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Friday, 2 November 2018

#PACC 2018 Preview

#BetweenTheSheets: Creating a Korean Curling Legacy?
Defending champs play host to the 2018 #PACC at the 2018 Olympic venue


Halloween has come and gone once again. Bring on my favourite month of the year: November!

Ok perhaps I am biased because my birthday falls within this month but, from a sports perspective, it is quite exciting. Hockey season is in full tilt now. CFL season heads into the playoffs. NFL season heads into the bulk of important weeks leading into the playoffs. NBA season is now underway. College football is starting to talk about the playoff. And curling has Grand Slam of Curling events, tour events and continental championships for us to salivate over.

See November is not that bad is it? Plus Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" rejoins the Top 100 charts for another year. Don't lie....you rock out to it in your car every chance you get!

This week we welcome November highlighting our first continental championship of the season, the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships or, as this blog prefers to say, the #PACC! This week the #TwineTime blog Backs the #PACC!

The #PACC have been around since 1991 and will celebrate the 28th anniversary of the championship for the men and 27th for the women (no women's tournament was held in 1992). When we look back at the historical results of the event it sure seems to be more a story on curling evolution among the region than just a story of crowning a gold medal winner.

Lets start by looking at the men's championship. The #PACC could really be broken down into 4 historical sections: The Early Years, The Middle Years, The China Years and The #GrowTheSport Years.

In The Early Years, Australia was the powerhouse. They won the first 7 championships and landed on the podium for the first 17 consecutive years. The #PACC belonged to the Pacific! Now, to be fair, the opening years of this tournament saw only Australia, Japan and New Zealand compete. South Korea joined the competition in 1996 but was still in development phase of the sport and was not a real contender or threat for the championship. This was the Australia show and everyone else was the supporting cast.

Everything started to shift in 1998. To start the competition was actually held in Canada, weird right? But even more weird was Australia being dethroned. In fact this would be the first time they did not reach the championship final. In 1998 New Zealand would win the title over Japan. 1998 created a shift into The Middle Years where we saw the competition level increase over the next 8 years and no single nation really dominate. From 1998 to 2005, New Zealand (4), Japan (2), Australia and South Korea would all claim top of the podium moments. Australia was still the leader of the region mind you, collecting an addition 5 silver medals, the gap was closing.

Enter China! China began to leave their mark at the #PACC in 2004 with a 4th place finish. Fast forward three years and China was hoisting their 1st #PACC title and the curling world was introduced to The China Years. China dominated the competition, surplanting the record 7 straight titles by Australia by winning 8 straight from 2007 - 2014. The China Years also brought the shift from Pacific domination to Asian domination. Australia began to trend down the standings, collecting only 3 podium results in this time (1 silver - 2007, 2 bronze - 2010, 2012). New Zealand also started to become a non-challenger, collecting 1 silver (2011) and 2 bronze (2007, 2008) as well. While China had a stranglehold on gold, their results helped elevate the game for fellow Asian competitors Japan and South Korea. Japan began to emerge as a major threat, winning 5 silver medals (2008, 2009, 2012 - 2014) during this time. South Korea slowly started their climb into curling relevance as well picking up a silver medal in 2010 and a few bronze medals (2009, 2011, 2013, 2014).

While China and Japan seemed to be the #PACC teams to watch, Korea's slow rise onto the podium started to pay off and cause another shift in the #PACC historical story. Welcome to The #GrowTheSport Years. The past three years have seen Korea take home two #PACC titles (2015, 2017) and a bronze medal (2016). The nation has become not only a contender but a favourite to win now. When Korea won the title in 2015, they did the unthinkable. They knocked off powerhouse China in the SF before defeating Japan for the title. The shift was there and China was no longer the champ. Since this SF loss, China has failed to win the title finishing with a bronze that year and silver medals the past two years. The Current Years have also brought expansion to the ice. Chinese Taipei qualified for the playoffs for the first time (2016). Hong Kong started fielding a team. Qatar made their debut. In a continental championship which once featured only two teams competing (1992 - Australia and Japan), we know see 9 teams competing and a handful being considered regular contenders for the championship.

Collectively Australia still leads the way with gold medals won (9) and China is right behind (8). Japan has the most heartbreak with winning 15 silver medal compared to only 3 gold. New Zealand leads the way with bronze, collecting 10. Australia and Japan are the only nations to have competed in every #PACC men's championship with Japan earning 22 medals in 27 appearances and Australia earning 19. Even more remarkable, only once has Japan failed to finish in the Top 4 (2010 where they finished last at 2-8).

The women's #PACC history has a few similar themes, carved into three historical sections: The Japan Years, The China Years and The #GrowTheSport Years. A few similarities to above right?

The early years of the women's competition are known as The Japan Years. Japan won the #PACC from 1991 - 2000, a record nine straight gold medal wins. This is the record of consecutive victories by either a men's or women's nation at a continental championship as no nation has dominated the European Curling Championship the same and North America does not hold a continental championship. To make The Japan Years even more impressive, Japan would win gold 13 of the first 14 offerings. Their only slip-up was in 2001 when Korea would defeat them for gold. Differing from the men's early years though, Korea's women would emerge as the top contender in the region. While Australia took home the silver medal early on (1991 - 1996), Korea began competing in 1996 and from 1999 to 2003 the #PACC final would be between Japan and Korea. Korea's championship victory in 2001 was monumental in ending the Japan winning streak but did not create a shift in historic results. This shift would not occur until 2004.

2004 marked the welcoming on Bingyu Wang as a curling threat. Wang would guide China onto the podium for the first time, winning a silver medal and replicating the feat one year later in 2005 (both losses to Japan). The China Years took off in 2006 when China would win their first #PACC gold medal and the shift from Japan to China became a reality. A shift from Japan to Bingyu Wang actually as Wang would win #PACC gold from 2006 - 2009 and again in 2011 and 2012. From 2006 - 2014, China would go on to win 7 championships in the 9 year span (Sijia Liu won gold in 2014 to go with Wang's 6 wins). The two years China failed to win gold (2010, 2013), they won silver losing to Korea both times. While China was trending up, Japan was trending down during this time. In the 9-years of China domination, Japan would only reach the final 3 times (2007, 2009, 2012) and would collect a bronze medal 5 other times (2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014). In 2011, the wheels completely came off for Japan when they would finish a shocking 4th, still remaining as their worst finish and only non-podium finish in #PACC history. With Japan declining, the door of opportunity was opening more for Korea. Korea would score 2 #PACC titles, 4 silver medals (2006, 2008, 2011, 2014) and 3 bronze (2007, 2009, 2012). And what about the Pacific nations? During The China Years, the Pacific nations would only land on the podium once when New Zealand won bronze in 2011 (also the last time a Pacific nation would reach the podium).

China was enjoying an 11-year run of playing in the #PACC final until it all came to a halt in 2015. In Almaty, Kazakhstan, China would fail to reach the final and wound up taking home a bronze medal. Another shift was underway and we welcome The #GrowTheSport Years. In the past three years Korea has won back-to-back titles (2016, 2017) to go with a silver win in 2015. Japan has a medal of each color in the past three years as well, winning gold (2015), silver (2017) and bronze (2016). China has one silver (2016) and two bronze (2015, 2017). The Asian nations have wound up as the Top 3 in 6 straight years and 13 of the past 14 years but the podium finishes are starting to slightly change on a regular basis now. 2015 also saw Kazakhstan reach the playoffs for the first time, finishing 4th. 2017 saw Hong Kong perform a similar historic feat in their 4th place finish. And, similar to the men, we also welcomed Qatar into the competition in 2016 and anticipate their return this year.

Overall Japan still has an overwhelming lead in #PACC women's gold medals with 14. China is next with 7. South Korea leads the way with silver win, collecting 9, while New Zealand leads with bronze (9). Japan has won 25 total medals in 26 years of competing while South Korea has 20 total medals from 22 years of competing.

With Korea being the dominant overall nation on the men's and women's side of the #PACC results over the past few years, are we already seeing another historic transition shift from The #GrowTheSport Years to The Korean Years? If Korea can collect another men's and women's title on home ice in 2018, we may just have to make the shift official.

This year also marks a change in world championship qualifying. The Top 2 nations from the #PACC men's and women's event will earn a spot at their respective world championship. But for those teams who reach qualify for the playoffs but fail to win the SF, all hope is not lost. Here is the change. The two teams who play for bronze still have a shot at world championship glory. Both SF losers will advance to the new World Qualification Event (#WQE). The #WQE,held mid-January 2019, will open up two more spots in the world championship draw. The big goal this week for nations competing is to qualify for the playoffs. Once there, try to win the #PACC of course but at least you know for certain you still have the last-chance qualifier to earn a spot at the world championships. For a nation like Hong Kong or Chinese Taipei or Australia or New Zealand, nations who have struggled to fight off the #PACC Power 3 in recent years, this creates an extra seed of hope and opportunity this year. Which team can capitalize now?

We have a full house this weekend folks with #PACC and #wct action so lets slide right into those #TourLifePredictions:

#TourLifePredictions


2018 Pacific-Asia Curling Championships

Gangneung, South Korea


MEN

2017 Champions: Korea (Team Chang-min Kim)

Format: 9 nation RR with 4 qualifiers.

Nations Competing: Australia (Team Palangio), China (Team Q. Zou), Hong Kong (Team Chang), Japan (Team Matsumura), Kazakhstan (Team V. Kim), Korea (Team S. Kim), New Zealand (Team Becker), Qatar (Team Alyafei), Team Chinese Taipei (Team Shen)

Favourite: Which criteria do you go by here? The team who is having the better year on tour or the team with more experience at this event? Japan's Matsumura is having an outstanding season on tour, collecting his first #wct title at the Oakville Fall Classic and last month took home title #2 in Abbotsford. Collectively the team has qualified in all 5 events played and, outside of the two titles, also has 2 SF and a QF showing. They are on the bubble line for #gsoc qualification as well. But most of the team will be making their debut at this event. Vice Tetsuro Shimizu, former vice for Yusuke Morozumi, will be making his 10th #PACC appearance but only has 1 title (2016). If we speak on #PACC experience and success, Korea's Soo-hyuk Kim will be making his 9th appearance and is a two-time #PACC champion (2002, 2015). His last appearance here was in 2016 when he picked up a bronze medal. We have only seen Kim compete in 3 tour events this season, reaching a SF in Edmonton, a QF in St. Paul and failing to qualify at the new China Open event. Both of these teams have strong cases for being considered the favourites in this field. We could be headed towards an outstanding final between these two high-quality teams.

#TeamUpset: This is a tough choice here. Outside Kazakhstan and Qatar, with all due respect, the other 4 nations all could make a claim as to why they could be considered the #TeamUpset flag bearer here and snag that final playoff spot. My heart goes out to Hong Kong and skip Jason Chang in thinking this may be the year he guides Hong Kong into a playoff position. This will be his 3rd #PACC appearance after a strong 3-5 record in his debut (2016) and a disappointing 1-7 record last year. Chang has added international experience under his belt though the past few years, competing at World Mixed and World Mixed Doubles events. Plus he has the added incentive of seeing him mixed and mixed doubles teammate Ling-Yue Hung make Hong Kong history last year here in reaching the playoffs. Pressure on...but also motivation and excitement. My head however says do not bet against Chinese Taipei's Randy Shen. Shen had a disappointing finish last year (3-5) but did reach the playoffs in 2016 and finished 4th overall, a historic best for the nation. And of course both Australia and New Zealand field experienced teams as well, with Australia returning most of the same line-up to the surprise team from last year who finished 2nd in the RR and 4th overall (we do miss Hugh Millikin here though). This is going to be an all-out fight for the 4th playoff spot. Remember qualifying here not only means a shot at the podium but also, even in you finish 4th overall, you still earn that invite to the new World Qualification Event for one of those final spots in the 2019 World Curling Championships.

Qualifiers: Japan, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei

Bronze Medal: China (Q. Zou) def. Chinese Taipei (Shen)

#PACC CHAMPIONSHIP: Korea (S. Kim) def. Japan (Matsumura)


WOMEN

2017 Champions: Korea (Team Eun-jung Kim)

Format: 7 nation RR with 4 qualifiers.

Nations Competing: Australia (Team Gill), China (Team Liu), Hong Kong (Team Hung), Japan (Team Fujisawa), Kazakhstan (Team Alliyarova), Korea (Team M. Kim), Qatar (Team Al-Abdulla)

Favourite: Korea may be the two-time defending champions here and have home ice advantage but it is difficult to bet against the experience of Japan's Satsuki Fujisawa in this field. The 27yo skip returns to the site where she won Olympic bronze just under 9 months ago and will be making her 6th #PACC appearance and 4th consecutive. Fujisawa has one #PACC championship (2015) but has suffered some disappointing endings the past two years, losing the final last year and winning bronze back in 2016. This season the team has qualified in 3 events, reaching the QF twice (Vernon, Calgary) and 1 SF (Portage). Recently the team competed at the #CanadianBeefMasters where they lost in the TB. With Korea deciding to send their three-time Korean junior champions rather than two-time defending champion Team Kim or even up and coming Team Gim, Japan's Fujisawa should be the overwhelming favourite to reclaim #PACC glory and increase Japan's record gold medal haul to 15.

#TeamUpset: Last year Ling-Yue Hung made history competing in only her second #PACC (previous 2016) and guiding Hong Kong to a playoff appearance and 4th place finish. The question is whether she can rediscover the magic this year? Kazakhstan and Qatar did not field a women's team last year and Australia will be sending a new team into the championship. This could be a huge advantage for the Hong Kong team to replicate their playoff appearance from a season ago. Keep your eyes on Qatar's Al-Abdulla as well. Perhaps not necessarily to qualify here but she returns to the championship after making her nation's #PACC debut back in 2016 and will be looking to pick up Qatar's first #PACC W this week.

Qualifiers: Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong

Bronze Medal: China (Liu) def. Hong Kong (Hung)

#PACC CHAMPIONSHIP: Japan (Fujisawa) def. Korea (M. Kim)


World Curling Tour

MEN

DEKALB Superspiel (Tour 1000)

Morris, MB

2017 Champion: Team Dylan Johnston

Format: 32 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Team Entered (Top 15): Team Walstad, Team Gunnlaugson, Team Dunstone, Team Schwaller

Favourite: From #TeamUpset to tournament favourite in a span of a few short months. This is the arc Saskatchewan's Team Dunstone has followed this season. When the team debuted their new line-up at the start of the season, curling pundits and fans were wondering how the team would do together. Would they gel? Would they get along? Would the laid-back combined personalities yield "in your face" results? Well as we head into November, the answer seems to be Yes! The team has qualified in 5 of 6 events, with their only non-qualifying event being their season-opener in Winnipeg so perhaps we can excuse that result. They have 1 title to their credit (Vernon) combined with 1 final appearance (Oakville) and 3 QF, which include the recent appearance at the #CanadianBeefMasters. Here is the perfect example of a team who put together a smart yet busy schedule, pulled off the results and qualified week in and week out and played their way from outside the #gsoc consideration into #gsoc qualification. Why stop the moving train now? The boys actually added this event into their schedule after the season started in hopes to now try to gain additional points to qualify for the Canada Cup. Due to the late add however, they are going to have a change in the line-up this weekend. Regulard second Catlin Schneider will not join the team in Morris as he previously committed to competing with new mixed doubles partner Shannon Birchard at the MadTown DoubleDown event in Madison, Wisconsin. But Dunstone will not struggle given his replacement is now Manitoba superspare Matt Wozniak. Regardless of the line-up modification this week, remember the team slogan here: #DunnyIsMoney!

#TeamUpset: Another Manitoba-hosted event means another opportunity for some home province teams to step up and flex their muscles against some of the top teams on tour. We have already seen a few of these teams excel this season. Team Calvert defended their title at The Icebreaker to start the season. Team Lott won back-to-back titles at the Mother Club and KKP. Team Dennis Bohn has qualified in all 3 events played, including reaching two championship finals. And lets not forget a #TeamUpset favourite in Team Dilello, who also have a finals appearance under their slider and qualified in 3 of 5 events. Watch out as well for Team Sigurdson, who have back-to-back QF appearances coming into this event. Jason Gunnlaugson will be leading the Manitoba flag waving this weekend as not only the home province but the home rink team but there are quite a few Manitoba contending teams to keep your eyes on this weekend. Last season Team Johnston took the title back to Northern Ontario, ending a 5-year run for Winnipeg-based champions at this event. This season there are numerous Winnipeg and Manitoba-based teams looking to bring the title back to the Buffalo province.

Qualifiers: Team Dunstone, Team Walstad, Team Gunnlaugson, Team Schwaller, Team Muyres, Team Calvert, Team Lott, Team Thomas

Championship: Team Dunstone def. Team Schwaller


Mayflower Cash Spiel (Tour 500)

Halifax, NS

2017 Champion: Team Mark Dacey

Format: 16 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Team Entered (Top 15): N/A

Favourite: This field will be led by two teams who started as surprise #TeamUpset flag bearers for the season but have become regular contenders on the #wct scene. Ontario's Team McDonald has been one of the most consistent teams on tour, qualifying in all 6 events entered and picking up a huge #Tour1000 title in Gatineau. They have quickly established themselves as a top team on the #TwineTime #PowerRankings and an early team to Watch Out For in Ontario, looking to challenge defending provincial champ Team Epping and regular contender Team Howard. And while McDonald's rise up the rankings is a bit of a surprise, the results from a home province team here have been even more shocking the season. Stuart Thompson and his boys from Dartmouth have really become a great feel good story for the province. They won their season opener event in Lower Sackville and followed it up with a surprise run to the championship final at the Stu Sells Toronto. This team have been flying under the radar as an maybe contender in the province the past few seasons but this season seems to be when they have put it all together thus far and look to be a major player not only in Nova Scotia but on tour as well. Lets see how they handle the new rising fame of being considered a tournament favourite. No more flying under the radar for either of these favourites anymore!

#TeamUpset: Is this the breakout for Newfoundland's Colin Thomas? Thomas is an accomplished skip, winning NL junior titles and being a former CIS (now USPORT) national champion (skipping Memorial University). But the breakthrough on the men's side has still been lacking. When Brad Gushue started winning the Brier many expected Thomas to be the next in line to take the NL title and compete alongside Gushue on the national stage. Enter Greg Smith into the conversation and he became the new NL curling sensation. With Gushue returning to the Brier this season as Team Canada, Smith now holding the pressure of being the defending NL champion, can Thomas finally find his way on the ice and slide into a contender? This would be the perfect season-opening event for him to leave his mark and put others on notice.

Qualifiers: Team Murphy, Team McDonald, Team S. Thompson, Team Crete, Team Stevens, Team Fitzner-Leblanc, Team Thomas, Team Webb

Championship: Team Murphy def. Team S. Thompson


Prague Classic (Tour 250)

Prague, CZE

2017 Champion: New Event

Format: 20 team RR with 4 pools of 5 teams. Top 8 qualify.

Top Team Entered (Top 15): N/A

Favourite: In a wide-open field you go with the hot hand and right now Finland's Willie Makela is just that. Makela comes to Prague fresh off a #wct title in Latvia last week. He has played two events this season and qualified in both, previously reaching the SF in Estonia. Not a bad way to open a season right? They own an impressive 8-3 record on the season and are riding a 6-game winning streak. Sure they may not be competing against and defeating top international teams but they are consistently winning and defeating teams within their ranking bubble, which is what you need to do to move up to the next level in the sport. They are entering European-based events and picking up the important W's. With Finland competing in the A-division at next month's European Curling Championships, it is important for Makela to continue his strong play to the season and make a case for consideration to represent his nation in Tallinn, Estonia.

#TeamUpset: Who knew Czech Republic curling was starting to take off? The new edition to the #wct in Prague is a huge lift for Czech curling and a great opportunity for local teams to compete at a #wct event and gain the experience needed to continue sliding Czech curling forward. This is a true #growthesport event for the host nation. There will be 6 Czech teams competing this weekend, led by a few familiar names like David Sik, Karel Kubeska and Lukas Klima. All three have experience flying the Czech flag at international curling events in the past and are the trifecta of the current Czech curling landscape. It would be HUGE to have at least two or three of the 6 teams entered qualify for the playoffs here and make a push towards the championship in front of home crowd support and in a debut event. And keep your eyes on Poland's Team Jasiecki too. ICYMI, last season Jasiecki led his Polish men's squad to the Euro B-division final (l. to Finland's Team Kauste). As a result Jasiecki earned promotion to the Euro A-division this year. With the Euro's coming up in a few weeks, this will be a solid tune-up event for the Polish squad as they prepare to take on Europe's best in Tallinn.

Qualifiers: Team Sik, Team Kubeska, Team Bryce, Team Lill, Team Makela, Team Jasiecki, Team Wunderer, Team Klima

Championship: Team Makela def. Team Sik


Grand Prix Bern Inter Curling Challenge (Tour 250)

Bern, SUI

2017 Champion: New Event

Format: 24 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Team Entered (Top 15): N/A

Favourite: Their will be lots of opportunities for home nation fans to chant #HoppSchwiiz in Bern this weekend as 15 of the 24 teams entered represent Switzerland. And one team may just put the crowd over with hoisting the first trophy of the event in front of those all-too-familiar curling crazed Swiss fans. Team Hess has been one of the intriguing dark horse stories on tour this season. While they only own an overall record of 14-14 and have only qualified in 2 of their 5 events, they do have a SF finish (Stu Sells Oakville) and QF (Baden Masters) showing. And do not let the overall record scare you away from thinking this is a strong contender. Look at some of those 14 losses. 3 were to current world champ Team Edin and other losses include Team Mouat, Team Dunstone and Team Schwaller. A #wct win here would cement them as the #3 team in Switzerland behind De Cruz and Schwaller.

#TeamUpset: Ok Sergio Vez, what surprises do you have in store for curling fans next? Vez surprised many earlier in the season with a QF appearance in Basel, where they shocked even more having to withdraw from the QF match vs Edin due to travel issues and being unable to change flights and needing to get home for work commitments. Vez then led his Spanish mixed team to the world championship final ultimately taking home the silver medal. Spain folks! Spanish curling is alive and well and Vez is becoming the face of the sport. What can he do next? Imagine a run towards a #wct championship? Taking home the first title for Spain on tour? We already saw history made earlier in the season for Belarus. Why not Spain next?

Qualifiers: Team Baumann, Team Hess, Team Lottenbach, Team Nyman, Team Schnider, Team Vez, Team Retornaz, Team Brydone

Championship: Team Hess def. Team Nyman


WOMEN

DEKALB Superspiel (Tour 1000)

Morris, MB

2017 Champion: Team Penny Barker

Format: 19 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Team Entered (Top 15): N/A

Favourite: Team Gim may not be representing Korea at home for the #PACC this week but that does not mean they will not still fly the Korean flag on tour. Gim has played 6 tour events this season, qualifying in 4. They reached the final last weekend in Whitby and made the QF the weekend before in Portage. They are playing some great curling right now and seem to have found their confidence and groove. While they may not be representing Korea chasing the #PACC title, should their counterparts get the job done and qualify for the 2019 Women's World Curling Championships, strong results on tour, including a possible deep playoff run here in Morris, could help build their case for earning the world championship nod to represent Korea in Denmark.

#TeamUpset: Similar to the men's preview above, the women's draw in Morris has a collective of home province teams looking to bring the title back to Manitoba after Saskatchewan's Penny Barker took it one province over last year. In fact there will be 12 of the 19 teams entered representing the Buffalo province, giving Manitoba curling fans 63% of the field to cheer for. Kristy Watling has two finals appearances already this season, out of the three tour events entered by the way. A pretty solid winning percentage right there. Barb Spencer owns a championship win already. Jennifer Clark-Rouire also has a championship win, not to mention having qualified in all 5 events entered this season. Beth Peterson struggled to start the season, failing to qualify in her opening two events, but has since reached two SF in her last three events. Abby Ackland had the reverse effect, qualifying in her opening two events but struggling in her past two. Can she turn it around here? Do not be surprised to see two, three or even four Manitoba teams reach the playoff round and try to continue Manitoba domination at this event. 6 of the past 8 years a team from Winnipeg has hoisted this title (minus last year and Tracy Fleury's win in 2014).

Qualifiers: Team Gim, Team Feltscher, Team Flaxey, Team Stern, Team JCR, Team Holland, Team Spencer, Team Howard

Championship: Team Gim def. Team Flaxey


Royal LePage Women's Fall Classic (Tour 500)

Kemptville, ON

2017 Champion: Team Kristen MacDiarmid

Format: 23 team triple knockout with 8 qualifiers.

Top Team Entered (Top 15): Team Wrana

Favourite: The top seed and only team to earn an opening round bye will be the overwhelming favourite this weekend in Kemptville. Sweden's Team Wrana is only on year one of their transition out of junior and into women's play and already has made a mark on the ice. Remember they are only two years out from their world junior championship season and last year came up one game short in their quest to #DefendTheIce, losing the world junior final and winning a silver medal. This season they picked up the title at the Shorty Jenkins and Paf Masters and are in line to become regular qualifiers at future #gsoc events. A strong result here in Kemptville should punch their ticket to Conception Bay for the upcoming #BoostNational as well. One would imagine seeing the success of fellow Swedish women's powerhouses Team Hasselborg over the past 10 months has been a great motivating force behind Team Wrana's success. Swedish curling folks....now a two-team championship threat.

#TeamUpset: Speaking of the junior movement, another team competing this weekend also happened to compete in the 2016 and 2017 world junior championships. Switzerland's Selina Witschonke may not have had the same results as competitor Wrana but did finish 5th in 2017 (5-4, l. TB to Korea's Min-ji Kim) and T5 last season (4-5 record) one game out of a playoff spot. Still some solid results from the young Swiss skip. On the women's #wct this season the team is 3-5 overall, failing to qualify in both events entered (Stockholm, Basel). However just last weekend competing on the junior #wct circuit they reached the championship final in Ottawa, losing to Alberta's Team Skrlik. This is a strong up and coming team, competing in a curling hotbed of Switzerland no less. While they may still not be a threat to win a #wct ladies title quite yet (it will come in time though trust this blog) they are starting to show they can be a threat for a nabbing a qualifier spot.

Qualifiers: Team Murphy, Team Wrana, Team Arsenault, Team Galusha, Team Cadorin, Team Hopson, Team Froud, Team Witschonke

Championship: Team Wrana def. Team Cadorin



Mayflower Cashspiel (Tour 250)

Halifax, NS

2017 Champion: Team Jill Brothers

Format: 10 team RR with 2 pools of 5 teams. Top 4 qualify.

Top Team Entered (Top 15): N/A

Favourite: This is a strong field of Nova Scotia contenders, only missing defending NS champ Team Arsenault. Colleen Jones has made a clear statement this year saying she is back and looking to get back to the Scotties and compete for another Canadian title. Jones already owns 21 NS titles, 6 Scotties (including 4 in a row from 2001 - 2004) and 2 world championships (2001, 2004). Oh and not to mention being a Canadian Senior Champion (2016) and World Senior Champion (2017). Imagine the historic next page of her curling story being going from world senior gold to Scotties gold. That has never been done! The competitive fire still burns strong in Jones and picking up a tour title here, against a field mostly comprised of her biggest provincial competitors, would make a huge statement.

#TeamUpset: While all eyes will be on home nation teams and big names like Jones and Brothers, a young team from the smallest province in Canada could be ready to slide under the radar and make some noise. PEI's Veronica Smith is still trying to find her footing on the women's ice after a successful junior career. While she has struggled this season, posting a 1-6 overall record and failing to qualify in her two tour events, an increase in experience against top teams and on better ice conditions can only help her for the future. Suzanne Birt continues to be the big name on the island but Smith is the next generation looking to step up and make the move as a challenger. Her pool is stacked full of experience so qualifying at this event may be a bit of a reach but if she can give these teams a run and stay close in the games, building the momentum and confidence moving forward will be a win as well.

Qualifiers: Team Brothers, Team Breen, Team MacDiarmid, Team C. Jones

Championship: Team C. Jones def. Team Brothers


Lots of points on the ice this weekend for teams still trying to *hopefully* qualify for the upcoming #BoostNational grand slam event in Conception Bay, NL. The cut-off date for earning qualifying points is this upcoming Monday November 5. #TwineTime discussed the Chase to Conception Bay and who still has a shot at earning a berth in this week's #PowerRankings blog post, with a fun Saturday morning reference to cartoon classic Tom & Jerry.

#StayTuned


Besides keeping our eyes focused on #wct action, #gsoc qualification and crowning our first continental champion over the next week at the #PACC, this weekend also starts the Canadian Mixed Curling Championships. Lots of hype and excitement around this event, coming off a Canada gold medal performance at the World Mixed Curling Championships a few weeks ago.

#TwineTime will bring you the #CMCC2019 preview soon!

Good luck and good #curling to all.....