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Friday, 2 October 2015


#BetweenTheSheets: Curling in the Club, Pumpkin Spice in Your Hand
World Curling Tour action heats up the ice for Week 7


The first month of the curling season has hit the record book.  As we enter the month of October, teams will no longer be concentrating on working out the kinks in their game.  Rather, teams should be focused on moving up the rankings, winning games, qualifying for playoffs and claiming championships.  From now until April 2016, expect to see teams push hard for positioning on the rankings.  Teams will want to do their best in the non-grand slam events in hopes of earning enough qualifying points to move up the rankings and be invited to the major #GSOC events.  The curling season is not a long one, especially in comparison to many other sports.  If teams are going to find success in their season, it starts now!
Some big teams stepped up to the challenge last week.  Let’s take a quick runback takeout on week 6:

The PointOptical Curling Classic in Saskatoon was the highlight event on the men’s tour.  Many top teams competed, including Mike McEwen, Brad Jacobs, Nik Edin and home province favourites Steve Laycock.  #Redpants reigned supreme on the Nutana ice once again with Team McEwen defending their 2014 championship, besting provincial rival Reid Carruthers in the final.  The home province boys didn’t disappoint though in making the semifinal round, losing a tough match to Carruthers.

Stockholm brought the best international women’s teams to the ice for the Stockholm Ladies Cup.  Canada claimed their first champion with top team Rachel Homan defeating Eve Muirhead in the championship.  Fellow Canadian competitors Jennifer Jones reached the SF round.  Strong representation from Sweden teams as well with 3 teams making the playoffs, highlighted by defending champion Margaretha Sigfridsson’s rink making the SF at their first event of the season.

In Winnipeg at the Mother Club Fall Curling Classic, David Bohn put an end to the #DynamoDunstone rink’s bid for a second title of the season, besting them in a tight extra end final.  Fellow junior teams JT Ryan and Braden Calvert also made the playoffs, with Ryan’s rink losing a tough SF to Dunstone.  On the women’s side, Michelle Montford destroyed the competition to pick up her first win of the season.  Montford’s rink averaged just over 7 points per game and included two victories over #TourChallenge champion Kerri Einarson.

At the KW Fall Classic in Kitchener-Waterloo, China’s Rui Liu made a big splash in his return to competitive curling winning the title at his first event event.  Liu looks ready to take the lead once again as the top men’s team from China and compete on the world stage once more.  Alison Flaxey’s team continued their hot start to the season.  Following up their runner-up finish at the Shorty Jenkins Classic the week prior, Flaxey would eliminate two-time defending champion Julie Hastings in the SF before besting American Erika Brown for the title.

The Appleton Rum Cashspiel (what a great name!) in Lower Sackville, N.S. brought some of the top Maritime teams together.  On the men’s side, Brent MacDougall spoiled the upset bid of young Jamie Danbrook in the final.  While the women’s side saw Theresa Breen stop the red hot Shannon Tatlock New Brunswick team in the final.  Both championship matches showcasing experience matters with the more experienced teams outgunning the up and coming teams. 

When we look at these results and compare them to last week’s #TwineTime predictions, not too bad of a result.  The most success came in Saskatoon with #TwineTime accurately predicting 7 of the 8 qualifying teams.  This prediction included calling a title win for McEwen and his #redpants brigade.    Correctly predicting 5 of the 8 teams in Stockholm, including Homan as champion, was another success.  Honourable mention success for predicting strong runs by Matt Dunstone, Jamie Danbrook and Alison Flaxey rinks at their events.

Based on the results noted above, will we see a shake-up in the #PowerRankings this week?  Last week saw little movement, let’s see where teams stand heading into this week:

MEN

1)      Brad Gushue (LW: 1)

2)      Mike McEwen (3)

3)       Brad Jacobs (2)

4)      Kevin Koe (4)

5)      Glenn Howard (5)

Hon. Mention: Team Carruthers, Team Laycock, Team Edin, Team Cotter

·         Gushue took last week off to prepare for this week’s event across the pond in Basel, SUI.  Can’t knock him off the top rung because of inactivity when they have been the hottest team on tour...so far.

·         #Redpants move up a spot with their championship win, which included a victory over previous #2 ranked Brad Jacobs.  Defending a title and beating a fellow power ranking team will also move you up the rankings.  Perhaps the gap between McEwen and Gushue is smaller than before...while the gap between McEwen and Jacobs/Koe widens.

·         Carruthers, Laycock and Edin continue to push hard towards the top of the rankings.  All three had outstanding results in ‘Toon Town, highlighted by Carruthers run to the final.  Any of these three teams could push Howard out of the Top 5 in the coming weeks.

WOMEN

1)      Rachel Homan (LW: 1)

2)      Eve Muirhead (2)

3)      Alina Paetz (4)

4)      Jennifer Jones (HM)

5)      Silvana Tirinzoni (3)

Hon. Mention: Team Sweeting, Team Kim, Team Sigfridsson

·         Stockholm featured a final between the top two teams on the #TwineTime power rankings...what more could you ask for.  The final supported the rankings with #1 Homan beating #2 Muirhead.  For now, these two teams seem solid at the top.

·         Paetz rebounds from a tough ending to the Canada trip with a strong QF appearance in Sweden, moving up a spot.

·         Jones apparently was very angry with #TwineTime bumping her from the Top 5 and took it out on her opponents in Stockholm.  The SF appearance, coupled with some amazing shots for massive scoring ends, moves the Jones team up to a season-high 4th, with my apologies for doubting the Olympic champs. 

·         Tirinzoni stays in the top 5, even with her tiebreaker loss in Sweden.  The #TourChallenge win still holds lots of weight and has them barely holding on. 

·         We have not seen Sigfridsson until this past week, making them unable to gain ground on the rankings.  Well they hit the ice finally and shot right up to Honourable Mention.  The SF appearance at home, as defending champions, at your first event of the season should put the top teams on notice.  Certainly put #TwineTime on notice!

Remember, if you disagree with the #TwineTime power rankings, have your voice be heard by voting on the blog home page for the men’s team you think should be ranked at the top.  Voting will be open for a few more weeks.  Don’t worry ladies, you will get your chance for a fan vote as well...stay tuned.

Week 7 will bring another busy week for many teams, with 4 spiels taking place on the men’s tour and 3 events on the women’s tour, with the highlight events taking place in Basel, SUI (men) and Vernon, BC.  Here we go with tour life predictions:

MEN

Swiss Cup Basel

Basel, Switzerland

2014 Champion: Tom Brewster

Format:32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Gushue, Team Ulsrud, Team Murdoch, Team Brewster, Team Casey, Team Michel

Dark Horse Candidates: There are many up and coming young teams competing at this event.  Many of these teams most curling fans have probably never even heard of.  I would pay particular attention to: Evgeniy Arkhipov (RUS), Kyle Smith (SCO), Rasmus Wrana (SWE), Jaap van Dorp (NED) and Sebastian Wunderer (AUT).  Arkhipov is a 2013 world junior silver medallist and recently picked up a silver at the 2015 Winter University Games.  Smith recently finished 3rd at the 2015 Winter University Games and is a past world junior champion (2013), incidentally beating Arkhipov in the final.  Also pay particular attention to van Dorp.  This Dutch team lost the Group B final to Finland’s Aku Kauste at the 2014 European Curling Championships...and look how far Kauste went after that.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): The Finnish Invasion!  Is Finland back to becoming a threat on the world stage?  Last year’s surprise 4th place finish by Finland’s Aku Kauste (#LongHairDontCare) at the world championship could be the start of a comeback.  In Basel, we will also see the long-time face of Finnish curling Markku Uusipaavalniemi back on the ice.  The longest name in the sport has been to 11 world championships and does own an Olympic silver medal (2006 Turin, l. to Gushue).  But yet even a 3rd team from Finland will be in Basel with Kalle Kiiskinen completing the Finnish trifecta.  Don’t count out the Fins....the red and white of Switzerland may turn blue and white by the end of the weekend.


Qualifiers: Team Gushue, Team Ulsrud, Team Michel, Team Kauste, Team Brewster, Team Arkhipov, Team van Dorp, Team Sterjne

Championship: Team Gushue over Team Ulsrud

Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic

Vernon, B.C.

 2014 Champion: Grant Dezura

Format: 12 team triple knockout with 6 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Simmons, Team Cotter, Team Joanisse

Dark Horse Candidates: Chase Martyn could be the surprise team of the event.  The team from New West, B.C. is coming off a runner-up finish at the Cloverdale Cash Spiel (l. Joanisse), including wins over strong B.C. teams Grant Dezura and Brent Pierce.  This is the first season at the skipping position for Chase and to make the final in your first event as a team has to build confidence going into the season.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): Team Canada back on the ice.  Team Simmons is coming off, according to some, a surprise repeat Canadian championship title at the 2015 Brier.  Vernon will be everyone’s first opportunity to see the back-to-back Canadian champs on the ice this season as they follow the trend of last year by playing a minimal tour schedule.  Last season the team struggled on tour with poor results but ended up with another Canadian title.  What can we expect this season?  Time to find out.


Qualifiers: Team Cotter, Team Simmons, Team Morozumi, Team Clark, Team Joanisse, Team Martyn

Championship: Team Cotter over Team Morozumi

Avonair Cash Spiel

Edmonton, AB

2014 Champion: Soo-Hyuk Kim

Format: 20 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Kim, Team Lizmore

Dark Horse Candidates:  Everyone!  Ok not everyone in this field is considered a dark horse but there are many teams competing who have never played in a provincial championship.  Some of these teams are brand new and some have never advanced out of regional playdowns.  Teams to perhaps keep an eye on though would be Team Steinke, Team Erickson and Team Cooper.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): Everything....this could be a total toss-up.  This event fields a relatively inexperienced crop of teams on the world curling tour level.  A solid performance this weekend in Edmonton could be the momentum and confidence many of these teams need heading into the season, where they will be faced with stronger opposition.

Qualifiers: Team Lizmore, Team Kim, Team White, Team Hanson, Team O’Connor, Team Steinke, Team Erickson, Team Webb

Championship: Team Kim over Team Lizmore

Sobeys Classic

New Glasgow, N.S.

2014 Champion: New Event

Format: 12 team round robin with 6 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Murphy, Team Stevens, Team Adams

Dark Horse Candidates: This is a bit of history repeating but last week I mentioned Team Jamie Danbrook as my dark horse candidate and the team made the championship final.  I am sticking with these boys this week.  Danbrook played outstanding last weekend, losing a tough final.  I think they will enter this event with a ton of confidence and momentum to build from and should be a dangerous team with a strong chance at taking home the victory. 

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): This really is a preview of the 2016 Nova Scotia Brier.  11 of the teams competing are from Nova Scotia and these should be teams we see fighting it out for the Brier purple heart.  Each of these teams will want to pay particular attention to their opposition, start knowing the strengths and weaknesses now.  The top teams will want to build momentum while the up and coming teams will be looking to find confidence they can hang with the big boys. 

Qualifiers: Team Stevens, Team Adams, Team MacDougall, Team Murphy, Team Danbrook, Team Kennedy

Championship: Team Adams over Team Stevens

WOMEN

Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic

Vernon, B.C.

 2014 Champion: Ayumi Ogasawara

Format: 28 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Carey, Team Lawton, Team Einarson, Team Scott, Team Kleibrink, Team Ogasawara, Team Jaeggi, Team Roque

Dark Horse Candidates: Corryn Brown’s Kamloops foursome should not be underestimated heading into this event.  The 20-year old has a Canadian Junior Championship to her name (2013), a Canada Winter Games gold medal (2011) and a bronze medal at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (2012).  This team is the defending B.C. junior champions, finishing with a bronze medal last year.  Last year also saw their breakout year on tour, where they picked up their first tour victory in early November 2014 at the Coronation Business Group Ladies Classic in Maple Ridge, B.C.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): Welcome back Cheryl Bernard!  Bernard hung up her curling slider after the 2013-14 season and recently has been found providing commentary for TSN during their Season of Champions broadcasts.  Well, this week she leaves behind the booth and grabs the broom once again.  The 2010 Olympic silver medallist will return to competitive curling for what appears to be a one-event opportunity.  She does have fond memories of Vernon though, winning this event in 2004, 2005 and 2010.  How will she fare against some of the strong competitive teams after being off the ice?


Qualifiers: Team Scott, Team Bernard, Team Lawton, Team Carey, Team Ogasawara, Team Einarson, Team Roque, Team Sinclair

Championship: Team Roque over Team Scott

Avonair Cash Spiel

Edmonton, AB

2014 Champion: Mari Motohashi

Format: 18 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team J. Kaufman, Team Hamilton

Dark Horse Candidates: Rina Ida’s Japanese rink could keep this championship in the land of the rising sun.  Ida is only 23-years old and is in her sophomore season of skipping duties.  But don’t undersell this team based on the lack of experience.  In their opening event of the season, at the Uiseong International in Uiseong, Korea, Ida made the playoffs and finished in 3rd place.  Ida also was the alternate on Ayumi Ogasawara’s Japanese team at the 2015 World Women’s Curling Championship.  She easily could be the future of curling in Japan.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  Similar to the men’s field in Edmonton, this is a wide open spiel.  Jessie Kaufman won the inaugural women’s event here in 2013 and could be a favourite to reclaim the title.  She has brought former Scotties finalist Erin Carmody onto the team after Carmody took a year off.  Carmody’s experience could lend a helping hand as vice.

Qualifiers: Team Liu, Team Mei, Team Ida, Team J. Kaufman, Team Hartwell, Team Hamilton, Team DeJong, Team N. Kaufman

Championship: Team Liu over Team Ida

Sobeys Classic

New Glasgow, N.S.

2014 Champion: New Event

Format: 6 team round robin with 4 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Birt, Team Bradley

Dark Horse Candidates: Jill Brothers could be the best bet for a home province win this weekend.  Brothers enters the event off a SF finish last weekend.  This is still a rookie season for this team but the results last weekend show lots of promise for a strong breakout year.  The addition of Sarah Murphy as vice this season could be a lethal combination for competitors.  Brothers could just become the dark horse team not only at this event but within Nova Scotia this year.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): It’s a Maritime battle: PEI vs. NS.  Which province will come out on top?  PEI sends their 2 strongest teams (Birt, Bradley) to battle 4 Nova Scotia teams.  I think the Islanders should come out on top this weekend as they have more experience.  Plus, Friday is Suzanne Birt’s birthday...what better gift than a spiel victory?


Qualifiers: Team Birt, Team Bradley, Team Brothers, Team Nix

Championship: Team Birt over Team Brothers

Before signing off, I would like to invite you all to check out the #TwineTime player interview blog posted earlier this week: #BetweenTheSheets with Jamie Koe.  I had the opportunity to sit down and talk about the upcoming season, relegation, curling in the historic #KoeKlan, beer and more.  In fact, check it out to see who Jamie names as one of the smelliest guys on tour.

Enjoy the outstanding curling action across the country...and across the pond...this weekend rock heads and stoners.  Continue to follow along with draw by draw results on CurlingZone and participate in the fantasy pick’em....see if you can best me (NitDuck).  See you next week...