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Wednesday, 5 November 2014


"Being Tight & Heavy" is A-OK in Curling

Things you learn while watching Grand Slam curling action over the weekend.  The Masters wrapped up this past weekend and what a tournament.  We had drama, excitement, upsets, a shot of the year candidate and some awesome celly action.  Halloween theme ran over the event as well with black and orange rocks used on Friday and some awesome looking burnt sienna pants on Saturday and Sunday.  Here is a quick summary:

Drama:  Poor Team Sweeting.  On the eve of the event, vice-skip Andrea Kelley decides Alberta is not the place for her.  She packs up, leaves the team before the biggest event of the year and heads back to New Brunswick.  Obviously a lot of speculation on this decision, none of which I will address.  This is a prime example of the personal side of these athletes that the rest of the world doesn’t need to know.  Whatever the reasons, all the best to Andrea as she will have to re-create a team in NB.  Val and team was able to find super-spare Cathy Overton-Clapham to take her place...and the end result seemed to make everyone happy (more on that in a second).

Excitement:  What not to love about this event?  We had men’s and women’s games going on at the same time.  In fact, the two semi-final matches for both sexes happened on the same draw.  All credit to Sportsnet for giving each game as best an equal follow as possible.  Many people did not like the sheet hoping but given it was the semi-final games, good attempt and good idea.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more sheet hoping from time to time.

Upsets:  Of the 4 finalists, I would think only Team McEwen were expected to be there.  Team Gushue was considered a team to watch but not a favorite I would say.  They went into the final with something to prove though and game Team McEwen only their 3rd loss of the season and halted a spiel winning streak.  Was Gushue expected to be in the final? Perhaps.  Expected to knock off Mike and the boys in the final? Not at all!  All the credit to the boys from the Rock!  The women’s final was a complete shock.  Sure the ladies from Sweden are well-known and have outstanding results but they haven’t been dominant this season and, against this field, it was a bit of a shock to see them beat Team Jones in the semi.  The ultimate upset goes to Team Sweeting.  Given how the weekend started (see above), not many would have expected them to be last team standing.  Sure enough, as if written by Disney, Team Sweeting overcomes losing a player, finding a replacement, trying to beat the best in the world and walk away with a Grand Slam title.  I did expect them to qualify, but that was with Kelley as their 3rd.  When she left, I thought they were in trouble.  They proved all the doubters wrong and played an outstanding semi-final vs two-time champs Team Homan and knocked off Team Sweden in the championship.  Congrats to them!  Lesson to all, don’t underestimate Val (or maybe continue to do so, she may thrive in that role more).

Shot of the Year:  If you did not see Mike McEwen’s shot for 4....well you missed something incredible.  The video of the shot has gone around social media for days now but in case you still have not had the chance (or want to relive the shot and the celly) take a look HERE!  Plus, check out those burnt sienna pants!

As curling fans catch their breath and calm their heart rates after the excitement of last weekend, many teams are right back on the ice this weekend.  Life on the tour doesn’t stop after one big event.  Here is what to expect on the men's tour this weekend.  I will have a preview of the upcoming big event in Saskatoon on the ladies tour later today.

MEN

The men have two big events in Week 11.  One in Swan River, MB (man there are a lot of events in Manitoba!) and one in Cookstown, ON.

Whites Drug Store Classic (Swan River, MB)

Minus the often questionable name of this tour stop, there are many outstanding teams playing in Swan River this weekend. 

Favorites: 

Team Stoughton (15 overall/10 YTD ranking) – Fresh off a QF appearance at the Maters, where they battled through two tie-breakers before playing their QF game, Team Stoughton looks on track and seems due for a breakout win.  The only question might be stamina for this team.  They have been curling alot, they curled even more at the Masters and they are right back on the ice on Friday.  Could they be in need of a break or do they carry some positive momentum forward looking for their first win as a new team?

Team Carruthers (14/5) – The up and down Team of Reid.  I cannot imagine sitting at home, in Winnipeg so close to Selkirk, and watching the Masters on tv (or in person for some perhaps) was easy on these guys.  They must be anxious to get back on the ice.  The question is how they follow-up their SF result in Gatineau a few weeks back.  This season has seen them have a great result followed by a disappointing next event.  I think sitting on the sidelines last weekend will motivate these guys though.

Watch Out For:

Team Murdoch (10/12)– I am STILL waiting to see this team live up to their expected results.  The Olympic silver medallists have not had a great year at all.  While Team Jacobs seems to have little post-Olympic rust, these guys are in full need of a sand job.  I still have faith in them though and think they are due for a breakthrough, if they can just shake off the disappointment of last weekend.  They certainly cannot be disappointed with their draw.  All the major challengers are on the other half of the A-side.

Dark Horse:

Team Lyburn (48/27) – This team had a horrendous start to the season, failing to qualify in their first 4 events.  There was talk going into this season how these guys could be a dark horse in the race for the buffalo jacket but that talk quickly faded.  However, they pulled it together in Portage with a semi-final appearance.  They have had a few weeks off now but if they can replicate their game from Portage, they could take the favorites by surprise.  Tough draw could hurt them early on though.

Qualifiers:  Team Murdoch, Team Stoughton, Team Carruthers, Team Lyburn, Team Bitz, Team Marsh, Team Hartung, Team Sigurdson

Championship:  Team Stoughton over Team Murdoch

Cookstown Cash (Cookstown, ON)

Interesting point to note on this event.  This is a huge event with 30 teams participating.  The format for this event is a bit different than most on tour.  They will have 5 teams split into 6 divisions for the round robin portion.  12 teams will qualify for the playoffs, with the top 4 overall teams receiving a bye into the quarterfinals.  A team may have to play a total of 8 games in 4 days to win (including possible 3 games on playoff Sunday).

Favorites:

Team Epping (9/4) – Well, color me red rock embarrassed.  I predicted last week Team Epping would struggle at the Masters.  Yikes was I wrong!  A semi-final appearance would not be considered a struggle.  A few tough results going into last weekend but all seems to be corrected and these boys are back to winning.  Look for that to continue this weekend.  Interesting to note, this event has 30 teams playing with a format of 6 pools of 5 with 12 teams qualifying for playoffs.

Team Casey (18/14) – The islanders have put together a very good season and seem convinced they can make PEI a curling force.  Newly formed this season, they are coming off their 2nd runner-up finish last weekend in Halifax (their 1st was at the Shorty Jenkins Classic) and have qualified in 4 of their 6 events this year.  If these guys just avoid Stu Sells events (failed to qualify in Oakville and Toronto), they are a team to always look out for.

Watch Out For:

Team Kean (22/25) – This newly formed team started the season so strong at Stu Sells in Oakville, finishing in 3rd place.  After that event, there was a lot of expectations put on this team to have a good run this season.  Unfortunately results have trailed off and that talk of being a team to watch out for in Ontario is slowly dying off.  Failing to qualify in their last 3 events will cause that kind of reaction unfortunately.  But before we do a sell on this team, I think we give them another pass this weekend.  They have a favorable draw here.  If they can get a few W's under their belt and regain their confidence on the ice, I think this team could be playing well into the weekend.

Dark Horse:

Team Bowser (25/13) – Not familiar with them?  Me neither until a few weeks ago.  Up until watching this team in Gatineau, I thought Bowser was just Mario and Luigi's big nemesis.  Heck, didn't he still have the princess in his castle?  Mario and Luigi and Yoshi are not the only one's who need to watch out for Bowser, the rest of the curling tour should start taking notice.  Now I consider them a dark horse to win this weekend.  Coming off a 3rd place finish in Gatineau a few weeks ago, this team has qualified in 3 of their 4 events.  Not too shabby I would say.  They have a winnable draw as well to qualify.  Fire and ice seem to mix nicely!

Qualifiers: Team Heggestad, Team Kean, Team Plys, Team Epping, Team Casey, Team Bowser, Team Corner, Team Bonot, Team Jakubo, Team Brown, Team Prebble, Team Irwin

Championship: Team Epping over Team Bowser

Enjoy the curling action this weekend......