throw or match stones with the coaching staff. Sometimes roster players will come out to tinker with things.
McEwen threw about a dozen stones and talked with Jones before leaving the ice with more confidence, Dagg-Jackson said. Against Russia, McEwen led the Canadians by shooting 95 per cent.
Russia had a 90-89 edge in overall shooting percentage and gave Canada all it could handle.
"To be honest it seems like every team is playing really well against us," Jones said. "You don't really look at who you play, we just want to play as well as we can heading into the playoffs."
After Canada opened with a single, Moiseeva had a chance for a deuce in the second end but settled for one when her split attempt was thick.
Canada moved ahead with a pair in the third end but Moiseeva came back with a single in the fourth and stole a point in the fifth when Jones ticked a guard.
The teams exchanged three-point ends after the mid-game break. Jones drew the button in the sixth but was heavy with a freeze attempt in the seventh to let Russia draw for three.
Canada used a hit to score one in the eighth, missing out on a second point after a measure. Russia used hammer to pull even in the ninth before the tense final end.
"They're not taking unnecessary risks, they're trying to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves," Dagg-Jackson said of the Canadians. "But they're not getting into a panic or worrying too much if they don't get those extra points.
"As long as you're in a position to win the game, it's good, it's fine."
Canada wasn't threatened after stealing a deuce in the fourth end against Italy. Gaspari wrecked on a guard in the fifth to give Canada three more points.
The top two seeds will qualify for the semifinals while the remaining playoff teams will meet in qualification games Saturday morning.
The medal games are set for Sunday. Ottawa's Rachel Homan won gold at last year's world championship in Beijing.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press