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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?