The curling season is done with warming up the sliders and curlers taking practice slides. The opening few weeks of the season saw one or two events on both the men's and women's tour to wet our curling palate and build anticipation for the season.
Welcome to Week 4 rock heads and stoners. Enough of the "preseason" and time to get the houses rocking and rocks sliding. This is really the first big week of the season with the debut of the Curling World Cup trending worldwide but also a full plate of men's and women's events to keep your curling eyes wide open and grabbing the popcorn.
What more can we say other than "Let's Go!!"
This weekend will <finally> bring out a few teams we have yet to see step on the ice this season. Newly formed Team Kevin Koe is already sweeping up the competition in China at the Curling World Cup. Olympic champions Team Anna Hasselborg is doing the same. And a new look Team Eve Muirhead is competing, minus their skipper still recovering from surgery.
But these are not the only teams making their debut this week. Week 4 action will also welcome back to the ice defending Canadian and World champion Team Jennifer Jones, with new second in tow. Fellow 2014 Olympic champs Team Brad Jacobs will also be welcomed back to the ice in front of home province supporters. And we will finally see how #TeamBFF looks on the ice when best buddies Reid Carruthers and Mike McEwen put their new alliance to the test.
Oh yes...there will be rocks in play. And there will be runbacks and in-offs and doubles making fans cheer in joy. And there will be misses to make us moan and upsets to make our jaw drops. With so many #wct events on the ice, new teams competing for the first time and teams with some experience under their sliders already this season we are sure to have a lot of curling to follow. So no big topic of discussion leading into the tour event previews this week folks. As the theme of the week says, "Let's Go!"
The #TwineTime predictions last weekend were a bit more successful than the week prior. We had seen a slightly consistent dip in accuracy over the past weeks, culminating in a barely above average B grade last week. This week, when looking back on the predictions, I think we are back trending in the positive direction. At the #StuSellsOakville event, the predictions went 4/8 with the men with predicted winner Epping reaching the SF and finalist Dunstone making the QF. Winner Schwaller was predicted to qualify but I overlooked them in making a run to the title. For the women, a similar 4/8 on qualifiers; however, predicted winner Tirinzoni did reach the final at least. Plus props on calling Sweden's Isabella Wrana as the team to watch out for. At the #HDFShootout in Edmonton, 4/6 for qualifiers AND a correct prediction on Team Casey Scheidegger taking home the title! Plus, again, a little props for predicting the #TeamUpset in the field with Russia's Alina Kovaleva (if only I would have had the curling stones to make the qualifying prediction too but I changed last minute to Team Rocque). Perhaps average on predicting the qualifying BUT add in the correct champion in Edmonton and we see a slight raise in the overall grade for the week. Overall Grade: B+ (as in back in business).
We have some big events hitting the house this weekend. There are three men's and four women's events to keep our eyes on. This weekend also will be special in as we will see our first #Tour1000 event of the season with the men's draw at the Shorty Jenkins Classic. It is not lost on this blog however in seeing the women's draw listed as a #Tour500 in comparison to their male counterparts. Please remember, the #TwineTime proposed tour structure ranking is based on the purse prize made available per event. Thus meaning the men's draw ($59,000) is handing out more money compared to the women's draw ($34,500). Is this fair? No! We always want to see equal payouts for our men's and women's events. While it is not happening this year, hopefully it will in the future! As fans, we should certainly be demanding the same.
This weekend we will focus on events in Cornwall, Saskatoon, Maple Ridge and Morris. Please note, unfortunately I could not find any info on the men's field in Morris so there will be no preview/prediction for this event. My apologies to those team competing.
Lets slide into the #TourLifePredictions:
Shorty Jenkins Classic (Tour 1000)
2017 Champion: Team Brad Jacobs
Format: 24 team RR with 4 pools of 6 teams. Top 8 qualify.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Gunnlaugson, Team Epping, Team Jacobs, Team Carruthers, Team Shuster, Team Schwaller, Team Howard
Favourite: Welcome back to the ice the defending champions Team Jacobs. We have not seen the boys from Northern Ontario since last season and they picked the perfect first event for them to make their season debut. We have certainly seen over the past few weeks the teams playing their first event of the year have struggled, especially against teams playing their second or third event. However, the advantage for this team is they faced no off-season changes. There is no "getting to know you" phase with these guys as they have curled together for so long they will be ready to go. Jacobs is always a tour threat and entering this event looking to #DefendTheIce makes them a favourite.
#TeamUpset: Are we finally going to see the re-emergence of Quebec curling this weekend in Cornwall? For a long time Quebec has really only been a one-team province. We have had Guy Hemmings in the past. We recently had Jean-Michel Menard. Now we have an opening for a few Quebec teams to step up and make a move. There are a trio of Quebec teams in this draw who could wave the #TeamUpset flag this weekend and make some noise. Leading the march will be Martin Crete. After playing vice for Menard in the past, Crete returns to the skip position this season. Remember Crete began his career as a skip, noted for being a 5-time Quebec junior champion and finishing runner-up at the 2002 Canadian Juniors. Crete will be taking over the former Menard team adding Phillipe Lemay at vice. Crete is in a tough group, joined by Gunnlaugson, Schwaller and McDonald, but if he quickly rediscovers his skip game he could be a threat to push towards a playoff spot. Also keep your eyes on Martin Ferland, as he has joined forces with Don Bowser and Jason Camm this season. Ferland will also be in tough during the RR, drawing Jacobs, Shuster and Charley Thomas but again don't underestimate him either. And the final team as an ultimate dark horse would be Pierre-Luc Morissette/Jean-Sebastien Roy. This team made headway on tour last season with some strong tour results. They did go 0-4 in their season opener event in Oakville but are capable of pulling off a few W's this weekend. This would be great for the sport to see Quebec teams begin to re-emerge on the #wct scene.
W2W4: We are still awaiting to see how the new Team Howard will perform. Their initial time on competitive ice did not go well, going winless at #StuSellsOakville. We are also interested in seeing the new look Team Epping continue to showcase the front end duo of Laing/Savill and whether they can follow-up their season opening SF finish in Oakville. Epping and Howard are drawn into the same group, which means we get a nice Ontario battle in the RR Saturday morning. And of course we cannot forget to mention #TeamBFF from Manitoba. How will the new Carruthers/McEwen combo work out? This will be the first time we see the best buds hit the ice together. Carruthers skipping. McEwen throwing the final rocks. How will the strategy play out? Do best friends off the ice equate to success on the ice? Time will tell but many will be watching the first look this weekend.
Qualifiers: Team Gunnlaugson, Team Carruthers, Team Jacobs, Team Epping, Team Schwaller, Team Paterson, Team Shuster, Team Howard
Championship: Team Epping def. Team Jacobs
King Cash Spiel (Tour 250)
Maple Ridge, BC
2017 Champion: Team Sean Geall
Format: 12 team RR with 2 pools of 6 teams. Top 4 qualify.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): N/A
Favourite: This could be the year folks. The year Tyler Tardi brings his #TardiParty from the junior ice to the men's ice. Without question I think many are nabbing Team Tardi as an early contender to make a push for the B.C. title and a spot in the Brier. Of course Team Cotter will still be the favourite but Tardi may be the ultimate team to watch in B.C. Tardi does have a line-up change for the men's tour this season as well joining forces with a former junior rival Matthew Hall, who makes the move out west from Ontario. And of course Hall is a #TwineTimeFam member remember. This field is full of B.C. opposition so it will be a great litmus test for the young skip and new team to see just where they stack up against most of their provincial competition early on.
#TeamUpset: We have a few young teams looking to wave the flag this weekend but also a few experienced teams looking to do the same. Matthew McCrady is a former B.C. junior finalist and we all remember watching how animated and excitable he is on the ice. He wears his emotions on his jacket and sometimes we crave seeing that from our athletes. It would be nice to see him have a successful event here. But also watch out for young skips like Tyler Klymchuk and Cody Tanaka who are looking to really get their sliders wet on the men's competitive ice and could be #TeamUpset threats in this wide open field. On the flip side, Seattle's Lyle Seig and Vancouver's Stephen Schneider bring years of experience as skips to the competition and will be looking to leverage this experience to their advantage in making a push for the playoffs. Which side wins out this weekend? Youth vs. Experience?
W2W4: We have a few new teams to keep our eyes on this weekend too. Notably #TwineTimeFam member Matt Blandford who will try his hand in his fourth province (previously competing in Newfoundland, Yukon and Alberta). It will be interesting to see how the newly formed team performs. And speaking of new skips in B.C. what about New Brunswick-born Josh Barry. Barry makes an even longer move out west to join forces with a new team and try his luck at chasing a B.C. title. Barry will have an experienced front-end aligning with former Team Joanisse players Jay Wakefield and #TwineTimeFam member John Cullen. At vice, Barry will welcome Sebastien Robillard, who skipped out of Ottawa last season. Robillard is a former champ at this event (2013 with Sean Geall) and Wakefield/Cullen won this event two seasons ago and reached the final last season with Team Joanisse.
Qualifiers: Team Tardi, Team Barry, Team Wenzek, Team Sieg
Championship: Team Tardi def. Team Barry
Shorty Jenkins Classic (Tour 500)
2017 Champion: Team Jamie Sinclair
Format: 18 team RR with 3 pools of 6 teams. Top 8 qualify.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Sinclair, Team Tirinzoni, Team Fleury
Favourite: Event #2 for the potential #HoppSchwiiz superpower Team Tirinzoni. The team made their debut at the #StuSellsOakville and rode an undefeated record into the final, where they ran out of gas and lost to Team Einarson. However, of newly formed teams competing in their first event together, they are unquestionably one of the most successful. The combo of Silvana Tirinzoni/Alina Paetz has the potential to be the best back-end combo in Swiss curling history and, if successful, could create a tough to beat force on the international stage. But before we get ahead of ourselves, lets see how they do in event two. They have a winnable pool, avoiding many of the fellow big names in the event. We know Tirinzoni is almost always a "gimme" pick to qualify in tour events, it is just crossing the finish line for the title where they get hung up. This is a strong threat for the W here though.
#TeamUpset: Who was the #TeamUpset flag bearer at this event last year and looking to repeat their QF appearance this year? Did you say Quebec's Laurie St.-Georges? You are correct...great memory rock heads! This blog made mention of St.-Georges as a #TeamUpset contender at the #OakvilleFallClassic, where they won their opening game but lost their next three to miss the playoffs. Remember this is still a young, up and coming team so we should not necessarily expect spiel wins but close games and few W's are possible. They will be in tough though drawing defending champ Sinclair, former two-time world champ Binia Feltscher and current ON Scotties champ, and a SF here last year, Hollie Duncan. But never say never right? It is what makes a perfect #TeamUpset contender!
W2W4: I started saying it last year. I have already said it this year. There may not be another women's team I am watching with more interest than young Isabella Wrana from Sweden. I am still buying stocks in this team and recommend you do the same. Wrana is coming off a SF finish at #StuSellsOakville and is on the cusp of cracking the Top 15 and inching towards that grand slam qualification standard. They are drawn into a perfect pool to see if the stock can continue to rise as they will face off with Fleury, Harrison, Inglis and up and coming Elena Stern from Switzerland. A 3-2 or 4-1 record is very feasible here. And watch out for Team Hopson folks. Hopson comes into Cornwall fresh off a championship final appearance at the #OakvilleFallClassic, surprising many with their great play and overall 5-2 record. Can they continue the hot start to the season this weekend?
Qualifiers: Team Wrana, Team Harrison, Team Sinclair, Team Duncan, Team Tirinzoni, Team Hopson, Team Inglis, Team Arsenault
Championship: Team Tirinzoni def. Team Wrana
Colonial Square Ladies Classic (Tour 500)
2017 Champion: Team Shannon Birchard
Format: 18 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Jones, Team Robertson
Favourite: Welcome to the 2018/19 season Jennifer Jones. The current Canadian and World champion will make her season debut with the slightly new line-up, welcoming Jocelyn Peterman to second after the retirement of Jill Officer. Without question this team will be the favourite to take home the title in Saskatoon. I am sure there will be some emotion on the ice, especially for Jones and lead Dawn McEwen who have played with Officer for so many years. But change also brings excitement and Peterman can instantly bring a new jolt of energy into the team. All eyes will be on this team this weekend.
#TeamUpset: Could we finally see a Sasky-based team emerge with the title on home ice this weekend? It certainly has been awhile. The last SK team to win here was Stephanie Lawton in 2012. In fact, Lawton is a 4-time champ winning the title in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Lawton will be back on the ice this weekend looking for title #5 with her new team as a vice for Team Silvernagle. Silvernagle could be the best bet to reclaim the title for Sasky curling fans too given they are coming off a season-opening SF appearance in Edmonton last weekend. There are a few other Sask teams to carry the flag this weekend though, including Sherry Anderson, Amber Holland, Kristen Streifel and Ashley Howard. All of these teams have the potential to reach the playoff round and make a deep run.
W2W4: Team Yoshimura! The former Team Ogasawara from Japan already has two titles to their credit this season but this is really the first major event to square off with top competition like Jones and Robertson. Yoshimura reached the QF last weekend in Oakville before being upset by PEI's Suzanne Birt. Yoshimura draws defending SK champ Sherry Anderson in her opening match and could face Jones in an A-qualifier. Lets see what happens and if they can continue their hot streak to the season as the competition grows more fierce.
Qualifiers: Team Jones, Team Robertson, Team Flaxey, Team Yoshimura, Team Silvernagle, Team Anderson, Team Howard, Team Holland
Championship: Team Jones def. Team Silvernagle
King Cash Spiel (Tour 250)
Maple Ridge, BC
2017 Champion: Team Sarah Wark
Format: 10 team RR with Top 4 qualifiers.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): N/A
Favourite: Defending B.C. Scotties champion Kesa Van Osch makes her season debut this weekend and will be an early favourite against her B.C. counterparts. Van Osch had an outstanding season last year reaching the Scotties and advancing past the round robin stage and into the championship round. While she struggled against the strong competition she did finish a respectable 7th overall with a 4-7 record. Given the previous low results for B.C at the Scotties, Van Osch really put the province back in the national curling scene. Now what is the follow-up? Can she continue the momentum into this season and continue making B.C. curling relevant once again. This would be a great opportunity to show she is the current face of the sport for the province while also showing her competition she is the team to beat. Also note Van Osch was a finalist a year ago.
#TeamUpset: This could be the season for Corryn Brown. The 23-year old has been away from the junior scene for a few years now and is waiting for her tour breakout season. Last season her team was awarded the Curl B.C. Adult Team of the Year honours so expectations are now going to be high heading into this season. Brown is a former Canadian Junior champ (2013) and has long been considered a future face for B.C. curling. This would be the perfect event to stake her claim as no longer the up and comer but now a contending favourite for the B.C. Scotties title. Brown is also a past champion here, winning the event in 2014 when she was still a junior.
W2W4: This is a wide open field really. We have 10 B.C. teams competing and all of them will be making their season debuts. We cannot be totally sure what to expect other than knowing this is a basic preview of the B.C. Scotties competition late in the season. Teams will want to get the early advantage, both from a results-base but also mentally, on their provincial competition and a tournament win to kick-start the year surely will help make that a possibility.
Qualifiers: Team Van Osch, Team Wark, Team Gushulak, Team Brown
Championship: Team Van Osch def. Team Brown
Morris SunSpiel (Tour 250)
2017 Champion: New Event
Format: 10 team RR with two pools of 5 teams. Top 4 qualify.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Einarson
Favourite: #TeamSkipper is going to be the overwhelming favourite in this field. This is the most experienced team in the field and Team Einarson is coming off a championship winning performance last weekend in Edmonton. Why wouldn't they be considered the favourite here? This will be a nice early battle for them against a few Manitoba teams who are looking to make a run at them for the Buffalo crown later in the year. Frankly anything less than a championship win here would be considered a huge upset.
#TeamUpset: The field. This really is Team Einarson vs. Everyone. Beth Peterson and Barb Spencer are probably the most experienced teams who could give Einarson a run. Peterson is drawn in the same pool as Einarson too. Spencer, on the other hand, has a more wide open pool which could be both an advantage or disadvantage. The Burtnyk duo should also be formidable here with Laura and Rachel both skipping their respective teams and could have a shot at making a qualifying run in the same pool as Spencer. Watch out for former Jones fifth Jennifer Clark-Rouire too.
W2W4: The big story line in Morris will be if any of these teams can give Einarson a run for her money and compete for the title. From resume and experience alone it would seem Einarson is a long slide above the competition. However, this is sport and why we play the events folks. Anyone can be beaten at any time by any team. If any of the other 9 teams in the field can knock off Einarson and even win this title it would be a huge confidence boost for that team and give some momentum into the season. Unfortunately most of these teams are also making their season debut while Einarson has two events under her belt and a #wct title to boot. It won't be easy and I think, if I was a betting man, I would be taking Einarson over the field here. It is worth mentioning though the winner of this event will receive an automatic berth in the 2019 MB Scotties field so, besides money, ranking points and bragging rights, that direct path to the provincial tournament is a huge cherry on top.
Qualifiers: Team Einarson, Team Clark-Rouire, Team Peterson, Team Spencer
Championship: Team Einarson def. Team Peterson
Wow we have A LOT of curling hitting the ice this weekend. PLUS don't forget to keep your eyes on the results from the first leg of the Curling World Cup. And ICYMI, HERE is the #TwineTime preview answering a few questions on how we got here, whether this event can help or hinder the #growthesport movement and offer some predictions for the men's, women's and mixed doubles competition.
Remember as well, if you live in or around any city hosting a #wct event go down to the local club and check out the action live and in person. Say hi to those curlers competing. Score some autographs and pictures. And, most importantly, support the host club and organizing committee. They deserve your love for the sport and thanks as well.
And curling fans always remember, the ice is YOURS! Happy Curling!