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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

#BetweenTheSheets: Time To Give Thanks
Multiple big curling events highlight the long weekend



Can you believe we are already at the Thanksgiving long weekend?  Ok for those outside of Canada, this weekend is our Thanksgiving holiday (Monday October 12 to be exact).  Time is flying just as fast as a Jason Gunnlaugson take out.  Seriously, YouTube Gunner and just see how fast he can shoot a rock down the ice.  Gunner is not just a play on his last name, his take out throws are literally like a bullet shooting from the barrel of a gun.

Last week saw many of the top men's and women's teams take some time off to refresh heading into this weekend's action.  Don't let that fool you into thinking there was not some outstanding curling happening.  Let's take a #GunnerRunback look into last week's action:

In Basel, Switzerland, Canada's Brad Gushue continued his red hot streak to the season, defeating a strong international field en route to the Swiss Cup Basel.  With the likes of Ulsrud, Murdoch, Kauste, Brewster competing, who did Gushue beat in the final?  The always dangerous Dutch team of Jaap van Dorp.  Go back to my preview last week though and see why I named him a dark horse.  This Dutch team is turning heads in European curling...and #TwineTime told you it would happen!

At the Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic in Vernon, B.C. we saw the return of two-time defending Brier champs Team Simmons on the ice for the first time this season and what a debut as they took home the championship, defeating in the final another team on a streak this season, B.C.'s own Dean Joanisse.  On the women's side, the newly formed line up for Saskatchewan's Stef Lawton seems to be clicking as they defeated the former Heather Nedohin (now Chelsea Carey led) team in the final.

The Avonair Cash Spiel in Edmonton brought an Asian domination on both the men's and women's draws.  On the men's side, Korea's Soo-Hyuk Kim defended his 2014 title besting Robert Collins in the final.  For the women, an all-Asia final saw China's Jie Mei defeat Japan's Rina Ida for the title.

On the east coast in New Glasgow, N.S., Suzanne Birt celebrated her birthday weekend with an undefeated weekend, defeating Colleen Pinkney in the final.  While on the men's side, Jamie Murphy defeated Shawn Adams to win the Sobey's Classic.

The #TwineTime predictions for last week came in hot once again I would say.  Gushue claiming the win in Basel maybe was predictable, but calling van Dorp and Sterjne as qualifiers proved to be solid picks.  Edmonton proved to be a success with Kim winning the men's side and Ida making the final.  Similar success in New Glasgow with Birt claiming victory and Adams making the final.  I may have come up short in my prediction's in Vernon but accurately calling 7 of the 8 qualifiers on the women's draw is not too shabby.

With most of the top teams in last week's #PowerRankings taking the week off, we should see little change in this week's updated rankings.

MEN

  1. Brad Gushue (LW: 1)
  2. Mike McEwen (2)
  3. Brad Jacobs (3)
  4. Kevin Koe (4)
  5. Glenn Howard (5)

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

  • Gushue went across the pond and took care of business picking up another title.  He cements himself into that top position.  It looks like he is there to stay for awhile.
  • The remaining Top 5 teams took the week off.  With the inactivity of the honourable mention crews as well, little justification could be made for any movement.
  • Team Simmons did crack the honourable mention list this week.  In their first event of the season they come through with a championship.  The ranking committee, #TwineTime, cannot ignore the strong season debut.  They may be hard pressed to stay there though given the light tour schedule they have planned.

WOMEN

  1. Rachel Homan (LW: 1)
  2. Eve Muirhead (2)
  3. Alina Paetz (3)
  4. Jennifer Jones (4)
  5. Silvana Tirinzoni (5)

Hon. Mention: Team Sweeting, Team Kim, Team Sigfirdsson, Team Lawton

  • The Top 5 all stay the same, given their inactivity over the past weekend.
  • Stef Lawton's Saskatchewan team moves into honourable mention consideration with their win in Vernon.  They survived a high quality field, including knocking off Chelsea Carey in the final RR game and in the championship.  

Disagree with the #TwineTime men's power rankings?  There is still time to cast your vote for the team you think should be ranked at the top of the list.  Voting is open and can be found on the blog home page.  Heading into Week 8, it appears we have a close 2-team race at the top of the fan vote between Brad Gushue and Mike McEwen, with Goo receiving 42% of the vote followed by #redpants 28%.  Add your vote today!

Week 8 brings a few major events to the table on both the men's and women's tours.  While you are sitting down to enjoy some turkey, stuffing and pie with your family, give thanks to the outstanding curling going on across the country....and to the many athletes you cheer and support on a weekly basis who are unable to enjoy the holiday with their loved one's.  Throw some support their way and maybe take the family out to the curling club if you live in one of the host cities for this weekend's spiels.  Cheer on the teams, maybe buy them a coffee or beverage of choice and give thanks to them for entertaining us all season.

Let's head into tour life predictions for 4 men's and women's events:

MEN

Direct Horizontal Drilling Fall Classic

Edmonton, AB

2014 Champion: Kevin Koe

Format: 24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered:  Team Koe, Team Laycock, Team Bottcher

Dark Horse Candidates: Team Charley Thomas could be a surprise threat to win this title.  Thomas should not be a surprise name to most curling fans, being the 2006 & 2007 Canadian and World Junior Curling Champion.  Thomas also is the defending Canadian Mixed Doubles Champion.  This guy knows how to win.  Stepping back into the skipping position after playing vice last year with Brock Virtue, Thomas and his new rink have found early success to the season.  Their 2 events to start the season have seen a QF berth at the Point Optical in Saskatoon (l. to Laycock) and a SF showing at the HDF Insurance Shoot Out in Edmonton (l. to Bottcher).  These guys could give the top teams in Alberta a run come the Boston Pizza Cup in February.



What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  The International contingent hitting the ice.  With a mostly Alberta field competing this week, watch out for the international teams to surprise the home province rinks.  Led by USA's Brady Clark and Japan's Yusuke Morozumi, both of these teams have already found success on tour and are big-name competitors on the world level.  I would not underestimate Korea's Soo-Hyuk Kim either, coming off a win here in Edmonton just last weekend.  They have strong momentum on their side.  And be weary of Norway's Markus Hoiberg.  You may not be familiar with the team from Oppdal, Norway but they arrive in Edmonton off a successful QF showing at the Swiss Cup Basel, where they qualified from the A side and beat Brad Gushue in their opening game.

Qualifiers: Team Bottcher, Team Laycock, Team Koe, Team Thomas, Team Clark, Team Lyburn, Team Kim, Team Korte

Championship: Team Laycock over Team Koe


Stu Sells Toronto Tankard

Toronto,ON

2014 Champion: Reid Carruthers

Format: 29 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Gushue, Team McEwen, Team Jacobs, Team Howard, Team Edin

Dark Horse Candidates:  I commented on this skip's return to the curling ice a few weeks ago and..BOOM...he won the title in Kitchener-Waterloo.  China's Rui Liu may not be considered a dark horse because of his international experience but given his brief hiatus from the sport and returning this season, the quick successful results may not have been anticipated.  Liu is a 2-time Olympian, 6-time Asian-Pacific Champion and has competed at 5 World Championships.  His draw is going to be tough, starting with fellow Olympian Chris Plys and, should he win, Mike McEwen.  This team is capable of playing with the best though and could just knock some of the top teams off.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  Can the top teams continue to dominate the tour and further the gap between those in the Top 10 and those in the Top 30?  Teams like the Gushue's, McEwen's, Jacobs', Edin's of the world are expected to go out and win games and qualify for the playoffs.  The question is whether those teams in the second tier can knock off the big boys?  Can teams like Epping, Kean, Plys, Casey, Adams step up their game and become serious threats?  This is the perfect event to see just how close, or how far, the gap is between those at the top and those looking to climb the ranks.

Qualifiers: Team McEwen, Team Gushue, Team Jacobs, Team Edin, Team Howard, Team Shuster, Team Liu, Team Carruthers

Championship: Team McEwen over Team Jacobs

St. Paul Cash Spiel

St. Paul, MN.

2014 Champion:Mike Farbelow

Format: 20 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team McCormick, Team K. Dropkin

Dark Horse Candidates:  Previous weeks I have commented on the upcoming junior teams making their mark on tour.  This event should be no exception with Korey Dropkin's rink competing.  These guys might still be young but they are quite capable to hang with the best.  Dropkin has represented the red, white and blue in 2 world junior curling championships (2012, 2013) as well as the 2013 Winter Universiade.  Dropkin also won his first tour event last season (Twin Cities Open).  Like many great upcoming curling teams, the question is not if he will win more often on tour but WHEN?  Last year at this event, Dropkin lost the final.  Can he do one better this year?  Also worth noting, Korey's older brother, Stephen, whom he competed with at the 2012 world juniors, will also be skipping his own team this weekend.  




What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  This is a great opportunity for many American curling teams to gain valuable points with the absence of top teams Shuster, Clark, Brown and Plys.  The draw is scattered with a good mix of experienced veterans and young and upcoming teams.  For those following the growth of the sport in the US, this is a great event to start seeing who could challenge for a US title and, ultimately, perhaps begin gaining ground and confidence towards the Olympic qualification process.

Qualifiers: Team McCormick, Team S. Dropkin, Team K. Dropkin, Team Birr, Team Farbelow, Team McCannell, Team Burgess, Team Bahr

Championship:  Team K. Dropkin over Team McCormick


Bud Light Men's Cashspiel

Halifax,NS

2014 Champion: New Event

Format:  12 team round robin with 6 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: None

Dark Horse Candidates:  This event is WIDE OPEN.  With none of these teams cracking the Top 75 of the world rankings, anyone could end up taking this title home.  Dark horse favorites of the past Jamie Danbrook and Stuart Thompson could be teams to keep an eye on to surprise some of the more experienced teams.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  Similar to the event in St. Paul, with the top Nova Scotia men's teams skipping this event to play elsewhere (or taking the week off), this is a great opportunity for those Tier II teams in the province to get a few more wins under their belts.

Qualifiers:  Team MacDougall, Team O'Leary, Team Dexter, Team Danbrook, Team Thompson, Team Darragh

Championship:  Team MacDougall over Team O'Leary

WOMEN

Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Curling Classic

Calgary, AB

2014 Champion: Jennifer Jones

Format: 32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered:  Team Homan, Team Jones, Team Sweeting, Team Lawton, Team Carey, Team Rocque

Dark Horse Candidates:  There is a very dangerous Winnipeg team in the draw this weekend.  No, I am not talking about Jennifer Jones.  Nope, not thinking about Kerri Einarson.  Not even former Canadian and World Champion Cathy Overton-Clapham.  The dark horse team I would be watching is Michelle Montford.  This rink has been flying perhaps a bit under the radar to start the season but this could be their coming out party for the year.  A strong QF showing at the Tour Challenge was perhaps overshadowed with fellow 'Peg team Einarson winning the event.  A few weeks ago Montford took home their first title of the year at the Mother Club Fall Curling Classic in Winnipeg.  The team dominated their competition, including two victories over Einarson.  They should not be taken lightly and could quickly pass Einarson and McDonald as the favorites to win the Buffalo this season.  A R2 match up with Rocque and potential R3 date with Homan/Lawton will provide a good eye test to where this team is in comparison to the top teams.  I'd put stocks on them now though while the listing price is still low and under the radar.  The Montford price could sky rocket by Thanksgiving Monday.


What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): Can the #HomanTrain continue to roll along the track of champions?  Winning 2 of your opening 3 events for the season makes you the team to watch...and sits you on top of the #PowerRankings...for a reason.  Ok sure, Homan did not win the Tour Challenge but they did make the playoffs.  The other two events, Stu Sells Oakville and Stockholm Ladies Cup, they were flawless.  The draw was not so kind to Homan though here in Calgary.  She has a winnable opening game vs. Jessie Kaufman but then it gets tricky.  She could see last week's tour winner Stef Lawton in R2 with a potential for Rookie Team of the Year candidate Kelsey Rocque in R3.  Should she survive those games, awaiting her on the other side of an A qualifier could be Chelsea Carey, Shannon Kleibrink, Chantelle Eberle or the dreaded rival...Val Sweeting.  Things will not be easy for Homan this weekend.  But the way this team is playing, I don't think they mind it one bit.

Qualifiers: Team Homan, Team Jones, Team Sweeting, Team Lawton, Team Jaeggi, Team Fleury, Team Carey, Team Rocque

Championship:  Team Homan over Team Sweeting

Women's Masters Basel

Basel, SUI

2014 Champion: Binia Feltscher

Format: 24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Muirhead, Team Paetz, Team Sigfridsson, Team Feltscher, Team Sidorova, Team Middaugh, Team Tirinzoni

Dark Horse Candidates:  Germany's Daniela Driendl might be underestimated given the strong field but I wouldn't overlook them completely.  Controversy surrounded the team last year when the German federation selected Driendl to represent Germany at the world championships in Sapporo, Japan instead of German champion, and two-time world champion, Andrea Schoepp.  Driendl handled the pressure situation quite well, finishing with a 4-7 record.  One of her wins was besting Sweden's Sigfridsson.  This team will not be shy against any of the big names on tour and has shown they can complete, as proven by the qualifying at the Oakville Fall Classic earlier this season.



What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  This is a very strong international line up competing in Basel.  At first glance of the teams competing, there is easily 10-14 teams who are strong enough to compete for qualifier spots at any event on tour this season.  Only 8 teams will qualify at this event.  With so many high quality teams competing, who will be the disappointing team(s) this week?  Just a quick glance at the top teams mentioned above and you count up 7 right there.  Upsets are bound to happen, top teams don't always win and this field may just become a dog eat dog by the end.  Who will survive?

Qualifiers: Team Sidorova, Team Tirinzoni, Team Muirhead, Team Paetz, Team Sigfridsson, Team Feltscher, Team Hasselborg, Team Wrana

Championship: Team Muirhead over Team Sigfridsson

St. Paul Cash Spiel

St. Paul, MN

2014 Champion: Aileen Somunen

Format: 10 team round robin with 5 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Sinclair, Team Roth

Dark Horse Candidates:  The continued junior revolution could strike twice in St. Paul.  Corey Christensen is only 20 years old but has a national junior title to her credit (2012).  At last year's nationals, she finished tied for top spot in the round robin with an 8-1 record only to lose the 3vs4 playoff game to eventual finalist Patti Lank.  She has a few years of tour life under her belt as well, including her first title back in 2013 in Blaine, MN.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  This is almost a preview of what to expect come the US National Championships.  Sure not all the top US female teams are competing but this is a strong preview field.  The team who comes away with a victory this weekend has to be considered an early favorite to grab the national championship in February.

Qualifiers: Team Sinclair, Team George, Team Roth, Team Christensen, Team Meechai

Championship: Team Sinclair over Team Roth

New Scotland Clothing Ladies Cashspiel

Halifax, NS

2014 Champion: New Event

Format: 12 team round robin with 4 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered:  None

Dark Horse Candidates:  Similar to the men's draw, the top Nova Scotia women's teams are missing in action...as are the other top Maritime teams.  This will prove to be a perfect opportunity for an up and coming team to gain valuable experience and perhaps pull off a few victories.  Look for former Nova Scotia junior champion Mary Fay and New Brunswick breakout team led by Shannon Tatlock to turn some heads this week.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  Welcome back Colleen Jones.  The 2-time World Champion and 6-time Canadian champion hits the sheets for the first time this season.  With trusty teammates Kim Kelly at vice and Nancy Delahunt at lead, this team will always be a team to watch whenever they step onto the ice for an event.  These ladies are capable of playing with any of the teams in this field.  Don't discount them and think their glory days are behind them.  They have a legit shot at qualifying at this event.

Qualifiers: Team Tatlock, Team Dwyer, Team Jones, Team Fay

Championship: Team Tatlock over Team Jones

#TwineTime will be up in Edmonton celebrating the wedding of a great friend this weekend.  In fact, the wedding of a great friend who helped guide and support me towards starting this blog over a year ago (#ThanksMel).  If I get the opportunity, I plan on checking out the Direct Horizontal Drilling Fall Classic as well and see some great curling action live and in person.  You may want to jump over to CurlingGeek on Friday and check out some live coverage of a few draws.  Also a great opportunity to talk curling with myself and other fans.

As this is the time of year to give thanks, I would like to do so.  I would like to thank each and every one of you who takes the time to read this blog.  When I started the #TwineTime blog over a year ago, I never thought people would actually read it and follow along.  I started the blog because of my passion for sports, one of which being curling.  To discover over the past year curling fans around the world have shared my joy for the sport by reading along is overwhelming. 

I am thankful to CurlingZone for placing my curling blog posts on their website.  I am thankful to SparkSports for picking up the blog posts and helping grow the sport to other sports-minded individuals around the world.  I am extremely thankful for the curling athletes themselves who have reached out and tweeted or retweeted my posts and offered words of support.  I never thought the athletes I watch and blog about would turn around and be supporters and fans as well.  It is truly humbling, overwhelming and exciting.  

Let's continue this ride for as long as possible. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!