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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

#PowerRankings W2

#BetweenTheSheets: Week 2 Power Rankings
Tour Challenge winners move up, some big names slide down


When you kick off the season with a huge grand slam event you never truly know what you are going to get.  Will the regular big names from last season continue to power their way to the top of the standings?  Will a few surprise teams emerge and knock off the "big boys"?  And which teams will take a Bambi on ice stumble in their first event of the year?

The #TourChallenge in Regina certainly provided answers to all those questions and more as the opening slam of the season rocked the house next to the new iconic Mosaic Stadium in #yqr.  We had a few #TeamUpset results.  We saw history made on both Tier I and Tier II women's sides of the draw.  And we saw a few big name teams fail to live up to expectations early on.

As we head into Week 2, here are the Ice Warmer teams, the teams with replicating Bambi on ice and the updated #PowerRankings:

#IceWarmers

1. Team Walstad - The defending champs from Norway went on a historic #TeamUpset run in their sophomore grand slam of curling event.  They went undefeated in the RR, including wins over past #gsoc champions Team Jacobs, Team Morris and Team Carruthers.  Ok sure they were blitzed in the final but it was against Brad Gushue....and who hasn't been blown out by the Goo in the past year?  It is a bit disappointing knowing this team has no shot at the Olympics since Thomas Ulsrud has already been selected to represent Norway.  But don't you wish Ulsrud and Walstad were playing off in a Best of 7 series for the ticket to PyeongChang now?

2. Team Sweeting - Ok so the defending champions of the event are already a high ranking team but defending a grand slam event, regardless of your world ranking at the time, is never an easy feat.  Sweeting seized the day (and a few misses from her competition) to get right back to the top of the slam table and pick up #gsoc title #3.  The skipper was consistent all week and the results showed.  Sweeting is also the first Tour Challenge repeat winner in the short history of the event.  3 years in and 2 titles for her....not a bad record!

3. Team Einarson - Speaking of Tour Challenge success, Einarson also picked up her 2nd Tour Challenge slam victory when she claimed the Tier II event.  Einarson won the inaugural Tier II back in 2015, propelling her to the next level and helped leading her to a slam victory last season as well.  She is the first Tier II double winner and, similar to Sweeting, has two titles in three years at this event.  She also earned a spot in the next slam, The Masters.

4. Team Gunnlaugson - Welcome back Gunner!  While the Tier I final was a bit of a snooze, the Tier II final featured outstanding curling between Gunnlaugson and rival Winnipeg competitors Team Lyburn.  It is unfortunate only those in the stands got to see this final as TV coverage supplied no updates or live looks at this game.  We had outstanding draws, hits and, of course, the standard #GunnerRunback special...Twice!!  This is the first year together for the team and they do have a pre-trials spot locked down.  Given how well they have played the first few weeks on tour, they could be the perfect dark horse to secure a trials spot in Summerside.  BTW, the #TwineTime blog has paid homage to the #GunnerRunback for a few seasons now....here is the perfect reference video from the Tier II final and a shot to score 4!!


5. Team Simmons - Speaking of new teams shining this weekend, how about Pat Simmons and his young bucks from Manitoba?  Sure these boys have Canadian junior championship pedigree flowing through them but stepping up to the big stage of a slam can be daunting for anyone.  Not these boys...and not this weekend.  The combination of youth and experience seemed to work perfectly for the new team and the young bucks seemed calm, relaxed and fearless while the vet skipper was making all the right shots all week.  They ran into a red hot Walstad in the QF but at one point of the event they posted back to back victories outscoring their opposition 20-2!!

#BambiFall

1.  Team Homan - Yes you are reading this correctly.  No this is not a mistake on behalf of #TwineTime.  The current Canadian and World champions took a mighty fall this week in Regina, posting a 1-3 record and failing to reach the playoffs.  This is not the type of results curling fans are used to seeing from this team.  Playing a de facto elimination game vs. Team Muirhead to end the RR, Muirhead looked more ready for the challenge and more determined to knock off the current Queens of Curling.  We know this team and we know this is just a little bump on the road this season....but it still has to be a bit concerning knowing you are starting the year on a slight negative, especially given how big of a year this is!

2.  Team Smith - The defending runner-up team struggled mightily in their opening slam of the new season.  They were one of only 2 teams to get the dreaded 0-4 record (more on the other team later).  One would think, knowing you are already going to PyeongChang, pressure on the season should be a bit lighter than your competition.  But perhaps not having the extra incentive right off the bat hurt the Scottish boys a bit this week.  This is still a great team and I believe they will regroup but this was disappointing to see them struggle and go winless.

3.  Team Morris - Our other 0-4 team this week was the defending B.C. champs.  To their credit their pool was arguably the most difficult with Walstad, Laycock, Jacobs and Carruthers (three of which made the playoffs).  However, no excuses either as the team found themselves on the wrong side of the ice game in and game out.  It is a game of inches sometimes and those inches were not with Team Morris.  This team is preparing for the pre-trials and hopefully this will be a minor blip on the radar screen as they look to peak as the fall part of the season drifts into winter.  But again, this was not the start to the season these guys were looking for....nor were their fans!

Given the results of the past weekend, let's take a look at the updated #PowerRankings:

MEN

1.  Team Gushue (LW: 1) - Another event, another title....the Earth is round, the sun comes up.  Gushue goes undefeated, curls 100% in a few games and looks like they never even took a few months off for the summer.  These boys haven't dropped a rock in 2017 yet!

2.  Team Edin (2) - No title defence for the #SwedishVikings but a strong SF finish is a good sign.  Coupled with a championship win a week earlier, Edin is looking good.  The 2-2 record was a bit concerning mind you.

3.  Team Jacobs (3) - Strong RR, strong playoffs, SF slam finish.  All positives to start the season.  But you have to wonder if it is starting to seep in the mind whether this team can beat Gushue on a regular basis or not?

4.  Team Epping (HM) - A 4-0 RR record was a nice start to the year.  The QF loss to Edin was tough but they did beat them in the RR.  The biggest question from the weekend perhaps was what was John thinking wearing a hat on the final RR game?  People almost didn't recognize him LOL

5.  Team Walstad (NR) - 2nd slam event, 1st slam final.  Overall this team went 6-1 this week, including W's over Jacobs, Laycock, Carruthers, Morris, Simmons and Edin.  How many other teams can say they pull out wins like that in one weekend?  Sure they suffered their only loss when it mattered most but a loss to Gushue in a slam final is nothing to hang your head about either.

Hon. Mention:  Team Laycock, Team McEwen, Team Simmons, Team Shuster, Team Gunnlaugson

WOMEN

1.  Team Hasselborg (LW: 2) - Appearing in back to back slam finals (Champions Cup) is a good sign. Failing to close out championship wins in big games (European Championships, World Championships, Tour Challenge) is a bigger concern.  Consistency is rewarded here though.

2.  Team Sweeting (HM) - Defending champs did what they needed to do, they defended!  The team went a perfect 7-0 over the weekend as well, including W's over Homan, Muirhead, Harrison, Wang, Englot, Jones and Hasselborg.  Not daunting at all right?

3.  Team Muirhead (4) - It was an up and down opening slam for the current Team GB reps in PyeongChang.  They played essentially back to back playoff games defeating Homan in the final RR just to make the TB where they had to get right back on the ice and defeat #TeamUpset contender Tippin.  The winning continued in the QF against previously undefeated and #1 seed Paetz only to be derailed a final appearance in the SF by Hasselborg.  Slow start, strong finish....

4.  Team Tirinzoni (3) - Strong week but has to be concerned with back to back losses to rival Hasselborg, including the QF loss.  Great to see the entire team back together on the ice though.  This team has to be the early favourites for the Swiss Olympic trials...but Paetz did go undefeated this week until her QF loss and Feltscher reached the Tier II SF.  #HoppSchwiiz indeed....watching these three teams battle it out the early part of the season is going to be fun!

5.  Team Homan (1) - When you play a slam and only pick up 1 victory along the way (def. Wang) you have to be concerned.  Losses to Harrison, Sweeting and Muirhead are not "bad" losses given the calibre of the teams but we still expect better results from Homan.  Maybe we are being a bit unfair though, even the best deserve an off-week every now and again right?  The big question is how they regroup!

Hon. Mention:  Team Jones, Team Paetz, Team Einarson, Team Englot, Team Harrison

We certainly see a bit of a shake-up in both the men's and women's rankings after the Tour Challenge, as expected though right?  Agree?  Disagree?  Share your thoughts below or hit me up on twitter.

#StayTuned for the preview of this week's action hitting your house later in the week.