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:
- Reid Carruthers has been saying for over a season now how his team belongs in the upper echelon of the sport...and this past weekend may have finally cemented the claim. Team Carruthers surprised a few fans of the sport with their comprehensive and consistent play in Brandon, taking home the 2016 Canada Cup title over Mark Nichols-led Team Gushue. Carruthers locks up his spot in Ottawa and becomes the final member of Team North America in Vegas. John Epping almost stole the show though with his storybook run going from 0-2 to a SF finish (losing to Carruthers).
- Jennifer Jones made sure the home province fans went home happy when she claimed the Canada Cup championship over Rachel Homan. Both Jones and Homan had already locked up a spot in Ottawa so the final result was a bit anti-climatic. The result does breath new life into the Olympic qualification though for one team as an extra spot was now made available. Kerri Einarson almost made it an all-Manitoba final when she battled back from a 2-0 start, lost her next 3, won her final and survived a TB just to reach the SF (losing to Homan).
- In St. John, NB Quebec's Jean-Michel Menard is starting to look in regular Brier-form claiming the WFG Jim Sullivan Curling Classic defeating another past Brier participant (and home province favourite) James Grattan in the final. Stuart Thompson continued his strong season in reaching the SF alongside Mike Kennedy. On the women's side, the home province did have a champion to celebrate when former NB Scotties winner Sylvie Robichaud defeated Nova Scotia's Christie Gamble to claim the title. Another former NB Scotties winner, Heidi Hanlon, made a strong run reaching the SF as did Denise Nowlan.
- At the Black Diamond / High River Cash event, Calgary's Kevin Yablonski picked up their first win of the season beating Rob Johnson in the final. Jeremy Harty and Mike Sali reached the SF.
- The Thistle Integrity Stakes saw Winnipeg's own Trevor Loreth excite the home city fans when he claimed the championship over former Canadian and World Junior Champion Braden Calvert. Dennis Bohn and Taylor McIntyre were SF finishers.
Even though the action on tour was a bit light, in terms of events and amount of teams playing anyways, the action on the ice was intense. The Canada Cup brought out some tremendous curling for fans to watch and the results speak volumes towards the future of the sport in our country. However, how do the results stack up against the #TwineTime Power Rankings mountain? You know there has to be some movement right? Show me the #PowerRankings....
1. Team Edin (LW: 1)
2. Team Carruthers (HM)
3. Team Gushue (2)
4. Team Epping (NR)
5. Team Ulsrud (3)
Hon. Mention: Team Laycock, Team Jacobs, Team McEwen, Team Smith
1. Team Homan (LW: 1)
2. Team Jones (HM)
3. Team Hasselborg (2)
4. Team Flaxey (3)
5. Team Moiseeva (5)
Hon. Mention: Team Einarson, Team Sweeting, Team Muirhead, Team Englot
The top of the mountain remains firmly planted with Team #SwedishViking and Team Homan. Sure Homan lost the Canada Cup final to Jones (and lost to her in the RR) but consistency still speaks volumes here and Homan has been the more consistent and stronger team on tour this entire season. Jones did gain some valuable ground in the race up the mountain though going from the HM category to slotting herself right behind Homan. If Jones can win The National this weekend, who knows what would happen next week? Hasselborg and Flaxey are bumped down a spot to make room for Jones but both were also inactive last week. All four of the top teams will be on the ice at The National this week though so another rankings move could occur. Team Moiseeva is a tough one to call. I still cannot move them from the Top 5 just because they did not compete and teams like Einarson and Sweeting did. Moiseeva did win a European Championship remember, the equivalent to Canada's Scotties. The result cannot be ignored....but the Top 5 placing may be tough to hold onto after a grand slam event.
As for the men, Edin's Swedish powerhouse team cannot be knocked off the top even with a high stakes Canada Cup competition coming to a close and Team Edin having the week off. This team has won the past two grand slam events and the European title. Honestly they could probably go 0-4 this week at The National and it would still be a tough argument for anyone to make in saying this is not the #1 team in the world right now! #JustSayin However, welcome back to the Top 5 Reidarama! Team Carruthers reaches a career-high ranking (#TwineTime rankings that is) in moving from HM to #2 (hmmm similar to their Winnipeg female counterparts oddly enough!). Carruthers' win was impressive and they did beat Gushue in the final so they rightly deserve to move ahead of them...this week. Team Epping returns to the Top 5 after slipping a bit down the mountain the past few weeks. Their playoff run, especially after the tough start, was great to watch and that kind of tenacity and resiliency cannot be ignored.
All bets are off now though as we return to the grand slam schedule in The Soo with The National. We will have strong representation from #TeamCanada and #TeamWorld. Could we see the #TeamUpset trend continue though in a surprise finalist (or two!) or even an upset grand slam champion (see Allison Flaxey!)?
Before we slide out of the hack with the #TwineTime predictions, here is a brief history lesson on The National:
- 2016 will be the 16th edition of the event. One would think 16 years, it's 2016...this event must have started in 2000 right? Wrong curling fan! The first event took place in 2002 in Sault Ste. Marie with Ontario's Glenn Howard defeating B.C.'s Gerg McAuley in the final.
- The reason the numbers are a bit off is because this event was held twice in the same year 4 times: 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2014. The event would be held at the beginning of the calendar year, usually in January (except 2007 when it was held in March). The event would then occur again at the end of the calendar year, usually in December (except 2014 when it was held in November). Kevin Martin is the only skip to not only win the event back-to-back but also win both events in one calendar year (2007). Interestingly enough he also defeated Blake McDonald's team (with Kevin Koe, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen) in both finals.
- Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard lead the way as skips with championship victories, each collecting 4. Wayne Middaugh also has 4 National titles to his credit, 2 as a skip and 2 playing vice for Glenn Howard. Defending champion Brad Gushue is next on the list with 2 titles.
- The 2015 National was the first time women competed for the grand slam title. Last season Rachel Homan defeated Tracy Fleury in the final. Can you believe it took 15 years for the women to receive an equal invite to this event? Glad to see the sport finally moved forward on gender equality last season!
For The National, I am going to channel my inner soccer prognosticating skills and use the pool preview format. With 3 pools of 5 teams this seems like a simple and easy way to preview the action on the ice. Plus, it seems to be very successful every four years for the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship...why not use it more often in curling?
#TwineTime proudly presents starring in this week's #TourLifePredictions, The National!
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
2015 Champions: Brad Gushue (men) & Rachel Homan (women)
Format: 15 teams divided into 3 pools of 5 teams, round robin style. The Top 8 qualify.
Projected Standings: 1. Jacobs 2. Gushue 3. Laycock 4. Bottcher 5. Horgan
Here we find the most wide-open pool on the men's side with all 5 of these teams having a legit shot to make the playoffs but also completely fall apart and disappoint. John Epping comes to the Soo fresh off the "surprise" SF run at the Canada Cup. Kevin Koe is the defending world champion but the team has looked anything but golden this season, finishing a disappointing last at the Canada Cup (as defending champs too!). John Morris and company have put up some solid results but have also been plagued by consistency issues. The team could still be figuring out how to rekindle the magic of the last time they all played together and that "re-gelling" period could be taking a bit longer than some expected. As for #TeamWorld, Scotland's David Murdoch and Switzerland's Peter De Cruz will be looking to represent and follow in the footsteps of fellow European grand slam winners Team Edin. Murdoch has qualified in 4 of 7 events this season, reaching one final and making the QF at The Masters...but failed to qualify for the European Championships as Team Scotland. De Cruz was at the European Championships representing Switzerland but suffered a tough SF loss before claiming the bronze medal. This pool is the equivalent to blindly throwing darts at a dart board. Whichever team can get hot early and string together a few wins should comfortably qualify....but this may also be where we find some TB potential.
Projected Standings: 1. Koe 2. Epping 3. Morris 4. De Cruz 5. Murdoch
HERE!! And yes, that was a big preview selfish plug...so? What about Mike McEwen? His team has been completely overshadowed by their Manitoba counterparts this season and everyone is still waiting for the Real Mikey to please stand up! We know this team is due for a breakout again this season, they are too talented not to make a deep slam playoff run. But can it be here and now, against this pool? Don't underestimate Charley Thomas. Thomas may be the #TeamUpset for the pool but remember he just wrapped up a Canada Cup final loss with Team Gushue and has been playing A LOT of curling this season. The man never takes a break it seems and the experience of playing week in and week out seems to have only made him more hungry and a better player. USA's John Shuster doesn't lack any experience either. Shuster has struggled a bit on tour this season, especially at the slams, but does come here fresh off a finals appearance at his last event. Expect tight games but also a few big ends when these teams battle it out this week.
Projected Standings: 1. Edin 2. Carruthers 3. McEwen 4. Thomas 5. Shuster
Projected Standings: 1. Homan 2. McCarville 3. Flaxey 4. Fleury 5. Carey
Projected Standings: 1. Hasselborg 2. Sweeting 3. Feltscher 4. Jones 5. Kim
Projected Standings: 1. Muirhead 2. Sidorova 3. Tirinzoni 4. Einarson 5. Rocque
Men's Qualifiers: Team Jacobs, Team Koe, Team Edin, Team Carruthers, Team Gushue, Team Epping, Team McEwen, Team Laycock
Women's Qualifiers: Team Homan, Team Hasselborg, Team Muirhead, Team Sidorova, Team McCarville, Team Sweeting, Team Flaxey, Team Feltscher
MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP: Team Jacobs def. Team Edin
WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP: Team Muirhead def. Team McCarville
Enjoy the action on the ice rock heads and stoners. Keep up to date on all the stats from the games on CurlingZone and be sure to tune in to Sportsnet for the live coverage beginning Thursday!
Don't forget to have your say in the #TwineTime poll. Head over to the blog homepage HERE and vote for which team you are cheering for this week. Are you #TeamCanada? #TeamWorld? Or #TeamUpset? YOUR opinion counts and your voice matters!