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I like sports....lots of sports...all sports!  Follow my blog as I talk about sports....if you like sports of course

Saturday, 31 December 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Top 6 of '16
Which #TwineTime blog posts made the most noise this year?

It's that time of year stoners and rock heads...the time we say goodbye to the year that was and hello to the year that will be.  New Year's is always a bit anti-climatic I find.  Such build up, anticipation and excitement for a 10 second countdown, blowing some noise makers, kissing someone and downing your one glass of champagne for the year (because really who drinks champagne all year??).  The parallel comparisons to being a 21 year old at the bar on a Saturday night are numerous.  Spend the day prepping yourself (yay manscaping!) hoping to have a Texas-Sized 10-4 of an evening only to go home around 2:30 and stumble into bed clinging your pillow and hoping for a better day tomorrow....with no hangover.  New Year's Eve....Saturday night in May....it's almost the same.

Except one main difference: Top 10 lists!  The last week of the year produces Top 10 list after Top 10 list after Top 10 list until all of us want to give 10 reasons why we hate Top 10 lists.  The Top 10 songs/albums/club hit/collaborations of 2016.  The Top 10 newmakers.  The Top 10 moneymakers.  The Top 10 movie stars.  Top 10 internet hits.  Sports are no exception.  The Top 10 goals.  The Top 10 upsets.  The Top 10 championship moments.  The Top 10 hits/shots/misses.  It almost feels like a Grinch moment where you cover your ears and say "all that noise, noise, noise!"

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: First Half Report Card Time
Who excelled? Who faltered? What about #TeamUpset?


First off, HAPPY HOLIDAYS curling fans!  I hope you are all taking some much deserved time with loved ones over the next few weeks and celebrate the holiday season.  Curling athletes and fans alike have been going hard over the past few months with grand slam events, world curling tour events, super spares and Olympic preparations.  As Christmas fast approaches, I truly thank each of you for your continued support towards this blog and wish you all a Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or whichever celebration you observe....and a Happy New Year as well!

Now before we dip into the RumNog's or Wine or Paralyzer's or continue the Beer Advent Calendar (Ok maybe some or most of you already have...perhaps #TwineTime included) we have some catching up to do.  You know when you return to your home town for the holidays and meet for a choice beverage with a high school friend you haven't seen in years to catch up on all the details going on in your lives...I feel like you and I dear reader need to do the same.  It has been a few weeks and lots has happened.  We need to review the results on the ice over the past few weeks and unveil the final #PowerRankings of 2016.  After that, let's reveal the first half report card for the 2016-17 curling season!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Purple Reign In The Soo
The grand slam of curling season continues with The National


What a week of curling we just experienced rock heads and stoners!  The Canada Cup brought together the top men's and women's teams in our nation to battle it out for a spot at the Olympic trials next December in Ottawa (as well as the trip to Vegas for the Continental Cup and some money).  Curling fans barely have time to discuss the excitement of last week's action however as the next stop on the Grand Slam of Curling tour is already here.  The National returns home to Sault Ste. Marie, site of the very first event back in 2002.

We cannot just jump into the excitement of another #gsoc event without taking time to acknowledge the amazing accomplishments of last weekend's #wct action....oh and congratulate our newest Canada Cup champions.  Here is the #GunnerRunback for Week 16:

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

#BetweenTheSheets with Niklas Edin
The Swedish Viking talks rock star status, Olympic cycle scheduling and towel folding?


2004 World Junior Curling Champion.  2009 Universiade Champion.  5-time European Champion, including the the now three-time defending winner.  2-time World Champion.  Olympic bronze medal winner.  And now 2-time (back-to-back) Grand Slam of Curling Champion.  The resume for Sweden's Niklas Edin is quite impressive.  In fact, the world may just belong to the #SwedishViking and we are all lucky to live in it.

With accolades and championships like those listed above, one would think King Niklas would truly reign over the curling kingdom with an iron fist.  However, sit down with him and have a conversation and you instantly forget the accomplishments and get caught up in the genuine, nice guy personality Niklas Edin truly has.

I have been a fan of Edin's since his world junior championship win in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.  As a fan, I knew this man would be a force to reckon with in the curling world for many, many years to come.  Ok I realize many people made the same prediction and there is no actual physical proof I said this but still...just take my word for it #TwineTime fans.  When I reached out to Niklas and asked him if he would be willing to join the #TwineTime family, honestly, I set my expectations low for a response.  He is a World Champion.  A European Champion.  A two-time Olympian.  Why would he want to sit down and talk to a "fan" blogger such as myself?

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Pressure On For PyeongChang
Olympic trials spot on the line at Canada Cup of Curling


The realization the 2018 Winter Olympics are just over a year away will set in quick this weekend in Brandon, MB.  Seven of the top men's and women's curling teams in our nation will hit the ice at the Keystone Centre and compete for a coveted Roar of the Rings invite.  The Roar of the Rings will take place next year in Ottawa, with the winning men's and women's teams earning the right to don the Maple Leaf and represent Canada in PyeongChang, South Korea.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves quite yet.  There is still A LOT of curling to take place over the next year.  Let's just consider this week's Canada Cup of Curling event as the official "kick in the ass" start on the Olympic road.  Ok, yes I realize Team Homan, Team Jones and Team Koe already have their hotel reservations set in Ottawa.  One year out from the trials though, the realization for all teams should sink in quick now....the struggle is real and qualifying for Ottawa is no easy feat!

Of course the Roar of the Rings spot is not the only thing on the line this week.  The men's and women's champions also earn their spot on Team North America at the 2017 Continental Cup in Las Vegas this January.  Who doesn't want a trip to Vegas right after New Year's to have some fun and win some money? #TeamCanada  Speaking of money, the Canada Cup of Curling also has lots of that to go around with a total purse of $140K!!

Friday, 18 November 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Curling Parity Around The Rings?
#TeamCanada, #TeamWorld....now welcome #TeamUpset?
Ain't sport grand curling friends?  One reason I enjoy watching and following all sports is to see those upsets.  Just look at March Madness.  The NCAA basketball tournament draws hoards of fans for one main reason: #BracketBuster!  As sports fans we crave the upsets.  A 15-seed knocking off a 2-seed.  A sub-100 ranked player in the world defeating a Top 5 player at a grand slam.  An underdog story for the ages when a team defies the odds and takes home a championship.  We thirst for this stuff!

Curling has not been a sport where we see as many upsets.  Sure there are mild upsets every once and awhile at the Scotties or the Brier but in general I think we can all agree, for the most part, the rich get richer.  Ok maybe a Mark Dacey or Jean-Michel Menard Brier win gets us all excited for some upsets and finally seeing a few fresh faces in the victory circle.  But let's be honest, in comparison to other competitive sports the major upsets are not on par on the ice.  Until now perhaps?

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Surviving The Tour Challenge
Athletes weigh in on ice conditions, Tier II #growthesport & #Movember looks?



3 weeks.  2 slams.  1 Champion!!  Someone might have forgot to tell Sweden's Niklas Edin other teams on tour are interested in winning a slam this season.  Team Edin left Okotoks with their first ever grand slam title and the first title for a men's international team.  Well, see saw a bit of history repeating in Cranbrook as #TeamViking continued their winning ways in claiming the Tour Challenge Tier I title.

Upsets also continued to be a grand slam trend this season.  At The Masters we saw Allison Flaxey lead her team to a grand slam title.  In Cranbrook we saw a few more upsets in the finals.  Scotland's former world junior cahmpionship team of Kyle Smith reached the Tier I men's final while Michelle Englot led her "new to her" Manitoba team to the Tier I women's final, falling to Val Sweeting.  Some may say the upsets continued on the Tier II side of the house.  No, the upset wasn't seeing both the men's and women's Tier II finals being all-Ontario battles (although maybe that is a mild upset?).  The "upset" was the teams hoisting the shiny trophy as the end of the weekend when Greg Balsdon defeated pre-event favourite Glenn Howard and Jacqueline Harrison knocked off 2016 Scotties runner-up Krista McCarville.  The more things change (upsets, upsets, upsets), the more things stay the same (Team Edin domination) this season?


But the true highlight of the Tour Challenge grand slam event, other than the final victors, is the unique format of running TWO grand slam events at the same time: Tier I and Tier II.  #TwineTime was fortunate to spend some time in Cranbrook over the weekend and wanted to find out from the athletes themselves, both Tier I and Tier II, their thoughts on the sophomore slam.


Friday, 11 November 2016

BetweenTheSheets with Joan McCusker
Olympic and 3-time World Champ talks broadcasting, #growthesport and gender equality


As the second Grand Slam of Curling event is happening in Cranbrook, I want to take all of you back two weeks to The Masters in Okotoks.  #TwineTime had the opportunity to enjoy the #gsoc action and, thanks to Sportsnet, also had some time to sit down with one of the most recognized and successful curlers in Canada: Joan McCusker.

Being from Saskatchewan originally, I was a huge fan of Team Schmirler of which McCusker played second.  From their first Scotties championship in 1993 to winning their third world championship in 1997 to the iconic Olympic gold medal win in Nagano in 1998, McCusker and Team Schmirler brought the sport of curling into the lives of many Canadians.

McCusker has now shifted from a role on the ice as a competitive curler to in front of the camera as a broadcaster.  I was very fortunate in finding some time in between draws in Okotoks to sit down and talk with McCusker about a variety of topics, both personally and professionally.

Enjoy this special Grand Slam of Curling conversation as we go #BetweenTheSheets with Joan McCusker.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Who Will Survive Cranbrook?
60 teams set their sights on the #TourChallenge championship


The biggest grand slam event of the season hits the ice in Cranbook, B.C. this week as 60 teams (60!!!) vie for the #TourChallenge title.  This event is in it's sophomore season after proving to be a huge success last year in Paradise, NFLD.  The idea of hosting a Tier I and Tier II event at the same time is not only an excellent opportunity for the teams invited to participate but also for #curling fans.

While the Tier I winner will collect a #gsoc title, an automatic berth in the season ending Champions Cup and HUGE rankings points, the Tier II winner also has much, if not more, to play for.  The Tier II champion will also be recognized as a #gsoc champion but will also earn an automatic invite to the next grand slam event, The Canadian Open, in January.  To say there will be lots on the line and high intensity would be an understatement!

Monday, 7 November 2016

#BetweenTheSheets with Binia Feltscher
Two-time World Champion talks #growthesport, curling mentors & The Keg


Rock heads and stoners, fans of the #TwineTime blog, this is a special moment for me.  I am thrilled to welcome into the #TwineTime family one of the bright stars of the curling world: Binia Feltscher!  The Swiss skip is a two-time world champion (2014, 2016), a European Champion (2014) and an Olympic silver medalist (2006).  If you follow along with this blog religiously (and of course you all do right?!) you would know I am a huge fan of Binia Feltscher.

Having met the team last season at the World Championships in Swift Current, my admiration for Feltscher and the entire team only grew.  They were friendly to all media and fans, on and off the ice.  In fact, during their assigned autograph session they handed out free Swiss chocolates to everyone.  What's not to love there, right?  I am both honoured and a bit #fanboy excited to welcome Binia Feltscher to the blog and have the opportunity to get to know her a bit better.  My fellow #curling friends and fans, let's go #BetweenTheSheets with Binia Feltscher:

Friday, 4 November 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Grand Slam History!
The Masters crowns first-time champs & stirs up the power rankings


In a season of unexpected results, dark horse tour winners and the resurgence of #TeamWorld, the results of the #2016WFGmasters should not have come as a surprise to any curling fan.  Sweden's Niklas Edin erased the monkey off his back in collecting his first, of hopefully many, grand slam title.  It has been noted in this blog over the past weeks how strong #TeamWorld has been this season and Edin has been leading the pack.

Edin played a game of consistency throughout the week.  While suffering an early loss to Brad Jacobs during pool play, Edin extracted his revenge in the championship final with an extra end steal to seal his maiden title.  #TwineTime called it in the event preview and Team Edin delivered on championship Sunday!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: The Sights & Sounds Of The Masters
#TwineTime invades Okotoks to talk #growthesport with top athletes


The opening Grand Slam of Curling event of the 2016/17 season has wrapped up and history was the theme of the event.  We crowned two new grand slam champions and our first European men's grand slam winner.  The #TeamCanada vs. #TeamWorld theme still rang true, as expected, with both sides claiming a victory and setting up more plot lines and increased drama heading into the thick of the season.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: The Masters Preview
Canada vs. The World headline the opening grand slam event
It's here!  The time has finally arrived curling fans.  The first grand slam of curling event of the season will hit the ice this week in Okotoks, Alberta.  The season is 10 weeks old and fans have been salivating for intense curling action on television for weeks.  Crazy to compare last season where we had the GSOC Tour Challenge at the beginning of September to truly wet our curling whistle and this year.....long delay!  But now, who cares about that....we have grand slam curling coverage flying from their house into your house this week.

Friday, 14 October 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Season Of The Dark Horse?
Casey Scheidegger becoming the giant killer


What a season already for Alberta's Casey Scheidegger!  Team Scheidegger has moved from a dark horse team to watch out for to UNDEFEATED ON TOUR!!  Yes, you are reading that correctly curling fans.  Scheidegger entered two of the strongest fields on tour in the early part of this season and has walked away with two consecutive tournament championships.  A few weeks ago Scheidegger upset Eve Muirhead in a championship final.  This past week, Scheidegger took down 2014 Olympic Champion Jennifer Jones in another championship final.  Yes, #TeamWorld has been dominating overall this season.  And yes, Team Hasselborg has been playing consistent top notch curling week in and week out BUT Scheidegger is the only team to win both events entered...and beating world class competition.  With Team Carey having the auto berth to The Scotties this year as Team Canada, everyone assumed Team Sweeting would have an easy road to the Alberta Scotties.  Not. So. Fast!  Watch out Sweeting and Alberta, Scheidegger seems to be the front runner for a Scotties berth right now.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

#BetweenTheBoards: Hockey, Hockey, Hockey
The Survivor Series of an NHL season hits the ice


Yay hockey is back....and all of Canada rejoices.  The hockey sweaters come out of the closet.  The Budweiser goal-synced glasses are ready to light up coffee tables around the country.  And hockey hair will once again become a thing.  Yes, #TwineTime will be engaging in all three of these rituals throughout the season...deal with it!

Last season this very blog tried to take a different perspective for the season preview, using a WWE-themed Royal Rumble idea.  I thought it was something creative and fun, plus I am a sucker for 1980's/90's WWF pay-per-views.  Theme or no theme though, I did predict the Pittsburgh Penguins reaching the Stanley Cup final.  I also predicted them playing a California-based team in the final...ok I choose Anaheim over San Jose...but still pretty good pre-season predictions I would say!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Konungariket Sverige
Team Sweden controls the 2016/17 curling season thus far


The theme of world domination has been one discussed on this blog all season and for good reason.  However, in the wake of last weekend's results on tour, perhaps we need to narrow down the world domination idea to one distinct Scandinavian country.  The Kingdom of Sweden, or "Konungariket Sverige" in Swedish, has established themselves as the dominant nation this season....on both the men's and women's tour.  Sweden may be the third largest country in the European Union but they are the largest money winners on the World Curling Tour!  It might be time to grab your axe, raise your crown and start praising "Svensk Dominans" (Swedish Dominance).

Saturday, 1 October 2016

#BetweenTheHashMark:  Week #5 Preview
A trifecta of Top 10 match ups highlight a busy week 


Some weeks just aren't as exciting as others in the world of NCAA football friends.  The top contenders for the #CFBPlayoff continued to win and dominate their opponents.  We did see some big wins though *cough Wisconsin cough*  The Badgers pulled off the biggest win of the week knocking off Michigan State.  But we did see a few other interesting results, most notably Duke upsetting Notre Dame, the domination of Ole Miss over Georgia and Auburn taking down LSU....further proof the SEC could just be more wide open than people expect (minus Alabama it appears so far).  And looking for an upset story of the season?  How about the fact Minnesota, West Virginia and Wake Forest are all undefeated?  What??!!

With predicted results all over the turf for top teams last week, little change should be seen in the #PowerRankings:

NCAA

1. Louisville (LW: 1)
2. Alabama (2)
3. Ohio State (3)
4. Houston (4)
5. Clemson (5)
6. Wisconsin (NR)

Little change at the top of the NCAA rankings this week as all the best stayed the course and won their games last weekend.  The only change was the addition of Wisconsin.  The Badgers went into Spartan Stadium and dominated previously undefeated and #8 ranked Spartans.  The Badgers look week in and week out like a dark horse team to challenge Ohio State and Michigan for the B1G championship...and perhaps even an outside shot at the #CFBPlayoff.  Having said that, this week WILL result in changes in the rankings with Wisconsin playing Michigan and Louisville battling Clemson.  Things are about to get interesting with the #PowerRankings football fans!

While south of the border was business as usual, north of the border produced a much different story...most notably the upset of last week's #1 ranked team.  Let's see how last weekend's results changed the #PowerRankings of CIS football:

CIS

1. Montreal (LW: 2)
2. Ottawa (3)
3. Laval (5)
4. Laurier (4)
5. Western (NR)
6. Regina (NR)

Well, well, well...change is the theme in CIS this season.  Huge upset results from a week ago caused a major shake up in the rankings this week.  Most notably out west where previously #1 ranked Calgary lost on the road to Regina last week, dropping completely out of the rankings while the Rams move up and enter the rankings for the first time this season.  The OUA continues to dominate the Top 6 though with 3 teams filling out the ranking list, led by now #2 Ottawa.  The Calgary loss means advantage Montreal!  The Carabins have been to back-to-back Vanier Cup games and perhaps #TwineTime has been undervaluing their talent.  Given the power match ups on the schedule though this week, expect to see some more shake ups in the rankings next week (especially in Ontario).

Last week was a tough one for #TwineTimePredictions friends.  Both NCAA and CIS had a horrible winning percentage, dropping both overall season records down a few percentage points as well.  On one hand I am almost embarrassed by the poor results....#TwineTime should be better than this!  On the other hand, perhaps this shows both football seasons are resulting in more parity and more upsets...which as a fan I love to see.  Let's just hope I can turn it around this week and put last week far behind me!

Here are the Week 5 predictions:

NCAA

Last Week:  35 - 17  (67%)
Overall Record:  201 - 53 (79%)

GAME of the WEEK:  (5) Clemson def. (3) Louisville - October is Orange month and it's time for the orange Tigers to start showing who they really are.  They have been zombie walking through the first month of the season and many doubt whether this is team that can have the same success they had last season in reaching the championship game.  This is the game to prove who is for real and who isn't!  HUGE playoff implications on the line here.  Expect a great game and hopefully a close one.  Can we just put in the request now for OT?

UPSET of the WEEK:  North Carolina def. (12) Florida State - The Tar Heels had a lot of attention on them this season as being the dark horse ACC team.  They escaped the challenge from fellow dark horse contender Pitt last weekend....this weekend it's time to show if the hype was real in the offseason or not.  If they can knock off the Seminoles, on the road, watch out!  Could they also give Clemson and Louisville a run for the title?

Notre Dame def. Syracuse

(20) Arkansas def. Alcorn State - Yawner!

(13) Baylor def. Iowa State

(23) Florida def. Vanderbilt

Oklahoma State def. (22) Texas

(2) Ohio State def. Rutgers

Iowa def. Northwestern

East Carolina def. UCF

Temple def. SMU

(14) Miami def. Georgia Tech

Appalachian State def. Georgia State

Duke def. Virginia

Boston College def. Buffalo

Colorado def. Oregon State - The Buffs go for the sweep of Oregon!  Wow!

Ohio def. Miami (OH)

Bowling Green def. Eastern Michigan

Navy def. Air Force

Auburn def. Louisiana Monroe

(11) Tennessee def. (25) Georgia

Tulane def. UMASS

Ball State def. Northern Illinois

NC State def. Wake Forest - The Decons have to be one of the weakest 4-0 teams we have ever seen.  Time to come back to reality Wake Forest fans!

Akron def. Kent State

Maryland def. Purdue - The Terps would be 4-0 if they win this game.  Really?

(4) Michigan def. (8) Wisconsin - Last weekend's win over MSU was huge for the Badgers.  To pull back to back upsets...on the road...to sweep the state of Michigan....yikes!  This should be a good game but I think the Big House will be rocking loud and proud and the Wolverines will come away with the victory.  My heart says Badgers though...if that means anything?!

Penn State def. Minnesota - The Gophers are undefeated.  Time to come back to reality though on the road vs Penn State!

West Virginia def. Kansas State - The Mountaineers could be 4-0 after this weekend.

(9) Texas A&M def. South Carolina

San Jose State def. New Mexico

(21) TCU def. Oklahoma - Yikes, the Sooners were my pre-season pick to win the national championship and they enter this game with a 1-2 record.  Sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose some...the Sooners certainly gave me a huge loss.  My bad!

Troy def. Idaho

Old Dominion def. Charlotte

(18) Utah def. California

(16) Ole Miss def. Memphis - A week or two ago I actually would have picked the Tigers for the upset here.  Memphis is 3-0 entering the game and are a very good team.  Ole Miss is just better, especially if the team that dominated a good Georgia team last weekend comes to play again this weekend.  This has minor upset potential though.

(1) Alabama def. Kentucky

Florida Atlantic def. Florida International

Louisiana Tech def. UTEP

Middle Tennessee def. North Texas

Southern Mississippi def. Rice

Western Kentucky def. Houston Baptist

Cincinnati def. South Florida

Western Michigan def. Central Michigan - A Battle for Directional Michigan supremacy.  Western and Central both have MAC title aspirations and the winner of this game will have the inside track towards reaching the championship game.

Texas State def. Incarnate Ward

Pittsburgh def. Marshall

Missouri def. LSU - Can the Tigers rebound?  I am not so sure now.

(19) San Diego State def. South Alabama - Did you know SDSU is 3-0 and ranked in the Top 20 right now?  Don't worry if you were not aware of this fact...most people aren't.  But don't underestimate this team...they could run the table this season and finish undefeated.  Imagine if that happened...where would they fall when bowl game invites go out?

Louisiana Lafayette def. New Mexico State

(17) Michigan State def. Indiana

USC def. Arizona State - This is a huge upset call if you look at records alone.  USC is 1-3 and ASU is 4-0.  But, on paper, the Trojans are still the stronger team on paper on both sides of the ball.  If USC wants to try and save their season, this is where it starts!  ASU can literally put the fork in the USC season by beating them on the road.

Oregon def. Washington State - #GoDucks

(24) Boise State def. Utah State

Fresno State def. UNLV

UCLA def. Arizona

Nevada def. Hawaii

CIS

Last Week:  7 - 6 (54%)
Overall Week:  33 - 16 (67%)

GAMES of the WEEK: (6) Laurier def. (3) Western & (7) Ottawa def. (10) Carleton - We have the double dip of games to watch this week.  Four of the top contending teams in Ontario will be facing off when Laurier and Western take the field as well as Ottawa and Carleton battling it out.  The winners of these two games will be considered the favourites for the OUA title.  In both games, I am going with the road team.  All 4 teams had dominating wins last week in building momentum for the blockbuster games this weekend.  Both Ottawa and Laurier are the last remaining undefeated teams in Ontario and I expect both to continue their winning streaks.  Laurier (#1) and Ottawa (#3) have the top defenses in Ontario and defense wins championships.

UPSET of the WEEK:  St. Mary's def. St. FX - The AUS title is anyone's for the taking so far this season (except maybe Mount Allison).  The X-Men sit at 2-1 alone in first place but St. Mary's is 1-2 and, with a win this weekend, would shoot into a tie for first place.  St. FX does have a strong defense but if the Huskies can push through and find the end zone early in the first half, they have a legit shot at pulling the upset here.

UBC def. (9) Manitoba - OK UBC I was wrong to say your season was over last weekend in predicting you to lose to Alberta in the Upset of the Week.  You DESTROYED the Bears and, with it, rejuvenated your season.  The Bisons come to town fresh off a big win of their own over Saskatchewan.  While Manitoba was the #TwineTime pre-season pick to hoist the #VanierCup, I am just not ready to close shop on the T-Birds for the season yet.  I expect a close game here, perhaps OT, but in the end the home team goes home happy and keeps the repeat chance alive and well.

Acadia def. Mount Allison

(8) McMaster def. Guelph

Queen's def Waterloo - An elimination game for Queen's.  If they lose to winless Waterloo, the season is over.

Toronto def. Windsor - Similar to the game above, this is an elimination game for both of these teams.  The winner still has an outside shot at making the playoffs.

Concordia def. Bishop's

(1) Montreal def. Sherbrooke

(4) Regina def. Saskatchewan - The Battle of Saskatchewan got even more interesting after last weekend's "upset" results.  Regina knocked off Calgary while Saskatchewan suffered a loss to Manitoba.  A loss for the Huskies could result in them missing the playoffs.  A loss for the Rams means falling out of first place and in risk of falling from 1st to 4th in one weekend.  HUGE game out West....and a provincial battle!

(5) Calgary def. Alberta - The Battle of Alberta is....way less interesting than the Battle of Saskatchewan mentioned above.  Calgary is looking to rebound from their upset loss last weekend while Alberta is still looking for their first win of the season.  The Dino's have only allowed 73 points in 4 games while the Bears have only scored 53 points in 4 games.  Yikes!

(2) Laval def. McGill

Friday, 30 September 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Back To Winning Ways
Team Jacobs rediscovers their championship form


Last week on tour brought an exciting result to curling fans all over the world...Team Jacobs finally won an event.  Last season the 2014 Winter Olympic gold medal winners went 0-for on the season, failing to pick up a title.  That was then and this is now however.  It only took a few weeks for the Jacobs foursome to find the top of the podium once again. Welcome back Team Jacobs!

The Jacobs victory was not the only notable win on tour last week.  Well maybe win is the wrong word to use here.  Last week snapped the winning streak of Team World on tour.  The international teams competing failed to claim top spot at any of the events on tour last week...a first for the season.  However, I wouldn't say the idea of world domination should be shut down for the season quite yet....it has been only one week.  And last week did see many international teams still reach championship finals.  Let's take a quick #GunnerRunback look at what happened last weekend on the World Curling Tour:

  • Team Brad Jacobs took home the title in Saskatoon at the College Clean Restoration Curling Classic.  Jacobs qualified through the B side defeating top teams Nik Edin (Twice!), Charley Thomas, Steve Laycock (SF) and Thomas Ulsrud (F).  Speaking of Ulsrud, a great result for his team qualifying B side as well and reaching the final.  This was a stacked field and a huge rankings points win for Jacobs...plus this should guarantee the team a spot in the year-end Champions Cup in Calgary.
  • In Winnipeg, David Bohn defended his Mother Club Fall Curling Classic title victory from 2015.  Bohn went 4-1 in the round robin, only losing to twin brother Dennis Bohn.  In the playoffs, Bohn would defeat pre-event favourite Jason Gunnlaugson (QF), get revenge on twin brother Dennis (SF) and finally prevent another world team victory in beating South Korea's Chang-Min Kim (F).  On the women's side, new Manitoba skip Michelle Englot claimed the title with her new team.  Englot was a perfect 6-0 on the weekend, defeating Briane Meilleur (SF) and Joelle Brown (F).  
  • At the KW Fall Classic, Sherry Middaugh picked up her first win of the season.  Middaugh went 3-1 in the round robin before running the table in the playoffs defeating Julie Hastings (QF), Cory Christensen (SF) and Julie Tippin (F).  On the men's side, Richard Krell picked up a huge spiel victory going a perfect 6-0 on the weekend.  Krell, ranked 84 entering the event, defeated Pat Ferris (QF), Connor Duhaime (SF) and Ryan LeDrew (F).  
  • The inaugural Lakeshore Curling Club Cashspiel proved to be a success for Stuart Thompson and Nancy McConnery.  Thompson went 7-1 over the weekend, including victories over Kendal Thompson (QF), Jamie Murphy (SF) and Chad Stevens (F).  The victory puts Thompson in the early driver seat as Nova Scotia Tankard favourite.  McConnery was the #StealQueen last weekend, stealing late end points in her SF and F to claim victory.  McConnery went 6-1 over the weekend with victories over Theresa Breen (SF) and Jill Brothers (F).  Similar to Thompson, this was a minor upset victory and positions McConnery as a team to watch for the Nova Scotia Scotties title.

With Jacobs finally picking up a win, Laycock slowly looking like the team we expected at the beginning of the season, Bottcher continuing to put up strong results and Gunnlaugson showing consistency, how do these results shake up the men's Power Rankings?  And what about the big win for Middaugh and Englot?  Do those wins earn either (or both) enough credit to make a move on the women's Power Rankings?  Here are the updated #TwineTime Power Rankings:


MEN

1. Team Koe (LW: 1)
2. Team Gushue (2)
3. Team Edin (3)
4. Team Jacobs (HM)
5. Team McEwen (4)

Hon. Mention:  Team Epping, Team Laycock, Team Brewster, Team Gunnlaugson

WOMEN

1. Team Homan (LW: 1)
2. Team Muirhead (2)
3. Team Tirinzoni (3)
4. Team J. Jones (4)
5. Team Hasselborg (5)

Hon. Mention:  Team Sweeting, Team Middaugh, Team Englot

The win by Jacobs, given the high quality of field in Saskatoon, moves him up to #4 on the rankings.  An impressive win for sure but not enough to move ahead of the Big 3....yet!  Team McEwen continues their reverse climb on the mountain, moving down another spot this week.  The Manitoba favourites are struggling to start the season and are barely clinging on to that final spot in the rankings.

The women's Top 5 remains the same after a quiet week on tour for the top teams.  Both Middaugh and Englot do jump into the honourable mention category though with their impressive wins.  If they can continue their winning ways they could surprise a few of the top teams ahead of them and make a push up the mountain.  Only time will tell however.

Last week #TwineTime saw above average results with the #TourLifePredictions.  6 of the 8 qualifiers in Saskatoon were correct, including calling Jacobs to reach the final (I had them losing to Edin however).  I did claim one correct title though in predicting Team Englot's win in Winnipeg!  Always nice to at least predict one title correctly...Thanks Team Englot!!

We have some big events on tour this week, including two taking place in Europe.  Let's hop the pond and dive right in to Week 7 #TourLifePredictions:

MEN

Swiss Cup Basel

Basel, SUI

2015 Champion:  Brad Gushue

Format:  32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

Top Team Entered:  Team Gushue, Team Edin, Team Ulsrud, Team Brewster, Team Murdoch, Team de Cruz

Dark Horse Candidate:  Bruce Mouat will be a dark horse team to watch this weekend.  Team Mouat has struggled a bit in the early part of the season, failing to qualify at their two previous events in Canada.  However, they have had a few weeks off now to prepare for this event and could turn a few heads.  They will be up against stiff competition of course, many of whom has European and World Championship experience.  They also have nothing to really lose against this field and that alone could be dangerous!

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  Team World vs. Team Gushue!  This is a strong international field and Team Gushue will be representing Canada on their own.  Last week the world domination was put on hold as they failed to claim a title.  This week, Gushue will wear the flag solo in trying to make it consecutive weeks without an international team claiming a big championship.  This field is very stacked, almost a European Championships preview in a way.  Big world rankings points will be on the line.  Worth noting, Team Gushue seems to love this event, claiming the title 4 times including last year.  However they have never repeated as champions here.

Qualifiers:  Team Gushue, Team Ulsrud, Team Edin, Team Murdoch, Team Brewster, Team de Cruz, Team Smith, Team Stjerne

Championship:  Team Edin def. Team Ulsrud

Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic

Vernon, B.C.

2015 Champion:  Pat Simmons

Format:  8 team triple knockout with 4 qualifiers

Top Team Entered:  Team Cotter, Team Morozumi

Dark Horse Candidate:  I said this a few weeks ago and I will say it again...watch out for the #TardiParty.  Tyler Tardi and company are not playing any games this season and are looking to show they are the dark horse pick to make a run for the B.C. Tankard.  They qualified in their opening event of the season (Cloverdale Cash Spiel) and, given the small field here, should be a team to watch out for.

W2W4:  All eyes will be on John Morris and Team Cotter.  Morris won this title last season with his previous team, Team Simmons.  This field, while small, is mostly made up of B.C. contenders meaning this is the perfect opportunity for Team Cotter to establish themselves as the dominant favourite to take home the B.C. Tankard this season.

Qualifiers:  Team Cotter, Team Morozumi, Team Tardi, Team Cseke

Championship:  Team Cotter def. Team Morozumi

KKP Classic

Winnipeg, MB

2015 Champion:  Daley Peters

Format:  20 team round robin with 4 pools of 5 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Team Entered:  Team Dunstone

Dark Horse Candidate:  South Korea's Chang-Min Kim is playing the back-to-back Winnipeg, MB circuit.  With the runner-up finish last weekend, Kim could be a surprise team once again this week.  Heading into the Mother Club event last weekend, Kim was barely ranked in the Top 200 in the world.  They caught many teams off guard last weekend, including Team Dunstone in the SF, and should be a team to keep an eye on once again this weekend.

W2W4:  When will the Team Dunstone growing pains wear off and we start seeing this team claim a few titles?  There was a lot of talk surrounding Dunstone's decision to join Team Forrest this season and expectations are high.  The team did reach the SF last weekend; however, given the strength of the field, had an excellent opportunity to claim the championship.  Fast forward to this week and the story line is the same.  Can Dunstone and company find their groove and reach the top of the podium?  Incredible to think the young skip is only 21 years old and here we are talking about the pressure to win already.  But with great talent and great skill comes great expectations and great pressure!

Qualifiers:  Team Dunstone, Team Peters, Team C. Kim, Team Bohn, Team Calvert, Team Zhang, Team Forrester, Team Bale

Championship:  Team Dunstone def. Team C. Kim

Avonair Cash Spiel

Edmonton, AB

2015 Champion:  SooHyuk Kim

Format:  24 team round robin with 6 pools of 4 teams.  Pool winners plus top 2 qualify.

Top Team Entered:  Team Thomas, Team Liu, Team Lizmore, Team S. Kim

Dark Horse Candidate:  Hello Team Karsten Sturmay!  The AB Junior Curling Champions are the definition of a dark horse candidate.  The team is young and has very little experience on tour.  However, they did start the season with a monster upset, claiming the opening event title in Hokkaido.  They have not played a tour event since the opening win but, technically, they are the only undefeated team on tour right now!  Can they continue their winning ways this weekend at home?  Interesting draw for them though as they get the two-time defending champion SooHyuk Kim in their pool.  Speaking of Kim....

W2W4:  Can South Korea's SooHyuk Kim claim the elusive #3peat title defense?  It is very rare in sports, especially curling, where we see one team claim a back-to-back title.  It is almost impossible to see a team pull the #3peat but Kim has the chance to do just that this weekend in Edmonton.  While they may not be the favourite entering the event, don't underestimate them.  They were not the favourites back in 2014 or 2015 yet they left holding the trophy on Sunday.  Plus Kim does have a SF appearance to his credit already this season at the season opening event in Hokkaido.

Qualifiers:  Team Thomas, Team Kim, Team Liu, Team Appelman, Team Lizmore, Team White, Team Sturmay, Team Scoffin

Championship:  Team Liu def. Team Kim

WOMEN

Stockholm Ladies Cup

Stockholm, SWE

2015 Champion:  Rachel Homan

Format:  20 team round robin with 4 pools of 5 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Team Entered:  Team Muirhead, Team Tirinzoni, Team Jones, Team Feltscher, Team Sidorova, Team Paetz, Team Hasselborg

Dark Horse Candidate:  Sweden's Team Isabella Wrana is still a dark horse team to watch this season, as predicted by #TwineTime to start the season.  Sure Team Hasselborg has been the story coming out of Sweden so far this season.  Yes Team Sigfridsson is starting to look strong now after a slight line-up change in the off-season.  But Team Wrana should still be a team to watch out for.  Remember skip Isabella is only 19 years old and they are already contending with the top world teams on a regular basis.  Will they take home the trophy at home?  Probably not.  Will they turn some heads and win some big games in the process, I would bet on it!

W2W4:  Team Sidorova takes the ice for the first time this season.  The Russians are the final top team to hit the ice this season and the curling world has been patiently waiting to see them.  It will be worth watching to see how they do against a very strong international (mostly European) field.  Their competition will have been on the ice for a few weeks now and if they show any signs of rust early on it could be a tough weekend for the defending European Champions.  Expectations are high for this team this season after their bronze medal at last year's Women's Worlds....time to see if they can live up to or exceed what many (#TwineTime included) are expecting from this this year.

Qualifiers:  Team Sigfridsson, Team Paetz, Team Sidorova, Team Fleming, Team Tirinzoni, Team Ogasawara, Team Hasselborg, Team Muirhead

Championship:  Team Sigfridsson def. Team Hasselborg

Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic

Vernon, B.C.

2015 Champion:  Stefanie Lawton

Format:  28 team round robin with 4 pools of 7 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Team Entered:  Team Sweeting, Team Lawton, Team Carey, Team Fujisawa, Team Rocque, Team Einarson

Dark Horse Candidate:  Julie Tippin may be the perfect fly under the radar team in Vernon this weekend.  With so many heavy hitters on the ice, Tippin could easily surprise many with another strong result.  Tippin is having an excellent start to the season, qualifying in 2 of their previous 3 events including a runner-up finish last weekend at the KW Fall Classic.  The 33-year old skip also was drawn into Pool D, easily the most wide open pool behind favourite Team Einarson.  Don't sleep on Team Tippin making a run this weekend.

W2W4:  What not to watch for?  There is so much happening at this event with so many top teams.  Can Canadian champs Team Carey turn around a mediocre start to the season this weekend?  Team Sweeting hasn't quite hit their stride as well.  Team Rocque is looking like a strong contender at the early outing of the season.  Top Asian teams Fujisawa and Wang will be strong favourites to continue the Team World domination.  The format is crazy.  With pools of 7 teams competing and only the top 8 qualifying, a team can maybe afford one (or two) losses but anything more than that and you risk missing out.  This is going to get fun to follow!

Qualifiers:  Team Sweeting, Team Lawton, Team Wang, Team Roth, Team Fujisawa, Team Rocque, Team Einarson, Team Tippin

Championship:  Team Fujisawa def. Team Sweeting

Avonair Cash Spiel

Edmonton, AB

2015 Champion:  Jie Mei

Format:  20 team round robin with 5 pools of 4 teams.  Pool winners plus next three best qualify.

Top Team Entered:  Team Chyz

Dark Horse Candidate:  Team Asia domination has been the story for the Avonair Cash Spiel the past two seasons.  In 2014 Japan's Mari Motohashi took home the title and last season China's Jie Mei claimed the championship.  For this trend to continue, South Korea's Suji Kim is going to have to fight her way through the field as the only Asian team entered.  It could be a tough go at it though for the young 23-year old skip against a very pro-Alberta field.  She certainly wasn't given any favours being drawn into a very experienced Pool D.

W2W4:  This is an Alberta field to watch.  With Sweeting being the huge favourite for the Alberta Scotties title and Carey already having a Scotties berth as Team Canada, this event could decide which team(s) are ready to step up and challenge Sweeting for the title this year.  Team Chyz and Team Kaufman right away should be the early teams to watch given their strong run at last season's AB Scotties.  This event could be the momentum either of these teams (or others) needs to kick-start their season in a push towards an AB Scotties title.

Qualifiers:  Team Chyz, Team Kaufman, Team Baksheeva, Team Marthaller, Team Baird, Team Streifel, Team Sturmay, Team Sauder

Championship:  Team Chyz def. Team Kaufman

The start of the Grand Slam of Curling season is only a mere few weeks away.  Don't miss your chance to tell #TwineTime which #gsoc event is your favourite during the season.  Head over to the #TwineTime Home Page and vote NOW!  Which grand slam event will be crowned the Grand Slam Fan Choice Champion?

Saturday, 24 September 2016

#BetweenTheHashMark:  Week #4 Preview
The battle for conference supremacy begins


NORTH DAKOTA STATE!  Those three words sum up last weekend.  The five-time FCS champion Bisons collected a win many thought could happen but few that would happen.  Quick shameless plug here though, #TwineTime did pull the trigger on calling this upset and sure enough...BANG!  The Bison are undefeated against FBS opponents but this was their first win against a ranked team...and a team with conference championship aspirations.  North Dakota State fully deserves some FBS rankings love.

But the Bisons aren't the only one's to steal the headlines last weekend.  Louisville destroyed previously #2 ranked Florida State (another correct call by #TwineTime btw).  Ohio State beat up Oklahoma.  Michigan State knocked off Notre Dame.  And Clemson finally looked like a complete team...beating a minnow.  The season officially got exciting as results poured in over the day on Saturday.  How can week four live up to the hype?  With the start of conference play of course!

With the results noted above and many other top ranked teams looking strong last weekend, let's check out the updated #PowerRankings:

NCAA

1. Louisville (LW: NR)
2. Alabama (1)
3. Ohio State (4)
4. Houston (3)
5. Clemson (5)
6. North Dakota State (NR)

Congrats Cardinals...you have finally reached the coveted #1 position.  Isn't it kind of exciting to see a new team at the top of the rankings?  One not named Alabama or Ohio State or Florida State.  Louisville is quite capable of running the table if they continue to play the type of game plan they executed against the Seminoles for the rest of their schedule.  Alabama, Ohio State, Houston and Clemson remain in the #CFBPlayoff hunt of course as well, with Clemson still on the outside looking in.  Look at those playoff match up's though if these rankings held until the end of the season:  Louisville vs. Houston and Alabama vs. Ohio State.  Wow!  Oh and you probably noticed the special #6 spot going to our friends from North Dakota State.  Yes, I know the Bisons are not eligible to win the FBS national championship but, for this week anyway, let's give them some mad love for the outstanding program they have put together over the past few years.  Time to bring them up to FBS don't you think?

As for the gridiron north of the border, last weekend saw some exciting results.  Calgary survived a tough road game vs. rival Saskatchewan.  Both Quebec conference top dogs Montreal and Laval continued to steam roll the competition.  Ontario is starting to see some separation in the standings with Ottawa, Laurier, McMaster and Western looking to be the cream of the crop and Carleton trying to stay with them.  And Atlantic sees an early front runner in St. FX.  Here are the updated CIS #PowerRankings:

CIS

1. Calgary (LW: 1)
2. Montreal (2)
3. Ottawa (5)
4. Laurier (NR)
5. Laval (4)
6. McMaster (NR)

The Dino's remain at the top of the mountain after defeating a Top 10 ranked Huskies team in Saskatoon.  The Dino's will be tested again this week though as they stay in Saskatchewan to battle the Rams, a surprise team in Canada West so far this year.  As stated above, Montreal and Laval continue just rolling through their scheduled waiting to play one another yet again in the regular season and, more than likely, again in the Quebec final.  Laurier remained undefeated last week knocking off Ontario giant-killer Carleton while Ottawa continued their winning ways to stay atop the conference.  McMaster (and Western) also continue to win in a push to try and take top spot away from the Gee Gee's and Golden Hawks.  It will be tough for an Atlantic school to crack the rankings but with St. FX starting the season 2-0 and facing Quebec conference foe Concordia this week in the inter-conference game, they could slowly move up the rankings should they continue to win.  Time will tell though if that happens.

Last week's #TwineTimePredictions were pretty successful.  For NCAA, #TwineTime remained consistent in accurately predicting the winner in 84% of the games last week, slightly up from the 82% the previous week.  Overall, the winning percentage squeaked up one percentage point to 82% from 81%.  Not too bad if I can ride out an entire season in the low to mid-80% range for accuracy I say...although I am shooting for an 85%-88% winning percentage still!  Go Big or Go Home right kids?  In CIS action, #TwineTime went 10-3 on the week (including calling the Laurier win over Carleton and Calgary over Saskatchewan), upping the season winning percentage to 72%.  That opening week is still tough to overcome mind you but the winning percentage is slowly getting more and more respectable.

Here are the Week 4 predictions:

NCAA


Last Week:  53 - 10 (84%)
Overall Record:  166 - 36 (82%)

GAME of the Week:  (8) Michigan State def. (11) Wisconsin - Both teams undefeated.  Both teams aiming for a B1G championship.  Both teams have #CFBPlayoff aspirations.  One of them will see those dreams die on the field this Saturday!  Michigan State looked great last week knocking off Notre Dame.  Wisconsin struggled to beat a good, but not great, Georgia Southern.  MSU is at home and has won the past 4 meetings in East Lansing.  Expect that winning streak to continue.

UPSET of the Week:  Wake Forest def. Indiana - Quick, how many of you saw this game on the calendar in Week 4 and thought "Here is a battle of two undefeated teams going at it from two Power 5 conferences"?  Yup...crickets...but alas here we are.  This may be the biggest shocker of the season right here....Wake Forest leaves Bloomington 4-0!  Yup, I'd call that a major upset.

(4) Michigan def. Penn State

Oregon def. Colorado - #GoDucks

(1) Alabama def. Kent State

(23) Ole Miss def. (12) Georgia - HUGE SEC game to kick off the day.  Ole Miss already has two losses on the season and is pretty much out of the running for the SEC title....unless they defeat Georgia and maybe run the table (and get some luck)?  Georgia needs to re-establish their running game and Nick Chubb needs to start running like he wants the Heisman again.  Ole Miss is playing at home and have been playing great football this season despite the 1-2 record.  I smell a mild upset here.

Nevada def. Purdue

Iowa State def. San Jose State - If this game wasn't being played in Ames, I might have gone with the upset here.

Temple def. Charlotte

Iowa def. Rutgers - Time for Iowa to rebound after the big loss to FCS North Dakota State last week.

(13) Florida State def. South Florida - This game should be closer than many expect.  South Florida is undefeated and has been playing great football while FSU enters the game after being totally humiliated on national TV by Louisville last weekend.

Minnesota def. Colorado State - The Gophers are going to be 3-0?

Virginia Tech def. East Carolina - I am always a sucker for the Hokies...I just like them every year.

Central Michigan def. Virginia - Another MAC win vs. the Power 5.

UCONN def. Syracuse - The Huskies go to 3-1 with this win...dark horse team of the year?

Boston College def. Wagner

Ohio def. Gardner Webb

Cincinnati def. Miami (OH)

Northern Illinois def. Western Illinois - The Huskies finally pick up their first win of the season...against a strong (and undefeated) FCS Western Illinois.  Maybe I should re-think this pick....

Appalachian State def. Akron - Ok App St. let's get on the same page here.  I pick you to win, you win!

Boise State def. Oregon State

West Virginia def. BYU - This is a tough game to call.  I like BYU.  I like West Virginia.  Both look like strong football programs this year.  Sure neither are national championship contenders but still playing strong ball this season.

Notre Dame def. Duke - Wow have things changed.  ND is now 1-2 and basically out of the playoff.  Duke lost to Wake Forest and Northwestern after their opening season win.  This game had potential to feature possibly two 3-0 teams...now we get two 1-2 teams.

Mississippi State def. UMASS

(14) Tennessee def. (19) Florida - Ok I may not be a huge SEC fan but this is a game I enjoy watching every season.  These two schools truly hate one another and the rivalry of this game is tough to beat.  With both schools ranked and looking strong early on in the SEC, both would love to eliminate the other from SEC title consideration.  The Vols already have a loss on the season so a second would be tough to overcome.  The Gators are undefeated but are on the road for this one.

Pittsburgh def. North Carolina - Everyone bought into UNC as a dark horse team to watch this season...maybe we should have all been focusing on Pitt though.  Time to tell which of these teams is for real.

Old Dominion def. UTSA

Missouri def. Delaware State

Western Kentucky def. Vanderbilt

Tulsa def. Fresno State

(18) LSU def. Auburn

Ball State def. Florida Atlantic

Rice def. North Texas

(6) Houston def. Texas State

Arkansas State def. Central Arkansas

Troy def. New Mexico State

Nicholls def. South Alabama - Chalk up a W for the FCS over FBS once again!

Western Michigan def. Georgia Southern - Tough call here as both teams are 3-0 and looking strong.  Western Michigan is at home though so I give them the slight advantage.  But let's hope for a close game...perhaps 2OT?

UCF def. Florida International

Middle Tennessee def. Louisiana Tech

Kansas State def. Missouri State

(20) Nebraska def. Northwestern

(16) Baylor def. Oklahoma State - Time to see if the Bears are for real this season or not!

South Carolina def. Kentucky

(7) Stanford def. UCLA

(3) Louisville def. Marshall

Memphis def. Bowling Green - The Tigers go to 3-0 on the season?

Louisiana Lafayette def. Tulane

Southern Mississippi def. UTEP

UNLV def. Idaho

(10) Texas A&M def. (17) Arkansas - Two undefeated teams looking to take an early advantage in a very competitive SEC title hunt.  For these two teams, this is almost an elimination game as neither probably runs the table after this game.  But for the team that does lose this one, that means more than likely at least two losses on the table...which is tough to overcome for an SEC title.

California def. Arizona State

Air Force def. Utah State

Arizona def. (9) Washington - The desert.  At night.  With #Pac12AfterDark in full effect.  A Top 10 ranked team playing on the road.  Hmmm....as a Ducks fan...this sounds eerily familiar...and not in a good way.  Watch out Huskies...this is the perfect time and game for the upset.  Two years ago the #Pac12AfterDark phenomena took shape when Arizona used a hail mary TD completion with no time on the clock to beat Cal.  Could we see a little bit of history repeating this week?

CIS

Last Week:  10 - 3 (77%)
Overall Record:  26 - 10 (72%)

GAME of the Week:  (2) Calgary def. (9) Regina - Could this be a trap game for the hottest team in the nation?  The Dino's escaped rival Saskatchewan last week on the road and now complete the Saskatchewan road trip against the Rams in Regina.  Regina is rolling!  After the OT escape trick they pulled on Manitoba a few weeks back, last weekend the Rams went on the road and defeated the defending Vanier Cup champions UBC.  The Rams sit 2-1 and, if they knock off the Dino's, would be tied for the conference lead and own an important tiebreaker.  Expect LOTS of offence in this game.  The Rams have scored 100 points in 3 games (the most in Canada West) but have also allowed 89 (second worst in Canada West).  Heading into the season Calgary probably circled the games vs. the Huskies as a big match up and might have overlooked the Rams the following week.  This has trap game written all over it....but I still think the Dino's prevail in OT.

UPSET of the Week:  Alberta def. UBC - I'm completely in sell mode with the defending champs.  After the loss at home to Regina last week, all hope is lost for this team right now.  Yes they are 1-2 and are still in the playoff hunt but, given how they have played this season, they are barely hanging on.  Perfect time for the Golden Bears to attack!  Alberta has struggled this season, only scoring 53 points in 3 games and allowing 110.  However UBC is just an inept on offence and struggling on defence.  Alberta will be playing in front of their home fans as well and this could be their best chance at picking up a win this season.  Who knows, if Alberta wins and Manitoba lose, the Golden Bears could find themselves tied for the final playoff spot in the conference.  As for UBC, from Vanier Cup champions to last place in Canada West....oh how the mighty have fallen!  And it couldn't happen to a better coach....

(1) Montreal def. Acadia - Oh yay, the exciting inter-conference match up's between Atlantic and Quebec.  Those usually go well.....ugh....

(4) Western def. Guelph

Queen's def. Toronto - Ok, props to you Toronto on picking up a huge W last week vs. York!  But I highly doubt you celebrate a two game winning streak, sorry.  I think Queen's picks up their first win of the season this weekend.

(6) Ottawa def. Windsor - Expect a blow out in this one....or every game Windsor plays.  #NoDefence

(10) Carleton def. York - Wow York...really?  You were destroyed last week by Toronto...Toronto??!!!  The Ravens dream season hit the wall of reality last week in losing to Laurier but they get the perfect rebound game/team.

(5) Laurier def. Waterloo

(3) Laval def. Mount Allison

McGill def. Sherbrooke

Saint Mary's def. Bishop's

St. FX def. Concordia

(8) Saskatchewan def. Manitoba - Huge game for the Bisons here.  With the Huskies losing to Calgary last week and Regina playing the Dino's this week, the Bisons could jump from 4th to a tie for second if the results go their way.  This is a team many, myself included, thought to be a strong Vanier Cup contender.  Lose this week and all hope could be lost.  As for the Huskies, they need to put the disappointment of last week behind them quickly as they hit the road for this game.  This is a perfect opportunity to stay at the top of the standings close to Calgary and give some breathing room beneath them.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

#BetweenTheSheets:  Team World Domination Continues!
International teams riding a hot start to the 2016/17 curling season
If you have been following along with the #TwineTime blog #curling coverage since the start of the season, you should notice a prominent theme.  From the Season Preview blog post to last week's post, #TwineTime has consistently stated The World Is Coming!  Well, here we are five weeks into the season and the world has arrived!  I had a sneaking feeling this season would be dominated by international teams and, thus far, can anyone really disagree with me?

Over the past four weeks on tour, we have seen three different international women's teams claim titles (Team Hasselborg, Team Tirinzoni, Team Wang).  We have also seen Team Muirhead compete in the championship final the past two weeks.  We have even seen two event finals on tour be contested between two international teams (Oakville OCT Fall Classic, Colonial Square Ladies Classic).  On the men's side, we see similar statistics.  Over the past four weeks, international teams have claimed 6 titles.  In fact, up until last weekend, Canadian men hadn't claimed a title since the opening event win by Team Sturmay in Hokkaido, Japan.  Of course last weekend Canadian men broke the streak and picked up one of the two tour titles.  Team World is taking names and moving up the world rankings at a rapid pace this season.  Whether they can continue their winning ways and tour domination is left to be seen but I wouldn't bet against them right now.

Speaking of results from last weekend, time to take a quick seat in the house, take a deep breath and let loose a #GunnerRunback:

  • The AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic could not have gone any better for the two best teams on tour last season.  Both Team Koe and Team Homan opened their seasons with dominating wins.  Koe went 8-0 in claiming the title, including victories over top ranked teams John Shuster, David Murdoch, Tom Brewster (QF), Nik Edin (SF) and Brad Gushue/Mark Nichols (F).  Props to Team Gushue though on reaching the final minus their skipper and with super spare Charley Thomas.  Team Homan went a perfect 6-0 in claiming the women's title, including victories over Marie-France Larouche (SF) and Allison Flaxey (F).  If this is how both of these dominant teams START their seasons, sky is the limit for success this season.
  • In Surrey, B.C. we saw another international champion crowned when China's Rui Liu defeated B.C.'s Cseke in the final.  Liu ended up going 7-0 over the weekend in claiming his first title of the season (fresh off a finalist appearance in his previous event in Harbin, China).  On the women's draw we see our first title defence of the season as Diane Gushulak became the first female back-to-back Cloverdale Cash Spiel champion besting Lindsay Hudyma in the final.  Similar to Liu, Gushulak was perfect all weekend going 6-0 in claiming the title.
  • At the Colonial Square Ladies Classic in Saskatoon, SK, we welcomed back a former world champion to the tour winning circle.  China's 2009 world champion Bingyu Wang claimed her first title on tour since January 2014 (Glynhill Ladies International) when she defeated Eve Muirhead in the final.  Wang lost her opening game to defending SK champ Jolene Campbell and then never lost another game, reaching the playoffs through the B-side and running the table.  Wang went 7-1 over the weekend, including victories over top ranked teams Stef Lawton, Val Sweeting, Anna Hasselborg (SF) and Eve Muirhead (F).  Props to Team Muirhead on reaching another championship final though and doing so the hard way, advancing out of the C-side.
With last week's results in the books, and top teams Koe and Homan opening the season with tour wins and Team World continuing to put up strong results, do we see a change in the #PowerRankings?


MEN

1. Team Koe (LW: 1)
2. Team Gushue (2)
3. Team Edin (4)
4. Team McEwen (3)
5. Team Brewster (NR)

Hon. Mention:  Team Epping, Team Jacobs, Team Smith

WOMEN

1. Team Homan (LW: 1)
2. Team Muirhead (4)
3. Team Tirinzoni (2)
4. Team J. Jones (3)
5. Team Hasselborg (NR)

Hon. Mention:  Team Sweeting, Team Sidorova, Team Flaxey

As probably expected by many, we see little to no movement in the rankings after the results from last week's tour events.  The top four teams in both the men's and women's rankings remain unchanged.  But why would they to be honest?  Koe beat Gushue in a final.  McEwen and Edin both qualified for the playoffs; however, with Edin reaching the SF he does swap rankings spots with McEwen.  Although Koe and Gushue are already starting to separate from the pack.  We do welcome Team Brewster to the Top 5 though.  Brewster has reached the QF in two of three events this season and is looking like the early favourite in Scotland.

The women's rankings see no change with the top four but a similar slight swap in positions.  Team Homan started the season with a victory and remains at the top.  Tirinzoni still qualified this weekend even if they were upset in the QF stage but do see a slight dip in rankings spot because of the stronger results from their European rivals.  Muirhead reached the final in Saskatoon while Jones reached the SF.  As Muirhead does have back-to-back final appearances, it is hard not to move her up to the #2 spot.  Tirinzoni and Jones take a small step down the mountain but still look very comfortable in the top four.  Similar to the men, we welcome a new team to the Top 5 with Sweden's Team Hasselborg.  Hasselborg has been the most consistent team on tour so far in the early part of the season.  They have played three events and qualified each time.  They have a championship title, SF and QF appearance to their credit already and have quickly established themselves as a team to watch out for all season long.

Last week's #TwineTime predictions saw mediocre results.  At the #ShortyJenkins, 7 of 8 men's qualifiers and 4 of 6 women's qualifiers were correct.  While I missed both finalists on the men's side, I did correctly predict Team Homan starting their season off with a W.  Saskatoon saw mixed results with 5 correct qualifiers and predicting Team Muirhead in the final.  I actually called for them winning the title though.  As for the action out west on the ice in Surrey, B.C., only 3 men's teams were correct and 4 women's teams.  I did have Team Gushulak reaching the final but missed out on calling them to repeat their title.

We have a full calendar of spiels this upcoming weekend with action heating up the ice across the country.  Let's get to this week's #TourLifePredictions:

MEN

College Clean Restoration Curling Classic

Saskatoon, SK.

2015 Champion:  Mike McEwen

Format:  31 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

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

Dark Horse Candidate:  Going back to the #TwineTime preview, I am interested to see how Team Meachem comes out this season.  Last year they surprised many on tour with their strong results all year, pushing Laycock at the Saskatchewan provincial tankard and qualifying for the season ending Champions Cup.  In the off-season, there was a slight line-up change with Adam Casey joining the team from P.E.I.  This will be the first opportunity to see this new team on the ice this season.  Can they continue building on the momentum from last season?  #TwineTime sure likes their odds as being a strong up and comer this year.  And what about former second Brady Scharback?  Maybe keep an eye on him as well, he has moved to the skip position with a new team (including former Sask Junior champ Jake Hersikorn) and will be competing in Saskatoon as well.  Could we see a Meachem vs. Scharback face-off this weekend?  I hope so!

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  Yikes, the competition is going to be INTENSE in Saskatoon this weekend.  So many top teams entered into the spiel means BIG ranking points on the line.  Can teams like Edin, McEwen, Jacobs and Bottcher continue a strong start to the season?  Can Team Laycock turn around a tough start to their season in their home province?  And what about some of these watch out for teams like Team Thomas, Team Shuster, Team Morozumi and Team Lizmore?  This will be the perfect opportunity to see if those "elite" teams continue to dominate the rankings or if the "B-level" teams can finally gain some ground.  This could get interesting....

Qualifiers:  Team McEwen, Team Laycock, Team Edin, Team Jacobs, Team Epping, Team Bottcher, Team Carruthers, Team Thomas

Championship:  Team Edin def. Team Jacobs

Mother Club Fall Curling Classic

Winnipeg, MB.

2015 Champion:  David Bohn

Format:  24 team round robin with 4 pools of 6 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Gunnlaugson, Team Dunstone,

Dark Horse Candidate:  The junior teams in Manitoba are proving to be the real deal!  We have known for the past few years the junior competition in the province has been above and beyond the competition in other provinces, as proven by the repeated national championships, but now we are seeing these teams compete on the men's level....and they are a dangerous threat against many of the more experienced teams.  Former Canadian and World Champion Team Calvert leads the way in this event as a dark horse team to keep an eye on.  As well, JT Ryan turned some heads last season and he will be looking to continue seeing his stock rise this year.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  New Team Dunstone vs. Old Team Dunstone!  Without a doubt this is the main story line everyone will be watching.  Skipper Matt Dunstone won last season's Canadian Junior Curling Championship with the "old" Team Dunstone.  In the offseason, Dunstone moved to a new team, formally skipped by now vice Alex Forrest.  Meanwhile, the previous Dunstone team picked up a power skip of their own in Jason Gunnlaugson.  Team Gunnlaugson has found great success so far in the early going's on their new team alliance, playing three events and qualifying in all three (including a SF appearance at their opening event in Oakville).  This will be the first time this season we see Matt Dunstone and his former team playing in the same event.  While they are drawn into different pools, the chances are high we see them face off in the playoffs....and we all want to see that!

Qualifiers:  Team Gunnlaugson, Team Grassie, Team Dunstone, Team Ryan, Team Calvert, Team David Bohn, Team Peters, Team Sigurdson

Championship:  Team Gunnlaugson def. Team Dunstone

KW Fall Classic

Kitchener-Waterloo, ON.

2015 Champion:  Rui Liu

Format:  18 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  N/A

Dark Horse Candidate:  Could this be the season for Ryan LeDrew?  LeDrew, a former lead for Brad Gushue, has played in three provinces now trying to find his place on tour.  After leaving Gushue and playing with a few other teams in Newfoundland, he moved from one coast to another and competed out of B.C. for two seasons.  After taking a few years off, LeDrew moved to Ontario, started a new team last year and is in year two of skipping his own team.  Last season they played a very limited schedule, officially entering only two events, but they did qualify in one of them.  LeDrew has the experience to succeed on tour and, with a wide open field, could turn a few heads this week.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  Wide open field!  This is a tough one to call.  We will see many "B-level" Ontario teams competing and this will be the perfect opportunity for a few of these teams to earn some world ranking points.  Some of these teams have already been competing the past few weeks at other spiels within Ontario while others will be sliding out of the hack for the first time this season.  With Ontario being considered a two horse race between Epping and Howard with a few other teams being considered outside challengers, the teams competing at this event have a great shot at moving from an also-ran position to dark horse Ontario Tankard challenger.

Qualifiers:  Team Higgs, Team Heggestad, Team Krell, Team Duhaime, Team Retchless, Team LeDrew, Team Sakrete, Team St. Denis

Championship:  Team Heggestad def. Team Sakrete

Lakeshore Curling Club Cashspiel

Lower Sackville, NS.

2015 Champion:  New Event

Format: 12 team round robin with 2 pools of 6 teams.  Top 6 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Murphy

Dark Horse Candidate:  All eyes in Lower Sackville will be on the 11 Nova Scotia teams competing on the ice.  However, it could be a team from fellow Atlantic province P.E.I. who shocks the home province fans and takes home the inaugural title.  Keep an eye on Team Newson this weekend.  Newson does not play a full tour schedule but when the team does enter into a spiel, they usually have strong results.  Last year the team competed in only two tour events but qualified in both.  With Team Casey no longer together and competing in P.E.I. the provincial tankard is wide open and this is a perfect opportunity for Newson to put themselves in the driver seat moving forward this season.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  While more local spiels like this new event out in Nova Scotia may not generate all the buzz and media attention, keep your eyes peeled on these events all season curling fans.  This week will be the first opportunity to see most of the top Nova Scotia men's teams compete this season.  Jamie Murphy will be the early favourite to win the Nova Scotia tankard (and this event to be honest) but anything could happen.  Many of the teams competing have the perfect opportunity to start their season's off on the right foot and prove themselves to be threats in the province.  Teams Stevens, S. Thompson and MacDougall will be strong teams to keep an eye on.

Qualifiers:  Team Murphy, Team MacDougall, Team Newson, Team Stevens, Team S. Thompson, Team Dexter

Championship:  Team Murphy def. Team Stevens


WOMEN

Mother Club Fall Curling Classic

Winnipeg, MB.

2015 Champion:  Michelle Montford

Format:  15 team round robin with 3 pools of 5 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Englot, Team Overton-Clapham

Dark Horse Candidate:  Beth Peterson and company could be a surprise team to keep an eye out for this weekend.  Peterson reached the final here last year and will be looking for a similar deep run this year.  While many may be looking at more experienced teams like Englot, Overton-Clapham, Spencer, and Peterson, this could be the perfect under the radar team to pull off an upset or two of the top teams.  Peterson does find herself in the same pool as Englot.  They play each other in the final round of pool play, perhaps for a shot at 1st place?

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  Consider this an early season pre-Manitoba women's championship (minus co-favourites Team Jones and Team Einarson).  This field has many of the top teams in the province competing this weekend and some will be stepping on the ice for the first time this year as well.  This is a great opportunity for one of these teams to really step up and show themselves to be a strong contender to the co-favourites in Manitoba this season.  We already have seen Team Englot and Team Overton-Clapham step into the hack with good results this season but can anyone else in this field also make a case for themselves as a real threat in the province?

Qualifiers:  Team Englot, Team Peterson, Team Robertson, Team Kilgallen, Team Overton-Clapham, Team Spencer

Championship:  Team Englot def. Team Overton-Clapham

KW Fall Classic

Kitchener-Waterloo, ON.

2015 Champion:  Allison Flaxey

Format:  16 team round robin with 4 pools of 4 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Fleury, Team Flaxey, Team Middaugh

Dark Horse Candidate:  USA's Team Christensen is going to a fun team to watch over the season.  Fresh out of the junior ranks, this will be the first full season on tour for the team.  After a runner-up finish at last year's World Junior Curling Championships, Christensen is pegged by many (#TwineTime included) to be a potential world champion and the future for USA women's curling.  They may experience the freshmen growth on tour this season but, being members of the HPP south of the border, this team has the potential to grow and contend in many events in the future.  I said this last season and I will say it again now, this team will represent USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics!

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  This event is Ontario vs. Team World.  We will see 13 of the top Ontario women's teams competing this weekend, providing an early insight into which teams could challenge Team Homan for the Ontario provincial title.  Of course we also see Team Fleury from Northern Ontario in the field as they look to get on a winning streak as well.  The international field is led by Korea's Team Gim and two "newish" USA teams to the tour, Team Schultz and Team Christensen.  All three international teams have a great shot at qualifying this week.  The Ontario teams better come prepared to defend their home ice!

Qualifiers:  Team Fleury, Team Hastings, Team Flaxey, Team Gim, Team Balsdon, Team Middaugh, Team Auld, Team Shultz

Championship:  Team Gim def. Team Fleury

Lakeshore Curling Club Cashspiel

Lower Sackville, NS.

2015 Champion:  New Event

Format:  13 team round robin with one pool of 6 teams and one pool of 7 teams.  Top 6 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Brothers, Team Breen, Team Clarke, Team Mattatall

Dark Horse Candidate:  Team Clarke without a doubt is the dark horse team in the field.  Well as much of a dark horse as you can be when you enter the season as the current World Junior Curling Champions!  This will be the first event of the season for the adjusted team, losing their world champion skip Mary Fay to her wanting to pursue her education (great decision by the way!!).  We did see this team compete at the season ending Champions Cup last year though and, even in their first event together as a team, proved they can and will be very competitive this season.  The draw is not too daunting for them and this will be a good test to see how they stack up against the top Nova Scotia women's teams, teams they will be competing against for that coveted Scotties berth later in the season.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4):  New event means an excellent season opening weekend for the top Nova Scotia women's teams.  Team Brothers, the defending provincial champions, will be looking to start their season off on a winning way.  The team surprised a few curling fans with their strong result at last year's Scotties and expectations are high heading into the year.  Team Breen, Team Mattatall, Team Clarke, Team McConnery and the rest of the field will be looking to take down the provincial champs and state their early claim to Nova Scotia favourite heading into the season.

Qualifiers:  Team Clarke, Team McConnery, Team Brothers, Team Breen, Team Mattatall, Team MacPhee

Championship:  Team Brothers def. Team Clarke

With the start of the grand slam of curling season only a few weeks away, #TwineTime wants to know which #gsoc event you look forward to the most?  Are you a fan of The Masters or The National?  Perhaps you love The Canadian Open or Players Championship the most?  Maybe you like a little change-up in the season and love the Elite 10 format?  Or perhaps the new Champions Cup to close out the season is the event you love to watch?  Either way, have your say now!  Check out the #TwineTime Home Page and vote for YOUR favourite grand slam event.