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Monday, 28 September 2015

#BetweenTheSheets With Jamie Koe
#TwineTime talks curling, beer and more with N.W.T. champ


With the surprising success of the #TwineTime blog over the past year and continued support from the athletes themselves, this season it was time to elevate the small little blog to the next level.  The addition of weekly team #PowerRankings were a nice start but something was still missing to truly make this sports blog more exciting.  And then it hit me....get the players!

I am a curling fan like most of you.  But, probably unlike most of you, I have actually spent little time on the ice playing, save for playing with my grandparents on a mixed team for a few seasons when I was a kid.  However, I have spent many, many years watching (again usually with my grandparents).  Every time I would cheer for a player or a team as a kid I would always think what I would ask them if I ever met them in person and had a conversation.  Well, #fanboy time has arrived my friends.

Who better to conduct my first #TwineTime player interview with then Jamie Koe?  The 8-time Territories (Northwest Territories/Yukon) and defending Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) champion happened to have a layover in my city of residence and, through the magic of social media, I was able to connect with him and arrange a quick interview.  Koe is a pure beauty and a guy fans know all over the world.  It's time to go #BetweenTheSheets with the 9-time Brier participant, Jamie Koe:

#TwineTime (TT): Thank you Jamie Koe for taking the time for an interview.  The curling season has started.  How's your team looking for this year and what's your goals and plans?

Jamie Koe (JK): Our team is looking a little different.  We have a different line up with the rule change that you get one person out of province or territory so we added Chris Schille to our line up at third and we are pretty excited about that.  He is a pretty intense guy and I think that is what our team needs as we are 4 pretty laid back guys.  Nothing really fazes us but sometimes you need that guy to really rally you and get you going a bit.  He is a great player and we are really excited.  We don't get ice until mid-October so we aren't getting going here for awhile.  We have two spiels we are going to and hopefully we make it to the Brier again.  We would be in relegation so the goal is to get back into the Brier and get N.W.T. back into the Brier for the next year.

TT: Excellent. So quick thoughts on relegation then.  How do you feel about that?

JK: (laughing)

TT: I think we kind of know a little bit about how you feel.

JK: Yeah not a big fan of it obviously.  I just don't like how they do it.  How they bring the teams to the Scotties or the Brier and try to make you part of an event.  It's just kind of weird how you have teams that are part of the opening ceremonies that are already out and on their way home after that.  You are in an opening ceremonies for an event you are not even going to be playing in.  It is unfortunate to see the looks on those guys' faces for the last couple days while they are just sitting around watching the Brier and then packing to go home.  I know it happened to my sister (Kerry Galusha) when she made the final of relegation and seeing them on tv crying at the end of it and not being in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts was hard to watch.

TT: For sure.  It was probably one of the hardest moments for anyone to watch who follows the sport.  It was heartbreaking.

JK: Yeah, twitter kind of exploded after that.  I went a little irate on twitter after that too just doing my brotherly duties there. So for sure, I'm not a big fan of it.  But they changed it.  They want to get rid of relegation here in a couple of years after the next Olympics and I think that is the right decision.

TT: For sure.  In bringing up Kerry, and with Kevin being your brother, what's it like being part of the #KoeKlan?

JK: It's pretty exciting.  You always have someone to cheer for and that's the cool thing about being at the Brier.  Even if we aren't having our best year and are out of it, I can cheer on Kevin if he is there and they are generally in the playoffs typically so it's good to have something to cheer for at the end of the week.  With my sister, we actually played mixed for the first time last year.  We hadn't played mixed in about 8 years and she talked me back into it.  We went to mixed (Canadian Championships) and lost the Canadian final.  We just had a really good time.  It didn't work out with timing this year but it is something we are talking about getting back into and doing next year.  It's just a pleasure to play with her. She is a great player too so it's something we will look at and hopefully get N.W.T. on the board at one of these national championships.

TT: So then is there potentially a Koe run to the Olympics for mixed doubles?

JK: I don't know.  We have certainly talked about it.  I know the dates don't work for us this year but we just might try that for the future I think.  I think we both only have many a couple of years left to try for the Scotties and the Brier so that may be something we still do as a family with our wives and husbands and it would be a pretty cool trip to go down there and cheer us on.  It is definitely something we are looking at.

TT: So then is there competition if you guys go into mixed doubles?  Who does Kerry take?  Kevin vs. Jamie?

JK: (laughing) Yes who knows.  I think she is probably stuck with me as Kevin has a pretty full schedule as it is with curling.  I'm not sure his wife will let him at too many more events.  I know Kevin's wife, she is pretty dynamic on twitter as well.  You always know when it is curling season because she is posting a lot of tweets about what she is doing with the kids while Kevin is traveling across the country.  He spends the summer with his family but it is tough on them because he is always on the road in the winter.  It's tough on those big curling teams that are always on the road.

TT: For sure, for sure.  The one thing you touched on was your use of social media.  We have always heard, and especially see it on other professional athletes and other sports, about social media policies.  Curling doesn't really have that as much because you guys don't answer up (to an owner or GM) because you are individuals and a team.  What is your thought on social media usage?  Are you all for it to express how you want?  Or is there a time and a place where you need to pull back and how do you judge that for yourself?

JK: It's hard.  When we are at the Brier there is definitely a policy that we are supposed to watch what we tweet.  They are trying to protect the sponsors and everything.  All curlers are on twitter and social media, it's really good.  I think it's really brought the sport more highlights.  Whenever a curling event is on, you just go through your twitter feed and figure out what is going on.  It's really great.  Sites like CurlingZone and World Curling Tour posting live scores is great to see.  At the Brier, I understand you have to be a little careful and make sure all the sponsors that are paying all the money and putting their brand out there, you don't want to embarrass them.  At the same time, you need to find that balance where the players can say what they want if something went wrong.

TT: That's understandable.  What do you find with fan engagement on social media?

JK: Oh it's great.  You get a lot of support. A lot of people touching base with you. You get a lot of people following you and wondering what you are doing.  It's engaging.  You also get some young junior curling teams and just to get a tweet back or a retweet can make their day.  It's really cool that you can make somebody smile or make someone feel proud of something.  I really like it.  I really like engaging with the fans wherever I go.  It's probably my favorite part of the sport for me.

#TwineTime finally met Jamie Koe at the 2015 Brier in Calgary

TT: Yeah most definitely.  And you do a very good job with engagement on social media.  You are very active on it and I think the fans appreciate it as well.

JK: Yeah I try to be as interactive with them as I can.  They are paying money to buy tickets and cheering hard for us at the Brier as an underdog.  They are there so anything to help them enjoy the experience that much more is good for the sport.

TT: 100%.  How about some quick comments on the new format for the grand slam of curling?  How do you feel about how that has rolled out for this year?

JK: It's pretty unique.  I think it is going to be good.  There are so many more slams and more TV coverage.  It seems like last year it was really booming.  There was curling on TV all the time and you really see how good these teams are getting right now.  A couple of years ago we were competitive at the Brier.  I don't think much has changed in how we are playing but we had a tough year at the Brier this year.  The teams are just so good and you can tell how much more work they put into it.  From training to on ice practice to everything.  It's all they do...they are professional curlers.  We don't curl that much because our focus is on our families and our jobs so we are kind of part-time at it.  We still practice hard but the bar is really raised.  With the grand slams and all the TV coverage, I think it is going to get even better.  It bodes well for our Canadian teams, being at the World's or at the Olympics.  Hopefully it leads to more medals for Canada.

TT: You have had a pretty good career as a curler.  What would you say is your career highlight that you are most proud of?

JK: Probably the Brier in Saskatoon (2012) a couple of years ago when we made the playoffs.  We ended up playing against my brother which was pretty cool for my family.  My sister flew down.  It was my dad's birthday the day we both made the playoffs.  You just can't beat that story I don't think.  It was a pretty cool time.  We lost out to Kevin but we still got to cheer him on.  You just can't beat that.  It had been forever since an N.W.T. team made the playoffs at the Brier (Koe's team was the first since the adoption of the playoff format).  It was just a really dynamic year.

TT: Yeah, I always find whenever people talk about Brier highlights, that seems to be one match everyone seems to always talk about every year.

JK: Yeah, talking about twitter right? The old #KoevsKoe game.  It was exploding on twitter.  It was all about #KoevsKoe.  I don't think it really hit us until we were about to start the game and they were announcing both teams.  You hear the skip's names and it was Kevin Koe and Jamie Koe.  That's kind of when it hit me, this is something we might never get the chance to do again.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Sharing that with your parents, on your dad's birthday, Kerry coming down last minute hoping it would happen...it was just phenomenal!

#KoevsKoe at the 2012 Brier with Papa Koe

TT: It was a very cool moment.  Now I know you are also a big golfer so if you could have a curling moment mulligan, what would it be for you?

JK: Hmm, a curling moment mulligan?  It would probably be back to that Brier (2012).  We were pretty close.  There were just one shot or two shots that were missed.  If I had a mulligan, I'd like to finally beat my brother at the Brier, which would be nice.  He hasn't been too kind to us.  They are such a good team.  I just want to beat him once so I can hold it over his head for once.

TT: So do you guys have a running total on win-loss for head to head?

JK: No, no.  Actually, we are about 0-4 or 0-5 because we don't go to the big events they go to.  The only time we really play them is at the Brier.  I can usually take him down on the golf course though so I got that.  But he has the curling.

TT: That's a fair trade I suppose.  You talk about not being on the tour as often as them, is that something that is a reflection of living in the Northwest Territories?  What is it like curling up there?

JK: It's totally different.  We have open leagues.  On our league night we could play anyone from a senior ladies team to just four beginners.  We don't get a lot of competitive games.  I think before we went to the Brier last year we only went to one spiel and I think we maybe played only 25 games in total.  It's just ridiculous to compare.  I think a team we talked to said they played over 200 or something like that.  It's just where we are at.  It's tough up there.  You have to take an extra day just for the travel.  We like to stick close to Edmonton, we are going to Red Deer and this year we are going to Morris, which is a littler farther than we typically go but the dates worked.  We are excited to be getting out a bit more than we normally do because we know we need to get out there and we need to play these teams a bit more just to get sharp and learn how to beat these teams at a high level.  In saying that, we are close to the rink.  We do a lot of practicing during our lunch hours.  You can be at the rink in 5 minutes.  It is similar to golf.  If the golf course is right there, you can take a quick break from the office and go practice curling or hit a bucket of balls.  That is an advantage to living up there.  We are right there.  We can practice anytime.  We have access to our club anytime.  Those are the advantages with the disadvantages of just not getting the competitive games.  It takes a lot out of us too.  We all have young kids.  It's hard to leave home for extra time and then you come back and you are working a lot.  You have to really balance it all with family and work.

TT: Work - life balance is very important, as you know.

JK: Absolutely!

TT: There is a good rumor that curlers seem to enjoy partaking in a beer every now and then.  I believe you would agree?

JK: Yup, absolutely.

TT: Fair enough.  So if we were able to turn over a cask to you and you were able to create your own beer, what would your beer be and what would you call it?

JK: Oh man, that's a tough question.  Ummm...

TT: That's what I'm here for.  I have to throw in at least one hard question for you here.

JK: Yeah.  Oh man.  It would be something around Bud Light.  Who knows, we could go with my nickname: JK.  We could have a JK brand of beer.  But it would be pretty similar to a Bud Light.  That is the flavor I like.  That is the fun thing about curling, it is a social sport too.  You are on the ice, you are competitive but after the game you can go have a beer with the other team.  That is just part of the fun, whoever wins buys the other team a beer or a round.  It gets us off the ice, in a nice environment and you can just talk with the other team and fans.  That's the one thing I really love about curling, the social atmosphere.  You get along with everybody.  It's like a curling family out there.

TT: (laughing) I feel like a JK beer would do very well at the Brier.

JK: (laughing) Yeah, who knows eh?

TT: I think you could make some good cash out of that one.  A new sponsor for you.

JK: Yup, make a few sales.

TT: Another question I have comes from John Cullen (lead for Team Joanisse).  John has done some great interviews with hockey players so I went to him and asked him if we could do an #AskTheCurler question.  If he could ask any curler any question, what would it be.  He responded he liked the idea and, since you are the first curler interview, you get to respond to John's question.  His question is "Who is the smelliest guy on tour you've been around?"

JK: (laughing) Who is the smelliest guy on tour I've been around?

TT: (laughing) Yup, so you can blame John for this one.

JK: Wow put me on the spot eh?

TT: Yup pretty much.

JK: Hmmmm.  I'm not too sure.  I know my man Benny Heebz (Ben Hebert, lead Team Kevin Koe) won't like this but he sweeps so hard he is always working up a sweat.  He is a hard worker and a hard sweeper.  His hard work pays off, as does his sweat...and maybe a bit of a stench.

The sweaty Ben Hebert? Hard working sweeper though
TT: (laughing) Nicely done to turn a potential negative into a positive.  I'm sure he will appreciate that at least.

JK: (laughing) For sure.

TT: So now it's only fair that you should get to do the next #AskTheCurler to the next person I interview, which will be Mark Kean.  What would be a question you would ask him?  Any question you want.

JK: Hmm, Mark Kean hey?  He is a good guy....gotta think of a question for Mark.  Ask him about his experience playing me at the Brier last year.  It was the last Friday morning game when we played them.  He probably has some interesting stories about that game.

TT: (laughing) Ok I will.  See what he has to say.  Thank you so much Jamie for taking the time to do this.  I really appreciate it.

JK: Thank you.  Anytime.

I have to admit it was great to just sit down, in a mall, and have a conversation with Jamie Koe.  I cannot thank him enough for being the first #TwineTime player interview.  If you are not doing so already, toss him a follow on twitter (@JKnwt).  You won't be disappointed.  Hopefully someday we can see those JK beers flowing at the Brier!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

#GameDay: Time To See Who The Real Contenders Are
Week 4 highlights PAC-12 games of the week with playoff implications



Well #TwineTime is back with the weekly dose of college football coverage.  After taking last week off due to extreme exhaustion (ok or just mismanagement of time...like so many college football coaches around the nation) it is time to get back into the swing of things.  After spending an evening celebrating fine beers at an Oktoberfest event and taking in some hockey, my attention is 100% back to college football.

Let's jump right into the #PowerRankings.  Each week #TwineTime will compare the AP Top 6 rankings with our own rankings and see where similarities...and differences...may fall.  For this comparison, the previous week ranking in parenthesis will be for Week 3 for AP BUT Week 2 for #TwineTime.  Yes yes I know I missed last week...let's move past it together though shall we?

AP                                                                         #TwineTime

1. Ohio State (1)                                                   1. Michigan State (NR)
2. Michigan State (4)                                            2. Baylor (2)
T3. Ole Miss (15)                                                 3. TCU (5)
T3. TCU (3)                                                         4. Ohio State (1)
5. Baylor (5)                                                         5. Ole Miss (NR)
6. Notre Dame (8)                                                6. LSU (NR)

As will become the norm I suspect throughout the season, we see some major differences.  Let's be clear on one thing though, because a team under the #TwineTime power rankings is listed as NR (not ranked) does not mean they were not highly considered as a top team.  The #TwineTime rankings each week only show the Top 6, not the full list of 25.  Perhaps I will get to that point in time but for now, let's just clear up that confusion right now.  Few points on the rankings:

  • Michigan State's victory over Oregon is what moves them up to the top of the rankings.  But as the week's go on, and the teams below Sparty start playing, and beating, stronger teams MSU will not be able to rest on the Ducks victory for long.  The issue for Sparty is going to be to continue winning their games.  The strength of schedule will not keep them as a top ranked team throughout the season, especially if teams right below them also keep winning.
  • I still have faith in the Big 12 power schools, Baylor and TCU.  Perhaps I am blinded by the hype but I stick by my faith in these two teams remaining unbeaten until their big match at the end of the season.  
  • With Alabama's loss to Ole Miss and Auburn looking like a pretender (which #TwineTime called), the state of Alabama is no longer the SEC power house many expected at the start of the season.  Great victory by Ole Miss but I still don't see them staying in the Top 6 for long.  If there is any team within the SEC capable, right now, of going the distance it is going to be LSU.  The Tigers seem to have the strongest team on both sides of the ball and could be the best hope for an SEC playoff championship run.  
  • Nope, still not buying into Notre Dame.  Sorry Irish fans.  I just started maybe buying into them a few weeks ago but with the piling up of injuries and the struggles they have had against inferior opponents, I am not convinced this is a playoff team.  Prove me wrong on the field of course.

Let's shift to the action on the field this week with the traditional weekly pick'em.  Week 1 saw a successful 88% winning percentage.  Week 2 was a bit of a different story, dropping to only a 77% accuracy rating.  Now, I should point out correctly predicting the winner 77% of the time out of 71 games is not too bad I would say.  Sure I missed a few upsets and made a few bonehead predictions but that is bound to happen every week.  Upsets happen....it is the reason we watch the games and enjoy the sport right?  An overall accuracy rating of 82% heading into Week 4 is pretty darn good.  Any of you doing better?  If so, the proof is in the pudding.  Go toe to toe with my picks anytime and let's see who comes out on top!  :)

Last Week (W2): 55-16 (77%)
Overall: 107 - 23 (82%)

GAME OF THE WEEK: (16) Arizona def. (9) UCLA - Easily the game of the week with HUGE playoff implications.  Both teams sitting at 3-0 with the winner of this game gaining the early upper hand in the race for the Pac-12 South division.  Playing in the desert is always tricky for higher ranked opponents, just ask Oregon.  This is going to be a nail biter.  I'm going with the slight upset and taking the Cats, led by Anu Solomon's late 4th quarter drive to win.

UPSET OF THE WEEK: Ball State def. (17) Northwestern - The 3-0 Wildcats are in the true definition of a trap game versus an unheralded MAC team.  Northwestern enters as a 19 point favorite at home but I expect a much closer game.  Ball State has some offensive weapon which could trouble the Wildcat D.  I expect a big game from Darian Green as the Cardinals complete the upset bid in Evanston.

Rutgers over Kansas - Still sticking with my belief of a few weeks ago listing Kansas as one of the worst teams in the nation.  This should prove it.

(8) LSU def. Syracuse - Possible trap game for the Tigers on the road vs. the undefeated Orange.  But I still have faith in my Top 6 power ranking for LSU and while Syracuse is having a nice start to their season, this is still barely a team worthy of a bowl berth come December.

Southern Miss def. Nebraska - Sorry Huskers fans but this team of yours has not looked good at all this season.  Southern Miss has a strong QB and is capable of putting up some high octane offensive numbers.  Given the big plays UN has conceded this season already, expect similar results in a close game down in Lincoln.

(20) Georgia Tech def. Duke - Again another ranked team on the road playing a pretty good team.  Tech is coming off the tough loss vs. Notre Dame.  They need to regroup and stay focused on the ACC race.  Tech should still be one of the favorites to win the conference and should brush aside a strong challenge from the Blue Devils.

(7) Georgia def. Southern - YAWN!

South Carolina def. UCF

(22) BYU def. Michigan - The Holy Mary plays for BYU ran out last weekend but I still support this team.  It will be tough on the road in the big house with Michigan coming off a nice win last weekend.  Expect another close game and, if there is any justice in sports, please let us see yet another last second TD score for the win for the Cougars.  I just love the excitement of watching this team play.

(2) Michigan State def. Central Michigan

Navy def. UConn - Navy aiming for the 3-0 start to the season.

Bowling Green def. Purdue

North Carolina def. Delaware

Indiana def. Wake Forest

Northern Illinois def. Boston College - The Huskies almost knocked off the top ranked Buckeyes.  If they don't suffer a post-loss emotional hangover from the win that got away, they can go into Chestnut Hill and escape with a much needed victory.

Colorado def. Nicholls State

Louisiana Tech def. Florida International

New Mexico def. Wyoming - Continuing last year's trend with the Pokes.  I pick them to win...they lose.  Now I am picking them to lose, so they will probably win at home.  Will we ever get along Wyoming?

West Virginia def. Maryland - Don't look now but if I am right here, the Moutaineers will be 3-0 on the season.  Dark horse candidate here?

(5) Baylor def. Rice

Iowa def. North Texas

Ohio def. Minnesota - Don't underestimate the MAC this season.  They have been playing the Power 5 conference teams quite competitive and the Bobcats are undefeated on the season right now.  The Gophers could find this as a trap game before entering Big 10 play.

(24) Oklahoma State def. Texas

Virginia Tech def. East Carolina

Tennessee def. Florida - I bought into the Orange juice a few weeks ago, expecting the Vols to beat Oklahoma.  For most of the game, it looked like I was correct.  Then the epic end of game meltdown and now Tennessee is again lost in limbo.  Florida is undefeated on the season after beating...AGAIN...Kentucky.  This is a pivotal SEC match up for both teams.  I think UT rights the ship and gets their season back on track.

Old Dominion def. Appalachian State

(6) Notre Dame def. UMASS - Mismatch!

(1) Ohio State def. Western Michigan

Penn State def. San Diego State

Miami (OH) def. Western Kentucky

(12) Alabama def. Louisiana-Monroe

Middle Tennessee def. Illinois

(3) TCU def. Texas Tech - Many calling this a trap game for the Frogs.  Expect a high scoring game here.  TCU enters as only a 5.5 pt favorite as both teams are 3-0.  This would be a HUGE upset win for the Red Raiders if they can pull it off.

Washington def. California

Eastern Michigan def. Army

Louisville def. Samford - Who would have thought this would be the first win of the season for the Cardinal?

(14) Texas A&M def. Arkansas - Remember when everyone was talking about how good the Hogs would be this season and how they could push for the SEC championship?  Yup, neither am I.  Those people have all gone silent.

(3) Ole Miss def. Vanderbilt - Are the Rebels for real?  We won't know much after this weekend when they beat up on the 'Dores.

UPSET of the Week 2.0:  James Madison over SMU - #TwineTime always loves seeing a FCS school beat one of the big boys.  This is a perfect opportunity to see it happen again.  James Madison is a legit threat for the FCS championship this season.  SMU is average at best.

Colorado State def. Texas San Antonio

Charlotte def. Florida Atlantic

Louisiana Lafayette def. Akron

Toledo def. Arkansas State

Mississippi State def. Auburn - Both teams already with one loss on the season and in conference play.  The loser of this game is all but eliminated from SEC championship consideration....and it is only Week 4.

(25) Missouri def. Kentucky - The SEC team who continues to win and continues to get no respect....just keep plowing along Mizzu.  Someday we will all recognize you as the SEC contenders you have been over the past few seasons.

NC State def. South Alabama - The Wolfpack could be 4-0 after this weekend.

UTEP def. Incarnate Ward

(22) Wisconsin def. Hawaii

Houston over Texas State - Chance for the Cougars to go to 3-0 on the season.

GAME of the Week 2.0:  (13) Oregon def. (18) Utah - Another big time Pac-12 match up as undefeated Utah steps into the always dangerous Autzen Stadium to try and dethrone the Ducks hopes for another Pac-12 title.  Expect a close game until half time but, as is usually the case in Eugene, UO pulls away in the 3rd quarter.

Georgia Southern def. Idaho

San Jose State def. Fresno State

(19) USC def. Arizona State - Could both L.A. schools be in trouble in the desert on a Saturday night?  Don't be surprised if the pitch forks come out strong in this one and the state of Arizona goes for the sweep of L.A. schools this weekend.  Yet again, the theme of the weekend it appears, expect a close game in the #Pac12AfterDark

Enjoy the action everyone...and my apologies for missing last week.  Feel free to share your thoughts and your picks with me in the comment section below or find me on twitter.  Have the cold beverages on ice and the chicken wings soaked in your favorite seasoning, with this slate of games, you will be glued to your tv with your butt on your couch all day Saturday.





Thursday, 24 September 2015

#BetweenTheSheets: Curlers Turn Up in ToonTown
Point Optical Curling Classic headlines A+ field

The World Curling Tour enters Week 6 action and teams SHOULD be feeling comfortable on the ice and ready to win the big events.  This week we still see a few teams hit the ice for the first time but, at this point, all competitive teams for the 2015/16 season should have some ice on their sliders by now.  As the tour really starts to rev up, we see more events every weekend and more opportunity to see which teams truly will be the teams to watch throughout the season.

Last week showcased big events in Edmonton, Cornwall/Brockville and Surrey.  Here is a quick recap at Week 5 action:

The HDF Insurance Shoot-Out in Edmonton brought out top teams from Western Canada.  Defending men’s champion Brendan Bottcher returned to the championship only to be denied a repeat title on home ice by Saskatoon’s Shaun Meachem rink.  We also saw success from new teams Charley Thomas and Bruce Korte, both reaching the semifinals.  On the women’s side, Edmonton’s Val Sweeting team picked up their first spiel win of the season defeating the slightly new Stef Lawton team in a Scotties championship calibre final.  Early season rookie of the year candidate Kelsey Roque continued her great run to the season with a semifinal showing.

The AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic split time between Cornwall (men) and Brockville (women).  In Cornwall, the top ranked team led by Brad Gushue continued their tear on tour picking up another championship, this time defeating Glenn Howard in an extra end.  Gushue’s win continued a trend we are seeing at this event with guys named Brad.  Brad Jacobs was the two-time defending champion but suffered a semifinal loss to his namesake.  Gushue kept the title in the Brad name though with his victory.  In Brockville, Team Kim from Korea continued to build off their Tour Challenge success winning their first tournament of the year besting past Ontario Scotties champion Alison Flaxey in the final.  This event also saw a strong welcome back from 8-time Quebec Scotties champion Marie-France Larouche, who finished third.

The Cloverdale Cash Spiel in Surrey provided curling fans a first look at many of the top teams from British Columbia.  On the men’s side, Dean Joanisse reclaimed his 2013 title defeating surprise finalist Chase Martyn.  Joanisse’s rink lost the BC final last season to Cotter and look to be back on track, ready to challenge for another BC title this season.  The women’s final saw a slight upset with Diane Gushulak besting defending BC Scotties champ Patti Knezevic.  Gushulak went undefeated at the event and perhaps has positioned herself as the slight early favourite for a BC title.

I must admit, Week 5 may be the best week of #TwineTime predictions we have ever seen....and perhaps will ever see.  Correctly predicting both Shorty Jenkins champions and Team Sweeting winning in Edmonton is pretty darn good.  #TwineTime even called Bottcher’s final appearance.  In fact, if we break it down more, #TwineTime nailed 5 of the 8 men’s qualifiers in Cornwall and 7 of 8 in Edmonton.  Perhaps this is just building momentum towards the next event we see a #TwineTime vs @NerdCurl pick’em challenge.  Getting worried yet Phil?  If not, you should be!

Based on the results in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, have we seen a shake-up in the Power Rankings?  Let’s take a look:

MEN

1)      Brad Gushue (LW: 1)

2)      Brad Jacobs (4)

3)      Mike McEwen (2)

4)      Kevin Koe (3)

5)      Glenn Howard (NR)

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

  • The Goo continues to play week in and week out and continues to win.  Add another title to the trophy case on The Rock.  The teams behind them are trying to close the gap but if Gushue continues playing at this level, they may just stay on top all season.
  • Jacobs moves up the rankings due to his strong semifinal showing in Cornwall and McEwen and Koe taking the week off.  As mentioned last week, right now all three of these teams could be a deadlock tie in the rankings behind Gushue.  Expect to see some movement amongst them most of the season I think.
  • Howard goes from off the rankings to Top 5.  And why not?  A slight adjustment to the rink in the off season with the addition of son Scott at lead and the team is quickly finding success.  A quarterfinal appearance at the Tour Challenge two weeks ago backed up by a finalist appearance in Cornwall, this team has come to play and it appears Howard is putting notice he is in it to win it again this season.  Incidentally enough, look who Howard has lost to in his past two events in the playoffs: Brad Gushue.  When your losses are to the top team, you still score major power ranking points.  The question is whether he can find the game to knock off the top teams ahead of him.  He does have a victory over Jacobs in Paradise and two wins over defending world champion Edin in Cornwall.  The stock is rising fast on the tour veteran. 
WOMEN

1)      Rachel Homan (LW: 1)

2)      Eve Muirhead (2)

3)      Silvana Tirinzoni (3)

4)      Alina Paetz (4)

5)      Val Sweeting (NR)

Hon. Mention:  Team Jones, Team Kim, Team Lawton, Team Fleury

  • Not a lot of movement amongst the top women’s teams as most took the week off.  Sweeting is rewarded for her hometown win over a competitive field and slightly knocks Jones out of the Top 5.  Team Kim from Korea is also charging hard to move up the power rankings and making a strong case for a truly international Top 5 in the coming weeks.
  • Lawton joins the honourable mention list with her strong performance in Edmonton and could be ready to make a push this season with the addition of Trish Paulson at vice.  Keep an eye on this team.

This week will see four spiels on both the men’s and women’s tour, with the big events happening in Saskatoon (men) and Stockholm, Sweden (women).  Here is what to expect in this week’s edition of tour life predictions:

MEN

Point Optical Curling Classic

Saskatoon, SK.

2014 Champion: Mike McEwen

Format: 26 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team McEwen, Team Jacobs, Team Edin, Team Laycock, Team Carruthers, Team Bottcher

Dark horse candidates: Team Meachem comes home after a spiel win in Edmonton.  On their championship run last week, Meachem picked up big wins over King, Kim, Korte and Bottcher in the final.  Even more amazing, this team started the event 0-2.  The confidence as a team to overcome a slow spiel start and leave with a championship should help them going into this event.  The field in Saskatoon will be much stronger than the one they faced in Edmonton of course, but when you are hot you are hot...and right now this team is on fire.

What to Watch for (W2W4): Which of the big boys steps up.  With current tour dominator Gushue taking the week off, this is the time for one of the other power teams to assert their own dominance over their competition.  The #redpants brigade of Mikey and the boys are looking for a repeat of last year’s championship win.  What about the hometown boys of #TeamOranje and Steve Laycock?  Can they make a strong run in front of the pro-SK crowd?  Team Edin started the year on fire but has found up and down success during their Canadian portion of the tour.  And Team Jacobs is coming off a semifinal loss of their own last weekend and will be hungry for their first title of the season.  With so many top teams competing, who will live up to expectations, who will exceed expectations and who will fail in their expectations?

Qualifiers: Team McEwen, Team Jacobs, Team Laycock, Team Bottcher, Team Shuster, Team Edin, Team Thomas, Team Korte

Championship: Team McEwen over Team Jacobs

Mother Club Fall Curling Classic

Winnipeg, MB.

2014 Champion: Sean Grassie

Format: 20 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Calvert, Team Dunstone, Team Peters, Team Kolomaya, Team Muntain

Dark horse candidates: Andrew Irving returns to the skip position after playing with William Lyburn last season.  He brings a strong team with him having Jim Coleman as second, who previously played third with Steen Sigurdson last season.  Add in Coleman and now vice Daniel Grant’s experience playing with Matt Dunstone’s University of Manitoba team last year and this team could be a surprise at this event. 

What to Watch for (W2W4): The junior takeover is in full swing in Manitoba.  With McEwen and Carruthers at the front of the pack in Manitoba, neither should feel too comfortable because they get to play the slams and big money spiel events.  Both Team Calvert and Team Dunstone are putting pressure on the top teams and are quickly climbing the rankings.  Calvert and Dunstone played a junior event in Blaine, MN last weekend with Dunstone beating his junior rival Calvert in the final.  These two teams are no longer up and comers....they have arrived and the junior movement is ready to take over.

Qualifiers: Team Kolomaya, Team Irving, Team Sigurdson, Team Peters, Team Muntain, Team Dunstone, Team Calvert, Team Marnoch

Championship: Team Dunstone over Team Calvert

KW Fall Classic

Kitchener-Waterloo, ON.

2014 Champion: Scott McDonald

Format: 19 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Maus, Team McCormick, Team Brewer, Team Liu

Dark horse candidates: Team Corbett from New York could surprise.  They went 0-3 at StuSells Oakville but barely missed a qualifier spot at the OCT Fall Classic (also in Oakville).  The 2008 U.S. Junior Men’s silver medallist is also a PhD student at McMaster University. 

What to Watch for (W2W4): Can Scott McDonald pick up his third straight KW Fall Classic title?  McDonald is playing on a new team this year, skipped by Codey Maus.  They enter this event fresh off the OCT Fall Classic title and should be a top contender this weekend.  Also watch for the return of Chinese skip Rui Liu.  Liu took last season off and has struggled in their first two events in Oakville.  This team did pick up three tour titles in 2013/14 though and could be a threat if they find their groove again.

Qualifiers: Team Maus, Team Liu, Team McCormick, Team Heggestad, Team Brewer, Team Corbett, Team Krell, Team Ferris

Championship: Team McCormick over Team Maus

Appleton Rum Cashspiel

Lower Sackville, NS.

2014 Champion: New event

Format: 16 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Murphy, Team Stevens, Team Fitzner-Leblanc

Dark horse candidates: Jamie Danbrook’s rink could be the dark horse of not only this event but for the Nova Scotia title this season.  The Memorial University student enters his second full season as skip, coming off a successful rookie skip campaign, including a title at the Gibson’s Cashspiel and a semifinal appearance at the Atlantic Curling Tour Championship.  Danbrook curled one season with Brad Gushue (2010/11) and could challenge the top teams in the province.

What to Watch for (W2W4): Watch the Doug MacKenzie team on the ice this weekend.  MacKenzie will be fielding a mixed curling team for the event, bringing Jocelyn Nix as his vice and Shelley Barker at lead.  Nix has been a regular fixture at the Nova Scotia Scotties championship, including a championship finals appearance in 2013 (l. to Mary-Anne Arsenault).  Can the mixed team complete, and beat, some of the best men’s teams in the province?

Qualifiers: Team Danbrook, Team Fitzner-Leblanc, Team Stevens, Team Murphy, Team Thompson, Team Mayhew, Team Paul, Team MacKenzie

Championship: Team Murphy over Team Danbrook

WOMEN

Stockholm Ladies Cup

Stockholm, SWE

2014 Champion: Margaretha Sigfridsson

Format: 20 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Homan, Team Muirhead, Team Tirinzoni, Team Paetz, Team Jones, Team Sigfidsson, Team Sidorova

Dark horse candidates: Two-time World Champion (1988, 2010) Andrea Schoepp is still curling at the young age of 50.  Even better, she is still curling with longtime teammate, Monika Wagner.  The three-time Olympian and 7-time European Champion should never be counted out regardless of the field she is competing against.  Can Schoepp win this event?  Probably not.  Can she surprise a few of the favourites?  Count on it.  On a #TwineTime level, Schoepp was one of the first international female curlers I started to follow and cheer for as a kid.  I will always be a fan of her.  Can you believe she has 19 World Championship appearances?  Crazy!

What to Watch for (W2W4): Who steps up and who disappoints!  This is arguably the strongest international field on the women’s tour this season.  Many of these teams may be back on the ice against one another at the World Championship in Basel, Switzerland.  But with such a high calibre field, not all of these teams will have success this week.  Some of the strong teams will succeed.  Some of the top teams will falter.  The question will be which side of the coin will it be?  With a short round robin event, no team can afford a slow start or major slip up in any game.  I would be paying close attention to the results in Stockholm this weekend if I were you.  You may see some surprising results.  Also of notice, no Canadian team has ever won this event.  Hmmm.....

Qualifiers: Team Muirhead, Team Feltscher, Team Paetz, Team Sigfridsson, Team Jaeggi, Team Jones, Team Homan, Team Tirinzoni

Championship: Team Homan over Team Paetz

Mother Club Fall Curling Classic

Winnipeg, MB.

2014 Champion: Kristy McDonald

Format: 20 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team McDonald, Team Einarson, Team George, Team Thurston, Team Montford

Dark horse candidates: Shannon Birchard has been one of the top junior girls teams in Manitoba for many years.  She was the 2013 Manitoba junior girls champion and would go on to a runner-up finish at the 2013 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Championships (l. to B.C. Corryn Brown).  Last season Birchard lost the Manitoba junior girls final.  The 21-year old University of Winnipeg student could turn some heads if the top teams at this event underestimate her.

What to Watch for (W2W4): How does Kerri Einarson’s team follow-up their surprise Tour Challenge Tier II victory?  They took last week off to relax, rest and hopefully celebrate their triumph but it’s time to focus on the present and not rest of the successes of the past.  Can they build off the momentum of the huge victory or will they suffer a post-event hangover? 

Qualifiers: Team McDonald, Team Birchard, Team Thurston, Team Robertson, Team Spencer, Team Brown, Team Einarson, Team Montford

Championship: Team McDonald over Team Einarson

KW Fall Classic

Kitchener-Waterloo, ON.

2014 Champion: Julie Hastings

Format: 18 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Hastings, Team Flaxey, Team Brown, Team Varnes

Dark horse candidates: Team Balsdon could be the surprise qualifier...and semifinalist...this weekend.  Her team has drawn arguably the easiest of the 4 pools and should be a favourite to win her pool.  This team qualified last season and will be looking for a repeat performance.  If they can win their pool, as expected, they could be a dangerous team come playoff time.  I would not underestimate them.

What to Watch for (W2W4): Team Hastings goes for the three-peat.  This is the main story line of this event.  Can this team win their third straight KW Fall Classic and fifth title in seven years?  Hastings has already won 4 of the initial 7 titles since this spiel began.  This is her ice and it’s up to the other 17 teams competing to try and sweep her off the throne.  It will not be an easy task...just ask everyone who has tried.

Qualifiers: Team Hastings, Team Brown, Team Auld, Team Liu, Team Balsdon, Team Flaxey, Team Harrison, Team Varnes

Championship: Team Hastings over Team Flaxey

Appleton Rum Cashspiel

Lower Sackville, NS.

2014 Champion: New event

Format: 16 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Arsenault, Team Jackson, Team Mattatall

Dark horse candidates: Team Fay is the future of curling in Nova Scotia.  This young team, led by 17-year old skip Mary Fay, should not be an unfamiliar name to any team and/or fan in the sport who has been watching Canadian Junior Curling Championships in the past few years.  Fay is the current two-time Nova Scotia champion, including picking up a bronze medal at the 2014 championships.  Fay is also the 2015 Canada Winter Games silver medallist.  They may lack the experience of some of their competitors but they are no stranger to competition.  This could be their coming out party for the 2015/16 season.

What to Watch for (W2W4): All eyes will be on 47-year old skip Mary-Anne Arsenault leading her young team towards another Scotties berth this season.  Arsenault is a 12-time Nova Scotia champion and part of the Colleen Jones dynasty, winning 5 Scotties (1999, 2001-04) and 2 World Championships (2001, 2004).  Arsenault moved to the skip position in 2007 and has won 3 Nova Scotia provincial championships (2008, 2013, 2015) since.  She leads a young team but an experienced team learning from one of the best in the sport.  This team is coming off a successful first season together, winning two events (Gibson's Cashspiel, Molson Mayflower Cashspiel) en route to the NS title.  Can this team build off last year's success?  This is the perfect event to start on the road to repeat.


Qualifiers: Team Arsenault, Team Mattatall, Team Dwyer, Team Tatlock, Team Adams, Team Jackson, Team Fay, Team Brothers

Championship: Team Asenault over Team Brothers

There you have it rock heads and stoners.  New power rankings and previews of the 4 men's and women's events on tour....you are now fully prepared for Week 6 action.  Follow along with draw by draw scores and updated standings on CurlingZone.  As always, feel free to share your thoughts on the power rankings or perhaps share your power rankings with me on twitter.  Maybe it is time to add a fan's choice team to the power rankings?  If so, vote on the #TwineTime blog website or share your vote on twitter.

On a personal note, and stepping away from the ice for a moment, #TwineTime will be participating in Exile Island - Calgary on October 1.  This event is a fundraiser for The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada.  The CWF touches a special place in my heart.  My younger brother was born with cerebral palsy and our family was fortunate to be granted a wish vacation to Disneyland and Universal Studios.  I rarely ask anyone for support but this is one event...for one organization...I would love to have curling fans support.  Please visit the website below and any donation amount you feel you can give would be greatly appreciated.  Please help me in my pursuit of granting a wish for another child and give back to an organization which offered my family our first family vacation.





Wednesday, 16 September 2015


#BetweenTheSheets: A Paradise Hangover?!

How will top teams respond after high-profile #TourChallenge


What a week on the World Curling Tour!  The Tour Challenge event threw its last rock in Paradise, NL on Sunday evening as we say goodbye to The Rock and hello to another week on tour.  Bringing together 60 men’s and women’s teams (240 curlers!!) in one place for a high-profile, high-energy, high-stress event can truly only be considered a curling fans ultimate paradise.  See what I did there?  Paradise....Paradise, NL....aannddd flashed the house on that one I guess.

Back to business.  Here is what we learned this past week on The Rock (great pics courtesy of Anil Mungal and Grand Slam of Curling):

·         Karma for Goo? – Will we ever see a grand slam home team winner?  Brad Gushue and his team came into their home province event off a nice win in Oakville.  They were the favourites.  Sure, they suffered a loss in their opening game but never looked back.  Everything seemed to set up perfect for them to please the home crowd with an event championship and end the home town #gsoc curse.  Enter the villain...Ku-Dog!  Last year, Gushue played home spoiler robbing Mike McEwen and Steve Laycock home grand slams wins.  Karma is a....Ku-Dog Mr. Gushue.  Kevin Koe’s foursome played the upset-minded villain role perfectly, knocking off The Goo and claiming Koe’s 4th grand slam title.
 


·         Hopp Schwiiz – The Swiss are completely taking over the world curling tour...on the women’s side at least.  Silvana Tirinzoni’s rink stole the title...literally...from favourite, and previously unbeaten,  Rachel Homan.  The Swiss team found modest results in the round robin, finishing with a 2-2 record and barely avoiding a tiebreaker.  Once they hit the playoffs, they turned it up a notch.  Knocking off surprise playoff teams Kelsey Roque and Tracy Fleury, not many expected them to beat Team Homan.  But win they did...chocolate for all!  What we learned this weekend was never underestimate the Swiss....any of them!  With Alina Paetz winning in Oakville, Tirinzoni winning this past weekend and past world champion Binia Feltscher always a threat, the Swiss could dominate the tour this season.  Hopp on board...

 


 
·         Welcome back Cotter – Oh the phrase that will dog Jimmy Cotter for his entire career.  I am sure he would prefer to be referred to as a consistent high calibre team rather than a welcome back team.  Nonetheless, Cotter and his B.C. boys showed complete domination in winning the Tier II men’s championship...and the all expenses paid invite to The Masters grand slam event in Nova Scotia at the end of October.  Capping off an undefeated week with a title, on the heels of a 5-1 semifinal appearance in Oakville, can anyone really doubt this team belongs with the top dogs of curling?  Their combined record for their opening season two events is 12-1.  Cotter is back indeed...but did he ever really leave?  Special mention as well to finalist Mark Kean and his team from Stoney Creek, ON.  Remember this team only came together in the offseason and this was their second event playing together.  Going 4-0 in the RR, making the final and losing to the reigning BC champs is nothing to hang your head about.



·         Flying Under The Radar – Entering the Tier II women’s event, much focus was placed on previous provincial champions Heather Strong, Suzanne Birt, Mary-Anne Arsenault, Sylvie Robichaud, Jill Thurston and Cathy Overton-Clapham.  The top international teams entered, Anna Hasselborg and Cissi Ostlund from Sweden and Nina Roth and Jamie Sinclair from USA, were mentioned as possible favourites to win.  All the while, it was a team who garnished little attention that came out on top at the end of the weekend.  Winnipeg’s Kerri Einarson didn’t just win the Masters spot, she looked unstoppable.  Going 4-0 in the round robin and breezing through the playoffs, Einarson asserted herself as a possible grand slam dark horse.  Perhaps even more important, Einarson looked like an early favourite for the Manitoba Scotties berth.  With Jennifer Jones receiving the automatic spot as Team Canada this season, the buffalo is wide open.  This opening win could be the confidence Einarson and team need.  Props as well to finalist Chantelle Eberle.  Another team with little experience on the big ice, Eberle survived a tiebreaker and upset American favourite Sinclair in the semifinal before running into a hot shooting Einarson.

 

Given the results mentioned above, let’s shift our focus to the present.  Did we see a shake-up in the Power Rankings this week?  Gushue and Paetz entered the Tour Challenge on top of the world, did they retain their spots?  Did champions Koe and Tirinzoni go from unranked to Top 5?  Let’s take a look at the #TwineTime power rankings:

MEN

1)      Brad Gushue (LW: 1)

2)      Mike McEwen (3)

3)      Kevin Koe (HM)

4)      Brad Jacobs (5)

5)      Jim Cotter (HM)

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

·         No surprise Gushue stays on top.  Even suffering a tough loss in the final and all the talk about the curse, let’s remember he still made the final!  This team has 3 events under their belts, making the final in all 3 and picking up 1 event win already.  This team is consistent every week and could be very hard to knock from the top.

·         Tour Challenge winners Koe and Cotter deserve their spots in the Top 5.  Last week both were honourable mention teams.  Both went into Paradise and came away with victories.  The question will be if they can sustain the momentum and hold onto their Top 5 spots.  There are some very good teams looking up at them.

·         McEwen lost a competitive semifinal to Gushue and, with Team Edin struggling this past week, the #redpants deserve the second ranking.  The Gushue – McEwen rivalry will become the top rivalry on tour this season...perhaps culminating in a #Brier2016 Championship final?

·         Jacobs suffered a tough quarterfinal loss to McEwen but this was their first event of the season as well so making the playoffs is a positive.  I fully expect this team to find their Olympic form quick and continue to challenge for tour titles every week.

WOMEN

1)      Rachel Homan (LW: 1)

2)      Eve Muirhead (3)

3)      Silvana Tirinzoni (HM)

4)      Alina Paetz (1)

5)      Jennifer Jones (5)

Hon. Mention:  Team Kim, Team Middaugh, Team Fleury

·         Congratulations Rachel Homan...you are back on top of the world (well at least the #TwineTime world).  Sure Rachel and company lost the final, they will be disappointed.  But let that not cloud over the results from the entire event.  They completely dominated the field.  A strong, international heavy, field at that.  Beating Feltscher, Muirhead and Kim sends a strong sign this team is ready for another world championship run.  An even more important win, confidence wise, was knocking off Canadian rival Val Sweeting in the final RR game.  Two weeks into the season, this team has two championship appearances and one title.  Homan is a force this year!

·         I might receive some flack for moving Muirhead up the rankings with a quarterfinal loss.  But let’s be realistic here.  This was their first event of the season, they beat current world champ Paetz and eventual Tour Challenge champ Tirinzoni.  They survived a tricky tiebreaker against Jennifer Jones and the team they lost to in the quarters was Homan.  They beat the teams currently ranked 3, 4 and 5 in the power rankings and lost to the top team.  Yup, I think they earned this spot thank you!

·         The coveted #3 spot seems to be reserved for our champions this week in both men’s and women’s power rankings.  Tirinzoni jumps from unranked to third...and most deserving.  She beat some high profile teams last week and those results cannot be ignored.  Similar to Koe though, the big question will be sustaining the ranking. 

·         World champion Alina Paetz struggled in Paradise.  Suffering a 1-3 record and, at times, looking completely lost with the ice conditions, perhaps the once unstoppable champs have a small kink in their armour.  But this is only 1 event, against a very high-class field, so punishing them with a large drop in the rankings just did not seem fair.  Remember they did make the Oakville final the previous week.

Last week’s #TwineTime predictions were met with mixed results.  On the Tier I men’s side, I accurately called Gushue making the final; however, I had him coming up short against Mike McEwen (whom he beat in the SF).  I did accurately predict 6 of the 8 qualifier teams though.  Tier II men’s was the shining light to my weekend with a perfect prediction of Cotter winning over Kean.  My predictions even included both semifinal rinks, Team Brewster and Team Smith.  Tier I women’s picks were a complete miss as I saw Muirhead winning over Paetz and only correctly predicting half the qualifiers.  Tier II also saw a miss with the Strong over Sinclair pick.  This is a tricky sport and, as we have often seen, any team can defeat any other on any sheet on any day. 

It should be noted #TwineTime has entered into a pick’em contest with our curling friends @NerdCurl.  For all major events during the season of champions (i.e. grand slams, national championships, European championships ect) both Phil Darin and I will go full rock chalk unveiling our predictions for the event.  At the end of the season, the highest point total will be declared the winner.  Of course, you as my faithful followers know this should be a slam dunk victory for #TwineTime.  But follow along with the predictions here and on twitter throughout the season.  And of course, please feel free to share your support for either of us (#TwineTime!!!!). 
After the #TourChallenge, here are the standings:

@TwineTime14: 11 points
@NerdCurl:  14 points

Take note though NerdCurl only threw a half rock in Paradise predicting Tier I.  #TwineTime exposed full stones but predicting both Tier I and Tier II.  I chalk up this win for NerdCurl with an asterisk.  Bring on the Masters for our next head-to-head pick’em challenge.
This week on tour sees teams scattered across the country for spiels.  Some of the top teams are even using this week as an energy recharge and taking the week off from competitive action.  Many men’s teams will be hitting the ice at events in Cornwall and Edmonton.  The women’s tour takes teams to Brockville and Edmonton.  Please note, at publication time teams and draws for the Cloverdale Cash Spiel in Surrey were not available.  Let’s take a quick look at what to expect this week:

MEN

AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic

Cornwall, ON

2014 Champion: Brad Jacobs

Format: 24 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

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

What to Watch for (W2W4): Many top name teams will be competing in Cornwall but if you are looking for a familiar name from the past, and fan favourite, focus your attention on Guy Hemmings.  The 4-time Quebec champion and twice Brier finalist (1998, 1999) has played a limited tour schedule over the past 5 seasons but is coming off a qualifier appearance at the Oakville Fall Classic last weekend.

Qualifiers: Team Jacobs, Team Menard, Team Gushue, Team Murdoch, Team Kean, Team Edin, Team Casey, Team Adams

Championship: Team Gushue over Team Jacobs

HDF Insurance Shoot-Out

Edmonton, AB

2014 Champion: Brendan Bottcher

Format: 16 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Bottcher, Team Brewster, Team Smith

W2W4: This is the first event of the season for many of the teams competing and the first chance to see some up and coming teams from Alberta and Saskatchewan looking to challenge for a provincial tankard.

Qualifiers: Team Bottcher, Team Brewster, Team Smith, Team Thomas, Team Lizmore, Team Korte, Team Sluchinski, Team Meachem

Championship: Team Brewster over Team Bottcher

WOMEN

AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic

Brockville, ON

2014 Champion: Sherry Middaugh

Format: 12 team round robin with 4 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Middaugh, Team Kim

W2W4: The return of 8-time Quebec champion Marie-France Larouche to the ice.  Larouche has not been on tour since the 2012-13 season.  How will she perform at her first event with her new team?

Qualifiers: Team Kim, Team Kean, Team Middaugh, Team Morrissey

Championship: Team Kim over Team Middaugh

HDF Insurance Shoot-Out

Edmonton, AB

2014 Champion: Chelsea Carey

Format: 24 team round robin with 8 qualifiers

Top Teams Entered: Team Sweeting, Team Carey, Team Lawton, Team Roque

W2W4: This will be the first event we see Steph Lawton and Sherri Anderson compete at since their break in the off-season.  Interestingly enough, they are both in Group D and will square off for the first time Friday afternoon.

Qualifiers: Team Roque, Team Silvernagle, Team Sweeting, Team Kleibrink, Team Carey, Team Englot, Team Eberle, Team Lawton

Championship: Team Sweeting over Team Roque

If you are in Edmonton, Brockville or Cornwall, I highly recommend you head down to the curling club hosting the world curling tour event and see some of the best curlers in the world on the ice live.  The atmosphere is much different in comparison to watching on tv.  If you are not in one of host cities for this week’s tour events, follow along with scores and updates online at CURLINGZONE.

Rock on curling fans...