Week 9. The season is sliding along folks and we are into mid-October already. We have one "slam" already completed. The first major slam next week. And a third #gsoc in the near horizon approaching. Not to mention upcoming continental championships like the #PACC and Europeans. October/November is the fun part of the curling season so strap on those sliders and try to stay on your feet.
For the teams, this is moving ground time. This 6 to 8 week period is when teams will generally compete the most. The fall portion of the season is when we see the most events held on the World Curling Tour each weekend and when teams can really start to jockey for position on the world rankings.
Under the mock #TwineTime ranking system, this is also when we see the most ranking points up for grabs. Week 9 will see a combined 3 #Tour1000 events, 4 #Tour500 events and 1 #Tour250. If teams are looking to ascend up the #PowerRankings mountain, this is the perfect week to make the climb.
Lets recap a bit what the new #TwineTime ranking system looks like and show just how many points are actually on the line this weekend. Remember the breakdown for each of the different event classifications:
Bring on Week 9 when we have a combined number of tour events. For this weekend alone our #Tour1000 events will hand out 6390 points. The #Tour500 will slide over 4280 points. And our lone #Tour250 of course still hands out 535. And this is just the guaranteed points from qualifying, not taking into account the points per win for those teams who do not qualify.
What this means is not only do you have to take care of the action on your own sheet of ice but the results on the sheets around the world have high-stakes point allocations which will come into play for your ranking position as well. Watch the world in front of you but also keep your eye on the rear view mirror to see who is coming for you.
November 5 is the rankings cut-off for qualification into the next #gsoc event, The National. The National is also a major slam (along with The Masters, The Canadian Open and Players Championship). Every team wants to earn a spot in the field for those four events. They are the most prestigious events on tour this season and offer up the largest point allocation for the season.
The next qualification cut-off leaves this week and the following two weeks for teams to earn points towards a National invite. If a team is sitting on the cusp of the Top 15, perhaps sitting in that scary #13 spot or the dreaded #16 or #17 spot, this is the big weekend to make your move towards the #gsoc. And remember, as already mentioned, next weekend is the first #gsoc major of the season, The Masters, so those teams who have already qualified and will be competing Truro, NS have a rocks advantage on earning a spot in Conception Bay for The National. If you are not competing in Truro and hope to make it out to NL, you need to qualify and do well over this next three-week span to stand a chance. Start the drive down Opportunity Road and hope you avoid the rough patches and potholes along the way. Clear drive all the way to NL or a detour towards Missed Lane. It is your drive for the taking.
Need a reminder on just where your favourite team(s) stand on the new-look #PowerRankings? Check out the UPDATED blog post to show which teams are sitting comfortable on the Top 5 upper echelon part of the mountain, which teams are trying to make a climb towards the top in the Honourable Mention section and which teams are still sitting at base camp looking up at their opposition.
Pressure is on! Time to see which teams can handle the heat on the ice and which get burned. Lets head over to the rink and check in with this week's predictions. Oh and it is worth mentioning the China Open is already underway so there will be no preview/predictions for this event but remember the China Open is listed as a #Tour500 event for both the men and women.
Curling Masters Champery (Tour 1000)
2017 Champion: Team Niklas Edin
Format: 20 team RR with 4 pools of 5 teams. Top 8 qualify.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Edin, Team De Cruz, Team Schwaller, Team Walstad
Favourite: The #SwedishVikings will be looking to re-write the history books once again in Champery when they try to complete the #3peat and #DefendTheIce. Last season Team Edin became the second team to win two title at this event (more on the first in a moment) and became the first team to successfully repeat a championship win in the brief 7-year history. This season Edin will look to go one better once again and take home the title for the third successive year. The Swedish boys are rolling now too having won their last event entered in Basel. They seem to have a championship relationship with the nation of Switzerland, entering events here during the season and have deep playoff runs most of the time. The team started the season well, had a few underwhelming results but have since seemed to find their grippers on the ice and are on the up-swing back to the world contenders we expect them to be. The draw certainly favours them as they should comfortably qualify here and should win their pool, perhaps with an unblemished record. A championship win here would put the "We Are Back" statement out of the rest of the world.
#TeamUpset: The first team to win a championship here twice? Well of course that would be #JimmyTheKid! New Brunswick's James Grattan does not often travel far to compete in tour events but he loves competing here every year. He first won this event in 2013 and then picked up title #2 in 2015. He is back once again this year looking for title #3, same as our favourite #KingNiklas. They were placed in a fairly open pool aside from front-runner contender Team Schwaller. They could surprise a few teams and pick up the 2 wins necessary to be in the playoff hunt. I would also keep my eyes on Germany's Team Baumann, with #TwineTimeFam member Ryan Sherrard at vice remember. The team has struggled on tour this season failing to qualify in their 2 events. However, this past weekend they were forced to compete in a playoff for their spot at the 2018 Euro's in Estonia against the up and coming national junior boys team. They won the playoff, punched their ticket to Tallinn and may come to Champery with a little extra boost of confidence and momentum.
Qualifiers: Team Edin, Team De Cruz, Team Schwaller, Team Walstad, Team Hess, Team Muirhead, Team Retornaz, Team van Dorp
Championship: Team Edin def. Team De Cruz
Challenge de Curling de Gatineau (Tour 1000)
2017 Champion: Team Rui Liu
Format: 24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Epping, Team Mouat
Favourite: The #1 team on the #TwineTime ranking mountain will be considered the favourite here in Gatineau. John Epping and his new team certainly seem to have gelled as a collective unit, looking like one of the strongest and most consistent teams on tour in the early part of the season. They have qualified in all 4 events entered. They have a championship win at the Shorty Jenkins. They have a SF showing at the Elite 10 #gsoc event. They have been sitting at the top of the rankings mountain for most of the season...but the gap is starting to close and teams are closing in. They need to keep the momentum going. It could get interesting in R2 should they win their opener and match up against a leading #TeamUpset contender this season in Nova Scotia's Stuart Thompson.
#TeamUpset: La belle province will once again fly the #TeamUpset flag this weekend as the home province fans look to celebrate a Quebec win here for the first time since 2011 (J-M Menard). This blog has noted in the past how Quebec is desperate to see at least one or two strong teams emerge right now and get Quebec curling back on the map as a contender. Enter Gatineau as the perfect backdrop for these home province teams to make a statement. Defending Quebec champs Team Fournier will lead the charge. We only saw these boys compete once this season but it was a QF run at the #Tour1000 Stu Sells Toronto event a few weeks ago. They should have some swagger in their slider this weekend. Also keep an eye out on past Quebec champ Martin Crete, now skipping his own team. Similar with Martin Ferland. And up and coming Steve Allen. And perhaps the ultimate dark horse in Mark Homan, yes Rachel Homan's brother. Homan has also only competed once this season, at the Shorty Jenkins, but went 2-3 picking up W's over Team Carruthers and Team Horgan to just miss the playoffs. Homan has competed at a few smaller bonspiels in Ottawa the past few weekends though, reaching the final in both events and coming up just short in the championship game.
Qualifiers: Team Mouat, Team Epping, Team Fournier, Team Thomas, Team Thompson, Team Crete, Team Homan, Team Fenner
Championship: Team Mouat def. Team Epping
Medicine Hat Charity Classic (Tour 500)
Medicine Hat, AB
2017 Champion: Team Brendan Bottcher
Format: 20 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Bottcher
Favourite: Favourite tag goes to the defending champs in Medicine Hat. Team Bottcher will look to #DefendTheIce and will be coming here with a ton of confidence after their huge championship run in Portage last weekend. The defending AB champs, and Brier finalists from a year ago, are rolling right now and look quite comfortable in establishing themselves as the Alberta team to beat (watch out Koe). But we may want to keep our eyes out on the up and coming young Albertan team of Team Sturmay, who reached the SF last weekend in Portage. With both teams ending up on the same side of the top A-side bracket we could see them face off Saturday night in an A-qualifier game.
#TeamUpset: The championship run by Bottcher and SF run by Sturmay may grab the attention of Alberta curling fans but there was another Alberta team hoisting a title last weekend and could be the #TeamUpset contender in the field this weekend. Jeremy Harty took home the title in Airdrie last weekend and will have some momentum and confidence heading into a much stronger field in Medicine Hat. The downside? The draw gods! Harty, assuming he wins his opener, would draw Bottcher in his second game. As a die-hard Sask fan, special mention to a Sasky curling legend Randy Bryden also competing this weekend. He may not be a threat to qualify or win anymore but always deserving of a shout-out being perhaps one of the best curlers to come out of Saskatchewan without a Brier appearance.
Qualifiers: Team Bottcher, Team Matsumura, Team Sturmay, Team Muyres, Team Harty, Team Usselman, Team Appelman, Team Heidt
Championship: Team Bottcher def. Team Sturmay
Canad Inn's Women's Classic (Tour 1000)
2017 Champion: Team Nina Roth
Format: 32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Einarson, Team Walker, Team Fujisawa, Team Muirhead, Team Fleury, Team Robertson, Team Roth, Team Sinclair
Favourite: Team Einarson. No questions asked. They won the Autumn Gold in Calgary a few weeks back to collect their 4th title of the season and have without question been the top team of the season thus far. They win knockout bracket events. They win RR events. They win and win and win and win. They were placed in a tricky section of the draw with Amber Holland in their opener and then potentially Allison Flaxey, Laura Walker and Eve Muirhead/Satsuki Fujisawa in the A-qualifier. Then again, when you are 22-4 on the season your name in the bracket is more the tricky opponent for the other teams competing. Confidence is at a high right now. Can anyone stop them?
#TeamUpset: The Buffalo province will be well represented this weekend at home in Portage. For weeks we have seen most of the other Manitoba contenders, outside the big names of Einarson/Robertson, competing against one another at provincial events. Now they make the big move from the #Tour250 schedule into the high profile #Tour1000. Can they compete with the big names? The leading contender could be #TeamJCR, led by skip Jennifer Clarke-Rouire. The team currently sits #20 on the #TwineTime rankings, have qualified in all 4 events entered and have a #wct title to their credit (MCT Classic). But keep an eye on Barb Spencer, fresh off a championship win of her own last weekend, and Abby Ackland, who has qualified in 2 of 3 tour events this season. Einarson and Robertson may be the Manitoba front-runners drawing the attention but there are a few #TeamUpset contenders in the province and this would be the perfect time for them to make their names known to the larger curling world.
Qualifiers: Team Einarson, Team Carey, Team Muirhead, Team Fujisawa, Team Robertson, Team Walker, Team Fleury, Team Gim
Championship: Team Einarson def. Team Muirhead
Paf Masters Tour (Tour 500)
2017 Champion: Team EunJung Kim
Format: 10 team RR with 2 pools of 5 teams. Top 6 qualify with pools winners earning bye to SF.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Yoshimura, Team Wrana
Favourite: On paper this event appears to be a two-horse race between Japan's Yoshimura and Sweden's Wrana. Both teams currently sit within the #TwineTime Top 15 with Yoshimura at #5 and Wrana at #11. Yoshimura has qualified in all 7 events entered this season, including a championship win in Oakville and a finals appearance in Saskatoon. Wrana has qualified in 2 of 4 events, including a championship at the Shorty Jenkins. However Wrana has failed to qualify in her two events leading up to this one, in Basel and Stockholm. Could they be slipping a bit? This is the perfect field for them to correct their slide down the mountain while Yoshimura can continue her ascend towards the #1 ranking.
#TeamUpset: Could the home nation have reason to celebrate this weekend? Finland's perennial contender Oona Kauste will have many fans watching. We have only seen Kauste once this season but it was a strong SF appearance in Tallinn. Last season Kauste reached the QF here but you know she would love to go one or two rounds better to delight the home nation fans this season. Another #TeamUpset contender could be China's Di Zhang. Last weekend Zhang reached the QF in Basel. Ok sure she only needed to win one game to qualify due to the weird qualification procedure and her team being placed in the only pool of 4 teams but hey a QF is a QF folks. The team has struggled this season but we often see teams qualify one weekend and have that result be a turning point for them during the season. Lets see if Zhang can find confidence and momentum from Basel on the ice in Aland.
Qualifiers: Team Wrana, Team Yoshimura, Team Sundberg, Team Kauste, Team D. Zhang, Team Rudzite
Championship: Team Yoshimura def. Team Wrana
Medicine Hat Charity Classic (Tour 250)
Medicine Hat, AB
2017 Champion: Team Candace Chisholm
Format: 10 team RR with 2 pools of 5 teams. Top 6 qualify with pools winners earning bye to SF.
Top Teams Entered (Top 15): Team Rocque
Favourite: Kelsey Rocque is having a pretty solid start to the season with her new team. The team currently sits #8 on the #TwineTime rankings, having qualified in 2 of 3 events they entered. They have the strong finals appearance from Vernon along with a SF appearance in Edmonton. The RR favours them as well as they will be, on paper at least, the strongest team in the group (and possibly the field). Expect a deep playoff run this weekend.
#TeamUpset: The defending champion? We have yet to see Candace Chisholm on the ice this season but here they are making their season debut trying to #DefendTheIce. Last season Chisholm ended the three-year championship run for Alberta teams and handed Saskatchewan their first title here since 2012. If they can pull the trigger and win the whole thing once again, it might be one of the biggest upsets at the #Tour250 level this season. Oh and speaking about that 2012 champion? That would be Chantelle Eberle and she is back this year looking for title #2. If you want a dark horse Alberta team perhaps Marla Sherrer is the team for you to rally behind. Sherrer has only competed once this season but it was a SF run at the Avonair Classic a few weeks ago.
Qualifiers: Team Rocque, Team Silvernagle, Team Sherrer, Team Marthaller, Team Eberle, Team Chisholm
Championship: Team Rocque def. Team Silvernagle
There you have it rock heads and stoners. Don't forget we also have the China Open to keep our eyes on this weekend. AND we crown our first world champion of this season in Kelowna at the World Mixed Curling Championships. The top 4 nations from last year's championships (Scotland, Canada, Czech Republic, Norway) have all advanced to the playoff round. Meanwhile we have a few #TeamUpset contenders including: Spain, who won their group, Denmark, who won 5 straight to finish second in their group, and the ultimate dark horse Slovenia, who scored 3 in an extra end of their final RR game vs. Slovakia to clinch the 1st ever playoff spot for the tiny European nation.
Good luck and good curling to all teams competing.