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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).



The big victories in Europe last weekend by Nik Edin and Anna Hasselborg vaulted them both to the top of the money list.  In fact, in the case of Team Edin, they have almost doubled the total prize money of their closest competitor Team de Cruz ($42,024 to $21,553).  And, to further show the #WorldDomination theme, of the Top 11 men's teams on the money list 7 represent Team World (including the Top 3).  On the women's money list, 5 of the Top 10 money winners are from Team World (including 3 of the Top 4).  The North American teams better step up their game quick or else the world rankings...and all the money...are going to be going international this season!

With Edin and Hasselborg grabbing main headlines last weekend, here is your #GunnerRunback to Week 7 on tour:

  • The Swiss Cup Basel provided another opportunity for Team Edin to assert their dominance over their competition, picking up their second title of the season by defeating David Murdoch in the championship final.  Strong showing by Kyle Smith and Peter de Cruz though in making the SF and, for Team de Cruz vaulting them to the #2 spot on the money list.
  • The home nation celebrated hard in Stockholm when Sweden's Anna Hasselborg continued her hot start to the season defeating Hannah Fleming in the Stockholm Ladies Cup final.  This is the second tournament win for Team Hasselborg this season and this time against a very strong international field on home ice.  Silvana Tirinzoni continued to show her solid start to the season as well in making the SF along with Korea's EunJung Kim.
  • It was a welcome back party in Vernon, B.C. at the Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic for Marla Mallett.  The 2009 B.C. Scotties champion (and Canadian Scotties runner-up) proved to be the ultimate home province underdog, going 7-1 over the weekend and claiming her first tour title since the 2008/09 season defeating Cheryl Bernard in the final.  Mallett lost her opening game to Kerri Einarson but would not be defeated again, including victories over Julie Tippin, Val Sweeting (QF) and Bernard (F).  On the men's side, a #TardiParty took over when Tyler Tardi won his first career tour title defeating Japan's Yusuke Morozumi in the final.  Tardi qualified via the C-side but defeated favourites Jim Cotter (SF) and Morozumi (F) to claim the title.  #TwineTime warned you about this team being a dark horse...look out B.C. men's teams.
  • At the Avonair Cash Spiel in Edmonton, another dark horse team took home a title.  This time Glen Hansen defeated Charley Thomas in the championship final.  Hansen lost to Thomas in the opening game for both teams but would go undefeated the rest of the way, including defeating two-time defending champion Korea's SooHyuk Kim (TB), 2013 Champion Ted Appelman (QF) and Thomas (F).  It was an early birthday gift for skipper Nadine Chyz on the women's draw as Team Chyz would defeat Jodie Marthaller to claim the championship title.  Chyz would go 5-1 on the weekend en route to taking home her first title since the 2013/14 season.
  • In Winnipeg, Korea's Chang-Min Kim would reach his second consecutive tour final and, once again, find himself playing one of the Bohn brothers.  Last weekend, Kim lost the final to David Bohn.  This weekend, Kim would exact his revenge in defeating twin brother Dennis Bohn in the KKP Classic final.  Kim actually defeated Bohn in the round robin as well, part of his undefeated record for the weekend that included victories over defending champion Daley Peters (QF), pre-tournament favourite Matt Dunstone (SF) and Bohn again (F).

When looking at last weekend's results we see three more #TeamWorld teams picking up tournament titles and another runner-up finish.  We also saw a few upset teams take home the prize money, which is always great to see for the #growthesport mentality.  Did these results cause a shake-up with the #PowerRankings?  Show me the rankings.....


MEN

1.  Team Edin (LW: 3)
2.  Team Gushue (2)
3.  Team Koe (1)
4.  Team Ulsrud (NR)
5.  Team Jacobs (4)

Hon. Mention:  Team Smith, Team de Cruz, Team Murdoch 

WOMEN

1.  Team Hasselborg (LW: 5)
2.  Team Homan (1)
3.  Team Tirinzoni (3)
4.  Team Muirhead (2)
5.  Team Sweeting (HM)

Hon. Mention:  Team Rocque, Team J. Jones, Team Flaxey

As should be expected, we see some major moves on the #TwineTime rankings mountain this week.  Team Edin sprints to the top with their big win in Basel.  This is the second tournament win of the season for the boys.  They have qualified in all 5 events entered and have two titles and two SF to show for it.  Right now, they are curling as the best team in the world!  Koe slips to #3 more due to inactivity so far this season and combined with strong results of Edin and Gushue ahead of him.  Welcome Team Ulsrud to the rankings though.  Ulsrud has qualified in all 3 of their events this season (including last weekend in Basel) and has 2 runner-up finishes.  The Norwegian #CrazyPants are starting to once again look like a world championship threat.  Strong results from Smith, de Cruz and Murdoch put them on the cusp of a Top 5 ranking as well.  #TeamWorld folks!

On the women's side, we finally see a changing of the guard....at least for now!  It is impossible to deny the top spot to Anna Hasselborg right now.  She has led her team to two championships and qualified in each of the events they have entered this season.  They are playing the most consistent curling on the women's side to the this point.  Homan slips down one for similar reasons to Koe above, inactivity.  Once their season really kicks off though, watch out!  Tirinzoni remains ahead of Muirhead due to the results in Stockholm with Tirinzoni reaching the SF.  Team Sweeting moves up to that coveted, and often hard to hold onto, #5 spot after the QF result in Vernon.  Team Rocque and Team Flaxey could be surprise teams to watch as well in pushing for a Power Rankings spot.

Last weekend proved to be a VERY successful weekend for #TourLifePredictions.  #TwineTime accurately called the championship wins by Team Edin and Team Chyz.  A dark horse contender, Team Tardi, took home a title as well.  Two teams predicted as finalists (Hasselborg and Kim) ended up not only reaching their respected finals but also winning.  Plus Morozumi finished runner-up, as predicted.  Of the 7 events covered last weekend, #TwineTime only missed accurately predicting a finalist or winner in 2 of those events.  Getting a bit better at this....only close to 3 years later.


This week is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada and curling fans have LOTS to be thankful for with a very packed line-up of events to keep an eye on (or attend in person perhaps?), including 3 new events on the men's tour, 1 new event on the women's tour and the one event title name that makes all grown men giggle like little children.  Let's get to Week 8 #TourLifePredictions:

MEN

StuSells Toronto Tankard

Toronto, ON

2015 Champion:  Mike McEwen

Format:  24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers

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

Dark Horse Candidate:  All eyes will be on the power Canadian teams in this field but a dark horse contender from Switzerland could challenge them all.  Michael Brunner's team from Gstadd, Switzerland has quietly put together a pretty solid first month of the season.  This is Brunner's third season on tour and, after stepping back into vice role last season, he returns to the head of the house and is finding success.  The team qualified at the Oakville Fall Classic and the Stu Sells Oakville Tier 2 in September.  Last weekend they struggled a bit in Basel but the experience of competing in a tough field could benefit them in the long run.  Qualification in Toronto might be a bit out of reach but don't be surprised to see this team pick up a few wins and advance along the bracket throughout the weekend.

W2W4:  What's up with #RedPants?  Mike McEwen's team came into the season fresh off their first Manitoba title and expectations have been high.  The team has struggled a bit to start the season.  The QF result at Shorty Jenkins was a good start to the season but the 3-3 end result and failing to qualify a few weeks ago in Saskatoon was a bit concerning.  Last season Team McEwen was a team of consistency and it will be interesting to see if they can channel those results back into this season.  They are the defending champions here as well so you expect them to come out with the same level of intensity to match their pants....fire red!

Qualifiers:  Team Gushue, Team McEwen, Team Jacobs, Team Epping, Team Howard, Team Stjerne, Team Kim, Team Balsdon

Championship:  Team Jacobs def. Team Gushue

Direct Horizontal Drilling Fall Classic

Edmonton, AB

2015 Champion:  Kevin Koe

Format:  24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

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

Dark Horse Candidate:  This is a big event for Jason Gunnlaugson.  The team has started the season strong, currently sitting #6 on the year to date (YTD) Order of Merit (OOM) and #13 on the money list.  The momentum has been building since their SF appearance at their season opening event in Oakville.  Gunnlaugson has led the team to qualifying in 3 of their first 4 events, albeit the one they failed to qualify for was their last event two weeks ago in Winnipeg.  "Gunner" has long been touted as an up and comer with a ton of potential.  After the whole "off to Russia" episode kind of blew up, he has been trying to get his foot back in the hack of success.  Last season was a good start as vice with Team Lyburn but now, taking over a championship post-Dunstone team, expectations are higher than ever.  With a strong field ahead of him, this is the perfect opportunity to show Canadian curling fans...and opposing teams....this team is for real and can be the #1 threat to Team McEwen's Manitoba Tankard title!  Was the hot start to the season a sign of things to come or just a bit of luck?

W2W4:  What isn't there to watch?  This is going to be a very competitive event.  All the teams entered have great tour experience under their belts.  We have World Champions, Brier Champions, World and Canadian Junior Champions.  Many provincial tankard titles across the lineup.  We also have strong Asian teams representing #TeamWorld.  You really could watch any game on the ice every draw and be entertained.  This is a perfect event to put on the big boy pants and show what your team is made of.  Sure there are strong favourites but I wouldn't underestimate any team in this field.  The format is also interesting.  There will be 3 A and B qualifiers and 2 C qualifiers compared to the traditional 2 A, 3 B and 3 C format we often see.  This could be a huge advantage to those "seeded" teams like Koe and Morris.  But also look at what some of those A qualifier match ups could be:  Morris vs. Laycock?  Or Gunnlaugson vs. Laycock?  Thomas vs. Koe?  Or how about Bottcher vs. Dunstone?  However this draw unfolds, you will want to pay attention to each game each draw!

Qualifiers:  Team Morris, Team Bottcher, Team Koe, Team Dunstone, Team Laycock, Team Thomas, Team Meachem, Team Gunnlaugson

Championship:  Team Koe def. Team Morris

St. Paul Cash Spiel

St. Paul, MN.

2015 Champion:  Todd Birr

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

Top Teams Entered:  Team Shuster, Team McCormick, Team Clark

Dark Horse Candidate:  The experience of Craig Brown should not be overlooked entering this event...or this season.  USA Curling has seen a main focus be placed on teams Shuster, McCormick and Clark over the past few seasons but Brown is right in the mix once again for a world championship spot.  Team Brown has had a strong start to the season as well with a QF appearance at their season opening event in Oakville and barely missing the playoffs with a respected 3-2 record at the Shorty Jenkins.  Brown himself hasn't won an event since the 2013/14 season but this could be his opportunity to find the winner's circle once again.  Plus, being from Wisconsin, you know Brown would love to take home a title in the rival state of Minnesota.

W2W4:  This is the first big event of the year featuring the top U.S. men's curling teams.  In a race for the World Championship spot, teams will want to get off to a strong start against the competition and this event is the perfect opportunity.  If you followed Team USA's snapchat takeover with Team McCormick vice Chris Plys (a member the of the #TwineTime family btw) and second Korey Dropkin you would have seen the great venue in St. Paul and the huge increased interest in the sport.  MN may be a hockey state but curling is right behind in interest.  Expect great fan turn out and outstanding curling action as the race for the Red, White and Blue World Championship jackets heats up!

Qualifiers:  Team Shuster, Team McCormick, Team Clark, Team Brown, Team Koivula, Team Sieg, Team Fenson, Team Farbelow

Championship:  Team McCormick def. Team Clark

Man Curl Tour Classic

Winnipeg, MB.

2015 Champion:  New Event

Format:  16 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Bohn x 2, Team Calvert

Dark Horse Candidate:  Are you familiar with Taylor McIntyre?  No?  Well it might be time to take notice.  McIntyre is only in his second season of skipping, previously playing second for a few different teams.  Last season the team played 3 events, qualified in two and picked up a championship title!  This will be the third event of the season for this team and they come here fresh off a QF appearance last weekend at the KKP Classic.  This weekend they will face off against many of the same teams they have already seen this season as well.  McIntyre could surprise again...time to take notice?

W2W4:  The Twin Bohn Attack!  David Bohn won an event two weeks ago, defeating his brother in the SF (in an extra end too!).  Twin brother Dennis Bohn made the finals last weekend.  What should we expect to see this weekend?  Could we have a Bohn Brother Championship Fight?  In all seriousness though, both Bohn brother teams have been curling great to start the season and are slowly positioning themselves as two dark horse teams to challenge the top teams in Manitoba this season.  This is another perfect event where 15 of the teams are from provincial rivals and prime opportunity for both teams to exert their early season dominance over the competition.  But which Bohn wins out in the end?

Qualifiers:  Team Peters, Team Dennis Bohn, Team David Bohn, Team Calvert, Team McIntyre, Team Muntain, Team Grassie, Team Ramsay

Championship:  Team David Bohn def. Team Dennis Bohn

WOMEN

Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Curling Classic

Calgary, AB

2015 Champion:  Rachel Homan

Format:  32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

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

Dark Horse Candidate:  What will Casey Scheidegger do next?  The last time we saw Team Scheidegger on the ice they upset Eve Muirhead in the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out in Edmonton.  The question is whether or not they can replicate that magic this weekend in Calgary.  This is a very strong field once again with many of the same teams competing here that competed in Edmonton.  Can lightning strike twice with back-to-back upset wins?  Keep on eye on this team this weekend.

W2W4:  Will the big names step up and finally flex their muscles or will we continue to see more upsets and...dare I say it...a bit more parity on the world curling tour?  Team Carey, Team Einarson and Team Lawton have failed to live up to pre-season expectations early on.  Team Flaxey and Team Sweeting have found success but have not claimed a title yet, coming close mind you.  As for Team Jones, we have yet to see skipper Jennifer back on the ice and the team competing at full strength...yet!  Jones did compete at the mixed doubles event last weekend with husband Brent Laing and reached the SF.  And what about Team World?  Well for this event it will be Team Asia with 7 teams entered from the continent.  Will #WorldDomination continue?

Qualifiers:  Team Sweeting, Team Rocque, Team Wang, Team Fujisawa, Team Flaxey, Team Lawton, Team Jones, Team Scheidegger

Championship:  Team Fujisawa def. Team Sweeting

Womens Masters Basel

Basel, SUI

2015 Champion:  Anna Sidorova

Format:  24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

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

Dark Horse Candidate:  Welcome back Andrea Crawford.  The 7-time New Brunswick Scotties champion will return to the curling ice for the first time in over two years.  Everyone knows the story by now of Crawford moving out to Alberta to join Team Sweeting in 2014 and then left the team to return to New Brunswick.  The change was swift and the entire story is still surrounded in speculation outside of the team members themselves.  However, Crawford now resides in Germany and has joined forced with a powerhouse: two-time World Champion Andrea Schoepp!  This will be the first opportunity to see the new-look Team Schoepp.  Crawford does add experience and a strong skillset to the second position.  Time will tell how the team gels though.  Either way, they should be fun to watch this weekend.

W2W4:  Sweden vs. Switzerland.  It appears, after years of Switzerland dominating the women's curling scene, Sweden is ready to step back up to the top of the house and take back the crown.  Teams Hasselborg and Sigfirdsson have looked strong this season.  The Swiss women, on the other hand, are being anchored by Team Tirinzoni while defending world champion Team Feltscher and 2015 world champion Team Paetz have struggled early on.  Hasselborg took home the title last weekend at home.  Can one of the Swiss teams respond by doing the same this weekend?

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

Championship:  Team Sidorova def. Team Hasselborg

StuSells Toronto Tankard

Toronto, ON

2015 Champion:  Erika Brown

Format:  18 team round robin with 2 pools of 5 teams and 2 pools of 4 teams.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Fleury, Team Middaugh, Team Harrison, Team Hastings

Dark Horse Candidate:  Quebec's Eve Belisle has not played competitive curling and skipped a team since the 2013/14 season.  She has returned to the house this season with a new team...a very strong team actually.  With Lauren Mann as vice and Brittany O'Rourke as lead, this team has lots of experience and should challenge defending Quebec Scotties champ Marie-France Larouche this season.  However, we are still waiting for this team to come together and showcase the talent we know is there.  They will have a very experienced field this weekend but, outside Tracey Fleury, they have were drawn into a manageable pool where they could pick up a few wins and maybe have an outside shot at qualifying here.

W2W4:  Are we seeing more parity in women's curling in Ontario?  With Team Homan being the regular favourite for the Ontario Scotties title year in and year out, the question always is who will be the next team(s) to step up and challenge them?  Jenn Hanna did it, successfully, last season.  Sherry Middaugh has been the team most have been watching and expecting to challenge them.  Julie Hastings also has a recent Ontario Scotties title to her credit.  But who is the 2016 "Team Hanna"?  Julie Tippin seems to have the inside track with strong recent results.  Middaugh did win their recent event two weeks ago (over Tippin in the final).  Plus other strong contenders like Cathy Auld, Chrissy Cadorin and Danielle Inglis have really turned it up the season as teams to watch.

Qualifiers:  Team Middaugh, Team Cadorin, Team Fleury, Team Belisle, Team Inglis, Team Hastings, Team Arsenault, Team Auld

Championship:  Team Middaugh def. Team Cadorin

St. Paul Cash Spiel

St. Paul, MN.

2015 Champion:  Cory Christensen

Format:  10 team round robin with 2 pools of 5 teams.  Top 5 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Christensen, Team Roth, Team Sinclair

Dark Horse Candidate:  This may be an American spiel, in an American city, but it could be the lone Canadian team to steal the thunder this weekend.  Saskatchewan's Robyn Silvernagle could surprise her south of the border competitors and should not be overlooked.  Silvernagle comes to St. Paul fresh off a SF appearance at last weekend's Nutana Classic in Saskatoon.  A few weeks ago Silvernagle defeated top teams like Michelle Englot and Cathy Overton-Clapham at the Colonial Square event, also in Saskatoon, while playing tough in losses to Val Sweeting and Stef Lawton.  Don't underestimate this team!

W2W4:  Similar to the men's draw, this is a perfect opportunity to see the top US women's teams competing.  The winner of this event will be given the early tag as front runner for the world championship spot.  It is a small field, which is a bit disheartening from a fan's perspective as you always want to see a more teams competing....remember #growthesport friends!  However, there are very strong, high quality teams competing so the action on the ice should be fantastic.

Qualifiers:  Team Christensen, Team Silvernagle, Team Roth, Team Sinclair, Team Schultz

Championship:  Team Roth def. Team Silvernagle

The start of the Grand Slam of Curling season is TWO(!!) 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!  Seriously, it only takes a second to vote and I want to YOUR feedback on this one stoners and rock heads.  Which grand slam event will be crowned the Grand Slam Fan Choice Champion?

On a final note, I am happy to announce the #TwineTime blog will become a regular contributor to Title Sports Live.  Over the past two and a half years the #TwineTime blog has tried to bring a curling fan's perspective to the sport and I am very honoured, humbled and proud of the progress this blog has made.  I cannot thank all of the loyal stoners and rock heads out there enough who follow along with each post during the season as well as the numerous athletes on tour who have reached out and expressed their support and encouragement.  I look forward to working with Title Sports Live in the near future and continue to bring curling coverage to all sports fans all over the world.  #StayTuned  #growthesport