Are you ready curling fans? While Christmas music starts to fill the airwaves, the screams of skips, the yells of sweepers and the cheers from adoring sports fans are about to fill the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
The beginning of December may be meant to officially kick off the countdown to Christmas but for the next week the focus will be on crowning the next #TeamCanada representative for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Bring on the roar....the Roar of the Rings!
Canada has a rich history in the sport of curling at the Winter Olympics. Our home and native land has found the podium in each of the previous 6 iterations of the sport taking place on the grandest sports spectacular of them all. Canada has claimed 3 gold medals (1988, 1998, 2014), one silver (2010) and two bronze (2002, 2006). Some of the biggest names in the sport have been fortunate to wear the maple leaf on the Olympic stage, names like Linda Moore, the great Sandra Schmirler and the defending Olympic champion Jennifer Jones. We have also seen a few surprise winners like Cheryl Bernard and Shannon Kleibrink (to be fair to Kleibrink, she has appeared in 3 of the previous 6 ROTR finals!). 9 teams will embark on the arena in Ottawa looking to add their name to the history books or, in the case of Jones, continue building on her legacy.
The women's field will have a slightly different look and feel in comparison to the men's field. While most of the teams competing in the men's draw have previous ROTR and/or Olympic experience to their resumes, some of the teams qualified in the women's field will be, in essence, rookies to this experience.
Teams like Scheidegger, Flaxey and Tippin have reaped the benefits to their success over the past two seasons to reach the ultimate goal in the sport. They will come to Ottawa flying a bit of the underdog role perhaps as the rookie skips in an event of this magnitude.
On the flip side, the defending ROTR winner Jones returns attempting to become the first team to repeat the title victory....and they just happen to have won the 2 slams leading into the event and are riding a 14-game winning streak. But this event is different and it won't be easy path to the repeat win though.
Outside a crop of the fresh faces previously mentioned chomping at the bit to make a name for themselves, previous ROTR experienced skips like Sweeting, McCarville, Englot and Carey will be looking to improve on previous results. And we cannot overlook the home town favourites and current Canadian and World champions Team Homan. You can best believe the Ottawa crowd will be 100% behind them whenever they step foot on the ice. And Homan is always dangerous in high-stakes events!
So which storyline prevails this week? Does experience win out? Can a fresh, hungry and "nothing to lose" approach catapult a #TeamUpset winner all the way to PyeongChang? It will be interesting to see how the teams navigate the stress of expectations vs. the hunger of success throughout the week. One thing we do know is with a 9 team RR and only 3 playoff qualifiers, teams will need to keep their nerves in place early. A bad 0-3 start or even 1-2 might be tough to overcome in this field. Or maybe we see the pre-trials scenario fall into place once again and by the end of the RR we are left with 3 or 4 teams sitting at 4-4 and tied for the final playoff spot. Expect the unexpected here!!
Let's size up the competition shall we? Do you believe in numbers and stats? If so, here is the brief overall summary of some key statistics of the 9 teams competing in Ottawa.
If we were to read into the numbers above, there are a few key points to make:
- Homan, Jones and Carey would be your playoff teams if we base the predictions solely on Year To Date (YTD) records. All three come into the event with strong winning percentages. On the flip side, Flaxey and Englot could be in a for a long week.
- Looking at high scoring games during the RR? If offense reigns supreme with the women's game, chalk up the advantage to Jones, Carey and McCarville. These teams love rocks in play and have the ability to drop a few big 3 or 4 or even 5 point ends on their opponents. Flaxey and Tippin play a more conservative game and if their opponents start scoring big, they may have a tough time keeping up. Also worth noting, Flaxey and Englot seem to give up lots of points in their games.
- What if nerves come into play and teams decide it is better to play a more defensive style of play? Again Homan and Jones seems to have the advantage but here could be the key to success for Tippin as well. If games are close and low scoring, Tippin could be the perfect #TeamUpset.
- The Head to Head records tell a very interesting story. The biggest standout here is considerable favourite Homan sports an underwhelming 4-6 record vs. this field. The team has only 9 losses all season; however, 6 of those losses come to teams they will compete against this week. The intimidation factor of the defending Canadian and World champion seems to have worn off. Englot also has a very lopsided record in this category...and not in the good way. Plus Flaxey and McCarville are sporting the big 0 against the competition this season. On the positive, Jones and the Alberta trifecta (Sweeting, Scheidegger, Carey) are sporting positive winning percentages against the field.
- Finally, if we look at how these teams are competing on tour this season, Jones and Carey are sporting the perfect 1.000 qualifying stat so maybe we should just move both of them into the playoffs now? Flaxey is the only team with a sub-.500 qualifying record in the field.
Speaking of predictions, similar to the #ROTR2017 Men's Preview, #TwineTime just could not handle the grandeur of this event solo. The call went out and #PolarPower answered. Welcome back to the blog rock heads and stoners one of the most popular members of the #TwineTime family: Kerry Galusha!
#TwineTime and #PolarPower shine up the rocks and slide out the hack with a full preview:
What a great conversation with Kerry Galusha! #TwineTime is always thankful for the having some #PolarPower added to the blog. Quite an interesting perspective as well AND we actually have a few differing predictions which is exciting. While #Gunner and I seemed to agree, #PolarPower and I had a few differing opinions. PLUS Galusha put #Gunner and I on notice by trumping our men's preview picks with picks of her own! Take note rock heads and stoners, Galusha is selecting the men's playoff teams to be Gushue, Koe and Jacobs with Koe (her brother) knocking off Gushue in the final. Will she prove us wrong? Can she pull the double and predict both? Time will tell I suppose....but it wouldn't surprise me.
To recap the predictions:
#PolarPower - Team Homan & Team Jones
#TwineTime - Team Homan & Team Jones
Watch Out For:
#PolarPower - Team Carey
#TwineTime - Team Scheidegger
#PolarPower - Team McCarville & Team Englot
#TwineTime - Team Tippin & Team McCarville
#PolarPower - Homan, Jones, Sweeting
#TwineTime - Homan, Jones, McCarville
#ROTR2017 Women's Final:
#PolarPower - Homan def. Jones
#TwineTime - Jones def. Homan
Agree with the predictions above? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments below and/or hit me up on twitter. Again, we all have our favourite teams to cheer for but the sole importance for the week is best of luck to all the athletes stepping on the ice and good curling to all!
Don't forget to have YOUR say on whether history will reign supreme in Ottawa with a repeat champion. Head over to the #TwineTime blog home page and cast YOUR vote NOW!! #VOTEToday
ALSO, while most of the curling eyes will be on Ottawa this week, this will not be the only event taking place with #PyeongChang2018 ramifications. Across the pond in the Czech Republic, 8 men's teams and 7 women's teams will hit the ice trying to earn the final 2 spots in the Olympic field. #StayTuned as #TwineTime will bring you a full preview of the final qualification event in Plzen next week. The #Roadto2018 has almost hit its destination....