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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

STOH2018 Playdowns Part II

#BetweenTheSheets: Playing for Penticton
Who will punch their ticket to B.C. for the Scotties?


Oh how I love January.  Sure the weather turns frightfully cold but all it does is provide incentive to stay indoors and watch more curling!  With the Scotties and Brier playdowns in the calendar and more and more member associations finally streaming playdown games and playoffs, the options are plentiful for the curling fan who doesn't want to miss any of the action.

The top women's teams in Canada are now "Playing for Penticton" and trying to win a provincial/territorial championship to earn their spot at the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.  We began to fill in the blank spaces Sunday evening and we will fill out the rest of the bingo card at the end of the upcoming weekend.

Get ready folks.....this is going to be an action-packed weekend of curling action coming from the ice house to your house.


What a special week of celebration we had to fully kick off the 2018 calendar year folks.  Let us take a quick #GunnerRunback moment and congratulate the teams who can punched their Scotties and Brier tickets last weekend:

Northwest Territories:  Kerry Galusha
Yukon:  Chelsea Duncan
British Columbia:  Kesa Van Osch
Saskatchewan:  Sherry Anderson
Newfoundland and Labrador:  Stacie Curtis
New Brunswick:  Sylvie Robichaud
Prince Edward Island:  Robyn MacPhee / Eddie MacKenzie
Nunavut:  David St. Louis

And of course a special congratulations goes out to the newest (well new for 2018 anyway) members of #TeamCanada: Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris.  Lawes and Morris successfully navigated the mindfield known as the Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials in Portage last week and defeated Val Sweeting and Brad Gushue in the championship final to become the 1st Canadian Mixed Doubles Olympic Team!

A quick little congrats to #TwineTime fam Niklas Edin and his #SwedishVikings who picked up another tour title this past weekend, knocking off Switzerland's Peter De Cruz to claim the Perth Masters in Scotland.  This was a stacked field, including 7 of the 10 teams qualified for PyeongChang.  5 of those 7 teams qualified for the playoffs.  This was a huge W for #KingNiklas but also a great tune-up for his Swedish team as well as the other Olympic-bound teams.  Special mention though to fellow #TwineTime fam member Ryan Sherrard, lead for Germany's Team Baumann.  Baumann reached the SF in Perth, falling short vs. De Cruz.  Sherrard and company may not be bound of Korea but this does provide great momentum towards the upcoming world championship in Las Vegas.

For those keeping score at home by the way, the #TwineTime blog had a VERY successful week of predictions, correctly tagging the provincial Scotties winners in NWT, BC, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and PEI.  The Saskatchewan pick and PEI Tankard pick ended up reaching the championship final.  And of course you know I am going to put in a slight brag here for correctly tagging Lawes and Morris as the eventual Mixed Doubles champs right?  Slowly earning my curling street cred now perhaps?  The little blog that could is becoming the little blog that can!

Now I will deflate the ego balloon and recognize one good week does not equate to greatness of course.  What is the theme with this blog week in and week out on tour? Consistency, consistency, consistency!  Forward momentum though folks....

Ok we have a lot of events to cover this week with #STOH2018 and #Brier2018 playdowns on the agenda as well as a few big World Curling Tour events taking place in Tempe, AZ and Bern, Switzerland.  I'll make the note here, the Continental Cup is also taking place this weekend but seeing as this is an exhibition event #TwineTime will not be offering a preview nor predictions for the outcome.

As well, the American's Challenger series will take place at the same time as the Continental Cup with Brazil challenging Canada for a spot at the upcoming 2018 World Men's Curling Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada.  #TwineTime has already discussed this challenge series in a previous post so no preview will be made this week on this event as well.  For the record, a Team Howard 3-0 sweep over Team Brazil is expected, earning Canada their position at the world championships to defend their title.

Time to slide out of the hack with the event previews and predictions:

Scotties Tournament of Hearts Provincial Playdowns

Alberta

Medicine Hat, AB

2017 Champion:  Shannon Kleibrink

Format:  12 team triple knockout with 4 qualifiers advancing to Page Playoff.

Favourite:  This is a stacked field with a few teams being possibly tabbed "favs" heading into Medicine Hat.  The Big Two co-favourites would be Chelsea Carey and Val Sweeting.  Carey is coming off a finals loss in Ottawa at the Roar of the Rings and it will be interesting to see how they rebound.  Carey has had a strong season though, losing the Tour Challenge Tier II final to kick off the season and reaching the SF at the #gsoc National event.  In the past the Roar finalists have had mixed results heading into provincial playdowns.  Kelly Scott (2005 Roar RR) went on to win the Scotties the same season (2006).  Sherry Anderson (2001 Roar RR) did reach the Scotties final (2002) but all the other Roar runner-ups have failed to even win their province a few months later.  Enter Val Sweeting!  Sweeting has lost the past two provincial finals after posting back-to-back Scotties finals appearances.  Sweeting also won the Tour Challenge Tier I event, defending her title from a season ago.  Both of these teams are strong favourites for a deep playoff run.

Watch Out For:  Last year may have been the coming out party for former #TeamUpset flag bearer Casey Scheidegger but this year they will not catch anyone by surprise should they make a deep run at the Alberta title.  While Carey and Sweeting may grab more of the attention from media and fans, Scheidegger could be the subtle assassin to hit the ice and eliminate the competition.  Scheidegger had a tough Roar event finishing 3-5; however, based on the skippers #TwineTime interview the team is taking more positives out of the event than disappointment.  The team also has momentum from reaching the championship final at the last #gsoc event, The National.  Could this finally be Scheidegger's year?

#TeamUpset:  A few #TeamUpset contenders lurk in the Alberta field waiting to take down the top dogs.  Nadine Scotland could be the leader of the pack.  Scotland owns a tour win this season (Avonair Cash Spiel) and while failing to qualify for the Roar still had a strong pre-trials in reaching the playoff round and surviving the controversial TB rounds.  Speaking of the pre-trials, defending AB champ Shannon Kleibrink was eliminated in the same TB procedure Scotland navigated through but should still be considered a dark horse in Medicine Hat.  They shocked everyone with a championship run last season, could lightning strike twice?  And what about Kelsey Rocque's return to the provincial championship?  Rocque made the decision to skip the event last season and focus on representing #TeamCanada at the Winter Universiade, winning a gold medal.  Rocque also competed at the pre-trials, losing in the B-side SF game.  The interesting note to make on the team is Laura Crocker returning to the skip position for the championship.  Crocker will throw third stones but will call the game from the house while Rocque throws the final rocks.  Will the line-up change hurt or hinder the team?

Qualifiers:  Team Sweeting, Team Scheidegger, Team Carey, Team Scotland  

AB Championship:  Team Sweeting def. Team Scheidegger  


Manitoba

Killarney, MB

2017 Champion:  Michelle Englot

Format:  16 team RR with two pools of 8.  Top 2 in each pool advance to Page Playoff with pool winners seeded in the 1 vs 2 game.

Favourite:  Without question the favourite to claim the buffalo in Killarney will be Jennifer Jones.  The team has dominated the #gsoc circuit this year, claiming Masters and National titles already.  They reached the playoffs at the Roar in Ottawa before falling in the SF to eventual champion Team Homan.  And Jones enters the event with a bit of revenge on her mind after last season's disappointing loss in the SF to Team Robertson.  Of course there is the question of what the team does, should they qualify for the Scotties, about the vice position after Kaitlyn Lawes won the mixed doubles spot at the Olympics.  But one foot in front of the other first right?  Win the Manitoba title and deal with that later.  Jones will be hungry to get back to the Scotties.....with fellow Manitoba competitor Michelle Englot waiting for her as Team Canada!

Watch Out For:  Speaking of Team Robertson, they are back and looking to build on the momentum of reaching last year's Manitoba final.  It seemed to have lit a spark on the team heading into this season as they won a tour event in Winnipeg back in October and have qualified in 9 of 11 events on tour....that is A LOT of curling btw...and own a 16-11 H2H record vs. her competition this week.  This team has taken the approach of curl often and win often this season.  Sure the pre-trials were a bit of a disappointment finishing 2-4 but there are a lot of positives to take out of the season, including qualifying for next week's Canadian Open #gsoc event.  If they make a deep playoff run and reach another Manitoba final, it will not be considered as big of a surprise as last season.  Could she have Jones' number again?

#TeamUpset:  The young guns are blazing and ready to take aim at the top teams this week.  Shannon Birchard and Briane Meilleur are the leading contenders of the #TeamUpset youth movement in Manitoba heading into this event.  Birchard has had a breakout year picking up two titles (Colonial Square, MCT Championships) and have qualified in 5 of 8 events.  They competed at the pre-trials as well and lost out in the final qualifier game to Nadine Scotland.  Remember they also own a W over Jones in the Colonial Square final and the MCT Championship was their last event before the provincial championships.  They have confidence, momentum and a flying under the radar attitude which could suit them well in Killarney.  But another young team, who happens to be in the same pool as Birchard and Jones, could give teams fits as well: Briane Meilleur.  Meilleur made a huge statement at the pre-trials reaching both the A and B finals.  Sure she came up on the wrong side of the result in both games but the deep playoff run could help them this week.  Meilleur has also qualified in 4 of 7 events this season and reached the championship final of the DEKALB Superspiel in November.  Both Birchard and Meilleur could be ready to move up the conversation into Manitoba Scotties contender this season....if only they were not in the same pool as one another!

Qualifiers:  Team Jones, Team Einarson, Team Birchard, Team Robertson

MB Championship:  Team Jones def. Team Robertson  


Ontario

Whitby, ON

2017 Champion:  Rachel Homan

Format:  12 team triple knockout with 4 qualifiers.

Favourite:  This is a tough call.  When Homan won the Scotties last year we knew the door would be wide open in Ontario for another team to claim the title and qualify for Penticton.  What perhaps many were not prepared for is the parity we are seeing within the province right now.  There are a handful of teams who could be listed as favourites this week in Whitby.  Team Flaxey is a recent Ontario champion, winning the title in 2014, and has made the most noise over the past 2 seasons on the world tour rankings, buoyed by the big #gsoc Masters title last season.  However this season has been a disappointing one for Team Flaxey, posting a 16-28 overall record qualifying in only 1 of 7 tour events and finishing 1-7 at the Roar of the Rings.  If Flaxey flounders, another Roar team, Team Tippin, could be considered the favourite here.  Tippin rode a remarkable run at the pre-trials to qualify for the Roar.  Sure they finished 2-6 but don't let that result fool you.  Remember they won back-to-back events earlier this season in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto, posted a 14-game winning streak and qualified for the Tour Challenge Tier I and National #gsoc events.  This could be Tippin's year.

Watch Out For:  Last year at this event looked to be the year Jacqueline Harrison could finally win an Ontario Scotties title.  The team looked strong all season, already picked up W's over main rival Homan and even topped the RR with a 6-1 record (including a RR victory over Homan).  Harrison would go on to lose the championship final to Homan and is left once again waiting for her first Ontario crown.  This season Harrison has qualified in 3 of 6 events and competed in 3 #gsoc events (Tour Challenge Tier I, Masters, National).  The pre-trials were a disappointment though, entering as a contender and missing the playoffs with a 2-4 record.  Speaking of the pre-trials, another team to watch out for with a similar season profile is Sherry Middaugh.  The 7-time Scotties attendee, 6-time Ontario champ will be looking to claim her first Ontario title since 2011.  Middaugh had a successful pre-trials RR, finishing 4-2 and winning a TB before falling in the B-side match up vs. Kelsey Rocque.  They have also competed at the Tour Challenge Tier I and Masters events this season and have qualified in 3 of 6 events.

#TeamUpset:  Outside the Top 4 named above, there are a few teams who could wave the #TeamUpset flag this week and fly under the radar towards a playoff push.  Teams like Hollie Duncan and Chrissy Cadorin are dangerous floaters in a triple knockout.  Cathy Auld returns after reaching the SF here last season.  And #TwineTime fam Danielle Inglis could surprise a few teams as well.  This is the first year the Ontario Scotties have gone with a triple knockout format, meaning every team is alive and every game is dangerous.  With a RR a team can maybe afford a loss or two and still reach the playoffs.  With this new format, an early loss or two could find a team battling a #CSideGrind to stay alive.  This is going to be fun!

Qualifiers:  Team Tippin, Team Harrison, Team Middaugh, Team Duncan

ON Championship:  Team Tippin def. Team Harrison


Northern Ontario

Sudbury, ON

2017 Champion:  Krista McCarville

Format:  3 team RR with Top 2 qualifying for the final.

Favourite:  Krista McCarville is the two-time defending champion looking for the #3peat and Scotties appearance #7.  McCarville will arrive in Sudbury with plenty of momentum from her season thus far.  The team qualified for the Roar of the Rings via the Road to the Roar pre-trials.  At the Roar the team finished 4-4 and just missed a playoff spot.  On the season, McCarville is 25-20 overall, qualifying in 2 of 3 tour events and reaching the Shorty Jenkins championship final back in September.  McCarville also has the advantage of knowing she defeated main rival Tracy Fleury in the championship final here the past two years, which McCarville turned into runner-up and 4th place Scotties finishes for Northern Ontario.

Watch Out For:  Tracy Fleury is back and looking for her third Northern Ontario championship after posting victories in 2012 and 2015.  It has been an up and down season for Fleury though.  They own a respectable 20-13 overall record, qualifying in 4 of 5 events.  They recently reached the SF at the #gsoc National and picked up a title earlier in the season at the Gord Carroll Curling Classic.  On the flip side, they entered the Olympic pre-trials as a top seed and became the only team in her pool to fail to reach the playoff round (including TB of course) posting a 2-4 record.  If Fleury can focus on the positive results of the season thus far, ignore the pre-trials disappointment and eliminate the mental competitive advantage McCarville has over her the past few years, 2018 could be her year to reclaim the title and book a return trip to the Scotties.  Plus Fleury will be the home team...literally as she is from Sudbury and this event will be hosted by her home club.

#TeamUpset:  Well there is only one other team competing and, given the other two competing teams, it is safe to say Bella Croisier will be a huge underdog entering this event.  Honestly I do not know much about this team but I think they will face a huge up hill battle trying to compete with two of the top teams in Canada.  We have not seen Croisier at this event in the past so from a #growthesport perspective it is great to see fresh faces and new teams at a provincial championship.

Qualifiers:  Team McCarville, Team Fleury

NOnt Championship:  Team McCarville def. Team Fleury


Quebec

Levis, QC

2017 Champion:  Eve Belisle

Format:  8 team RR with Top 3 qualifying for the playoffs.  1st place in RR earns bye to provincial final.

Favourite:  Defending champ Eve Belisle is back looking to win back-to-back Quebec titles and claim her 4th provincial championship overall.  Last year at the Scotties Belisle posted one of her best results, finishing 7-4 and falling just short of the playoffs (She finished 7-4 in her rookie Scotties in 2006 losing the 3vs4 game to Jennifer Jones).  Belisle plays a light tour schedule, entering only 4 events this season and qualifying in just one event (SF, Shorty Jenkins Classic).  The difference for Belisle though is her team will travel to compete in deeper field events, often competing in Ontario and this season competing in Red Deer.  The overall record may be 11-11 but the competition has been stronger than what we normally could see competing only in Quebec.

Watch Out For:  9-time Quebec champion, 1999 Canadian junior champion and 2004 Scotties runner-up Marie-France Larouche is still going strong and looking to reclaim the Quebec title she lost last year.  Larouche won the title in 2016 but failed to repeat the win last season, losing in the final to Belisle.  We have only seen Larouche on tour once this season....and they just happened to go undefeated and win the Experience Curling Classic in November.  They may be the only team in history to enter a provincial championship with an undefeated record on the season?!  Larouche is always tough to read.  She plays a very small tour season due to work and other commitments but seems to always contend and win once she enters a provincial championship and Scotties.  Always dangerous!

#TeamUpset:  Will Roxane Perron finally break through and knock off the perennial favourites in Quebec?  You have to feel for Perron folks.  She has reached the playoffs every year since 2014 and has lost in the SF every year, minus 2015 when she finally reached the Quebec final only to come up short against Lauren Mann.  Perron is not even in the position to be labelled always a bridesmaid and never a bride but rather always the last one to miss out on bridesmaid selection.  Perron continues to contend though and remains fully planted as the #3 team in Quebec....but can she break her own glass ceiling and finally make a deep run to the title?

Qualifiers:  Team Belisle, Team Larouche, Team Perron

QC Championship:  Team Belisle def. Team Larouche


Nova Scotia

Dartmouth, NS

2017 Champion:  Mary Mattatall

Format:  8 team RR with Top 3 qualifying for the playoffs.  1st place in RR earns bye to provincial final.

Favourite:  Theresa Breen should be considered a favourite to claim her first Nova Scotia Scotties title.  But the national Scotties event is no stranger to Breen remember.  She is a 4-time Scotties participant when she curled as vice for Anne Merklinger in Ontario and reached Scotties finals in 1998 (sidenote: I was at those Scotties and saw Breen with Merkilinger compete in the SF and CF) and 2000.  Breen has been one of the top Nova Scotia teams on tour for a few seasons and this year reached 3 championship finals, picking up her lone title in Moncton, NB at the end of October.  Breen also competed at the pre-trials representing the Atlantic provinces and finished with a record of 3-3, losing the first TB game to Nadine Scotland.  Overall, Breen sports a 21-15 record on the season and a 9-7 H2H record vs. her competition.  Expect a playoff run from Breen this week.

Watch Out For:  Never discount former champions in a field right?  Well Dartmouth is littered with former championship this week.  We have 21-time Scotties attendee, 6-time Scotties winner, 2-time world champion and current World Senior Champion Colleen Jones back in the mix.  We have former Team Jones second and now long-time skip Mary-Anne Arsenault, a 12-time Scotties attendee and 3-time NS champion as skip (2008, 2013, 2015) also contesting for another title.  And we have 3-time NS champion (2007, 2014, 2016) Jill Brothers back to reclaim the title she lost last season in the upset to Mattatall.  All 3 of these teams could make playoff runs this week and will be looking to get back to the Scotties to represent the Bluenose Province.  Brothers probably has the best chance, reaching 3 championship finals on tour this season and claiming a title in Halifax.

#TeamUpset:  The past champions in the field may be the teams most fans are keeping their eyes on but it could be Kristen MacDiarmid who could steal the show.  MacDiarmid owns an 18-8 record on the season, has qualified 3 of 4 events reaching at least the SF and have claimed a championship title at the OVCA Women's Fall Classic.  The title win in Kemptville included victories over 2018 Olympian Victoria Moiseeva and current World Junior champion Isabella Wrana.  They also own a positive 5-2 H2H record vs. the competition.

Qualifiers:  Team Brothers, Team MacDiarmid, Team Breen

NS Championship:  Team Brothers def. Team MacDiarmid


Tim Hortons Brier Provincial Playdowns


Nova Scotia

Dartmouth, NS

2017 Champion:  Jamie Murphy

Format:  8 team RR with Top 3 qualifying for the playoffs.  1st place in RR earns bye to provincial final.

Favourite:  Defending champ Jamie Murphy will look to accomplish the #3peat in Dartmouth, which happens to be a place he calls home.  Murphy has won 4 NS Tankard titles (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017) and last year ended the run of odd-numbered year disappointments.  He seems to excel in even-numbered years so why not expect 2018 to follow the trend right?  Plus Murphy is having a great season, sporting a 23-15 record on tour and qualifying in 3 of 5 events.  The team picked up a championship win in their last event of 2017, the Jim Sullivan Curling Classic in St. John, New Brunswick, and made a deep SF run at the Stu Sells Toronto event back in October. They also competed at the Road to the Roar pre-trials and finished with a respectable 3-4 record, just missing the playoffs.  They own a 3-1 H2H record with their competition this week and should be considered strong favourites for the #3peat victory.

Watch Out For:  Kendal Thompson is coming for you Jamie....and be prepared all of NS as a new champion might be ready to take the thrown this week.  Thompson has been one of the best NS teams on tour this season, owning a remarkable 22-6 overall record and qualifying in 4 of 5 events.  The team owns two tour titles, Lakeshore Curling Club Cashspiel and Spitfire Arms Cash Spiel, while reaching the SF in the other two events qualified.  When we look at H2H records against the competition, they are on the plus side with an 8-4 record.  If this team gets off to a hot start, including a Draw 2 match up with former Canadian champ Mark Dacey, watch out!!

#TeamUpset:  Speaking of Dacey, he might just be the underdog team to make a playoff push this week.  Some have believed the best days of Mark Dacey are in the past but never discount a former Canadian champion folks.  The 2004 Brier champ is a 6-time Brier participant and many forget he also reached a Brier final in his rookie campaign (with Saskatchewan's Brad Heidt in 1995).  Dacey has put together a solid year on tour as well, posting a 17-9 record, qualifying in 3 of 4 events and winning the tour event in Halifax at the end of October (defeating Jamie Murphy in the SF and Chad Stevens in the CF btw!!).  His team should come to Dartmouth with confidence against the competition too, owning a strong 7-3 record.  If Dacey can turn back the clock and hit his stride as he has in the past, he could collect provincial title number 7.

Qualifiers:  Team Murphy, Team K. Thompson, Team Stevens

NS Championship:  Team K. Thompson def. Team Murphy


Yukon

Whitehorse, YK

2017 Champion:  Jon Solberg

Format:  6 team RR triple knockout.  If 1 team wins A, B and C qualifier, they win the #YKTankard.  If 1 team wins two qualifiers, they must be defeated twice in the playoffs.  If 3 different teams win each qualifier, A winner earns berth in final and B vs C qualifiers compete in SF.

Favourite:  Defending champions always earn respect as favourites to next year.  Jon Solberg is back in Whitehorse to defend the ice.  We have only seen Solberg on tour once this season, in Brantford where the team failed to qualify and went 1-3.  But Solberg wasn't the favourite last season and look how that worked out for them.  They have the confidence of winning last season and the experience of competing at the Brier, even if only in the dreaded qualification round.  Plus Solberg will actually be looking to pull the #3peat as he also won the Yukon title in 2016 as vice for Bob Smallwood.  It won't be easy to defend the title but they are in the conversation as contenders for sure.

Watch Out For:  Well well well.....look who is back competing for a Yukon championship: Thomas Scoffin!  Scoffin is a 6-time Yukon junior champion (and one-time Alberta junior champ) as well as competing at the University of Alberta and representing #TeamCanada at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics in mixed curling.  Scoffin has returned to his home territory to contend for a Brier berth and will be joined by some experience teammates.  Tom Appelman will join Scoffin as vice and Wade Scoffin at second.  Wade Scoffin won the Yukon title in 2015 and lost the Yukon final in 2016 (with Matthew Blandford) and last year (with Brent Pierce).

#TeamUpset:  Speaking about Bob Smallwood, can a previous champ really be a #TeamUpset?  Ok perhaps it is a bit unfair but two-time champ (2015, 2016) could still be considered a dark horse team given the two teams listed above.  In saying that, does it mean a Smallwood victory would be a total shock?  Not at all....this is a wide open Yukon championship.  Any of the three teams mentioned could pull the title victory.  Smallwood failed to win a qualifier at last year's championship and could have revenge on his mind this season.

Qualifiers:  Team Scoffin, Team Solberg

YK Championship:  Team Scoffin def. Team Solberg


World Curling Tour

MEN

Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic

Tempe, AZ

2017 Champion:  Mike McEwen

Format:  15 team RR with 3 pools of 5.  Top 8 qualify.

Top Teams Entered:  Team McEwen, Team Carruthers, Team Laycock, Team Epping

Favourite:  Mike McEwen will come to Tempe with momentum....and disappointment.  The Olympic dream ended for the boys in Ottawa when they made the deep run to the #ROTR2017 trials finale to come up short vs Team Koe.  McEwen then joined wife Dawn in Portage for the #CMDT2018 and ended up with a disappointing record, missing the playoffs.  At the same time, if the team goes with the half glass full mentality, there is a lot of positives to take out of the Ottawa experience.  The boys played one of their best events and came within inches of winning the #TeamCanada jacket.  Plus they are the defending champions here and last year used the success at this exact event to propel them forward towards a Manitoba championship and deep Brier run.  Can the recent past stay in the past or does the positive past build momentum?  Which path does the team take in Tempe?

Watch Out For:  The defending #TeamGreen reps from the Brier, Adam Casey, could be a team to make a deep playoff run in the dessert.  Now sure this is a different Casey team from the St. John's last year, namely Catlin Schneider is gone and Brock Montgomery is in.  The team started slow this season failing to qualify in their opening two events, including the Tour Challenge Tier II in Regina, and had a disappointing result at the Road to the Roar Olympic pre-trials.  But they have qualified in 3 of their past 4 tour events including reaching the championship final at their most recent event, the US Open, to end 2017.

#TeamUpset: A US-hosted event so you know we need to have a US-based team lead the #TeamUpset flag waving right?  How about Kroy Nernberger?!  Nernberger has only played 2 tour events this season and has failed to qualify in both, including the recent US Open.  However, at the recent USA Men's Challenger Round event to kick off 2018, the team posted a 4-1 overall record to win their spot at the upcoming USA Championships.  The sport an overall season record of 9-6, including a W over #TeamUSA John Shuster at the US Open.  They could be the strongest USA team competing for the home nation.

Qualifiers:  Team McEwen, Team Carruthers, Team Epping, Team Geall, Team Casey, Team Laycock, Team Joanisse, Team Nernberger

Championship:  Team McEwen def. Team Laycock


WOMEN

International Bernese Ladies Cup

Bern, SUI

2017 Champion:  Alina Paetz

Format:  32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Teams Entered:  Team Paetz, Team Muirhead, Team Moiseeva, Team Wang, Team Sidorova, Team Feltscher, Team Sinclair, Team Wang

Favourite:  PyeongChang-bound Eve Muirhead should be considered the early favourite heading into this event.  Muirhead is 35-16 on the season, won the European Championship, qualified in 5 of 6 tour events and claimed a tour title in Edmonton earlier in the year.  Muirhead is using this event as an Olympic preparation event and why not?  The event includes two other Olympic teams (Team Moiseeva, Team Wang) as well as strong contenders from around the globe.

Watch Out For:  #HoppSchwiiz as we always say here at the #TwineTime blog and the host nation will have plenty of teams to cheer for this week.  Alina Paetz enters as the defending champion already with a title under her belt this season (Stockholm Ladies Cup).  Paetz has qualified in 7 of 8 events this season but has also lost in the QF 5 times.  Two-time world champ and #TwineTime fam Binia Feltscher will also be stepping on the ice for the home nation.  Feltscher has qualified in 6 of 7 events this season, including a championship final run at the Women's Masters Basel and SF appearance at the Tour Challenge Tier II and the Curl Mesabi Classic in their last event.

#TeamUpset:  Beware the youth movement!  Hmmm seems to be a trend this season doesn't it?  If the more experienced skips and teams underestimate their opponents, a brigade of young skips could be ready to take them out.  Led by defending world junior champ Isabella Wrana from Sweden, up and coming Swiss teams Selina Witschonke and Elena Stern (playing vice for Briar Huerlimann), fresh out of the junior ranks USA's Cory Christensen, Hungary's Dorottya Palancsa and Scotland's duo of Hannah Fleming and Sophie Jackson are all dangerous floating threats in a triple knockout draw.  Don't be surprised if a few of these teams knock off some of the contenders and make a deeper than expected run in Bern.

Qualifiers:  Team Muirhead, Team Feltscher, Team Moiseeva, Team Paetz, Team Wang, Team Sinclair, Team Wrana, Team Sidorova

Championship:  Team Muirhead def. Team Paetz


There you have rock heads and stoners.  Preview and predictions for the remaining Scotties events to round out the field and we continue to fill in the spaces for the Brier field in Regina.  Plus some big events on tour this week AND the all-important America's Challenge event coinciding with the Continental Cup.  Quick props to the International Bernese Ladies Cup as well.  This event is celebrating their 50th!! Anniversary this season.  It will be another busy week of curling.  Enjoy!

Worth noting, remember the Scotties and Brier fields have expanded to 15 teams this year.  The final berth will be decided through a wild card playoff game between the highest two CTRS teams not earning a direct spot via their provincial/territorial playdown.  Who is in the best position to gain from this second chance opportunity?  Keep your eyes on the results in Alberta and Manitoba.  Jennifer Jones has the #1 ranking followed by Chelsea Carey.  Kerri Einarson is #3 and Kelsey Rocque is #4.  As of right now, assume two of these four teams will receive the saving grace card and have a second chance opportunity to punch their ticket to Penticton.

#StayTuned as well....the Canadian Junior Curling Championships hit the ice in Shawinigan, Quebec this weekend.  #TwineTime will have your full preview of the men's and women's field and, of course, try to handicap the field with some predictions.