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Thursday, 3 January 2019

#QMDC Preview

#BetweenTheSheets: Lets Talk Mixed Doubles
Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic rings in 2019


Helllloooooo 2019! Bring on another calendar year of curling fun and excitement.

After the champagne has stopped bubbling and our New Year's Eve regrets become a distant memory, curling takes centre house once again. No rest for the wicked as they say as the 2018/19 curling season rolls on.

But while many people continue to focus on the men's and women's #wct and the anticipated lead-up to the Scotties and Brier, the #TwineTime blog wants to start 2019 shifting focus to the infant in the curling family: Mixed Doubles

DYK mixed doubles has its own World Curling Tour schedule of events? In fact, as we turn the calendar over to 2019 there have already been 23 events spanning 15 weeks of action. While many curling fans are familiar with the mixed doubles event at the new Curling World Cup showcase, many may be surprised to know mixed doubles specialists have been throwing rocks and sweeping stones at a rapid pace all season.

The mixed doubles tour started back in August with the Winter Games in New Zealand and Fall Curling Classic in Battleford, SK. And the tour runs until the Curling World Cup Grand Finale in May in Beijing, China. Overall there will be a whopping 44 events held this season with the tour season running for 30 weeks. A pretty solid, and maybe ambitious, tour season for our little infant in the curling family. But how else can we #growthesport then through offering a full tour schedule?!

With 23 events already under our sliders, you may wonder what you have missed? Well in fine #TwineTime tradition, here is the quick recap of the first half of the mixed doubles season:

#GunnerRunback


  • The biggest...well actually more like the most high-profile, attention grabbing events have been the two Curling World Cup legs held in Suzhou, China and Omaha, Nebraska. Canada's Laura Walker/Kirk Muyres (both #TwineTimeFam members btw) took home gold over USA's Sarah Anderson/Korey Dropkin. In Omaha, gold went to Norway's Kristen Skaslien/Magnus Nedregotten over Switzerland's Jenny Perret/Martin Rio in a battle of 2018 Winter Olympic medal winners.
  • The big tour events were held in Battleford, SK, Bern, SUI and Portage, MB. Jocelyn Petermon/Brett Gallant defeated Walker/Muyres for the title in Battleford. Marlene Albrecht/Matt Wozniak defeated Perret/Rios to win in Bern while Kaitlyn Lawes/John Morris knocked off Kadriana Sahaidak/Colton Lott for the W in Portage.
  • Overall we have yet to see a multi-win for any duo on tour this season. We have 23 events in the record book and 23 different duo's hoisting the championship trophy. This is really a statement on how the discipline of mixed doubles is still growing and how close the competition remains.
  • Switzerland's Olympic silver medal winners and former world champions Perret/Rios have one title to their credit along with two runner-up finishes and a third place result. Norway's Skaslien/Nedregotten, Olympic bronze medal winners, also have a runner-up finish on the resume and a third place finish.
  • A few other successful duo's to note this season include Scotland's Gina Aitken/Scott Andrews, who picked up a tour title in Sochi, Russia as well as a runner-up (Kitzbuehel, AUT) and third place (Bern, SUI) finish. USA's Anderson/Dropkin have also seen success this season. While they may not have a tour title (yet?!) they have a runner-up finish at the first leg of the Curling World Cup in Suzhou along with a bronze medal win at the season opening Winter Games NZ in Naseby, NZ.

Switzerland's Perret/Rios and Norway's Skaslien/Nedregotten are arguably the best mixed doubles teams on tour right now. Canada would also show strong representation with Lawes/Morris, the Olympic champions and winners in Portage this season, and Walker/Muyres, winners of the Curling World Cup opening leg and defending world bronze medal winners. USA's Anderson/Dropkin and Scotland's Aitken/Andrews could be considered tied for the final spot in the Top 5.

Interestingly enough, all 6 of these teams (well one has a slight change to the duo) will be in Banff/Canmore this week to compete in the first Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic. The #QMDC will also offer the largest purse on the mixed doubles tour this season, sitting at a respectable $30,000 (CDN). For reference sake, the next highest purse events on tour are: Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Championship in Portage ($26K CDN), MadTown DoubleDown in Madison, WI ($20K USD), Mixed Doubles Bern (~$13K CDN) and the upcoming Stu Sells Mixed Doubles Cashspiel in Toronto later this month ($15K CDN).

When we look at the world rankings though, here is what the Top 10 look like:

  1. Aitken/Andrews (SCO)
  2. Perret/Rios (SUI)
  3. Biktimirov/Gadzhikhanov (RUS)
  4. Moskaleva/Eremin (RUS)
  5. Skaslien/Nedregotten (NOR)
  6. Anderson/Dropkin (USA)
  7. Walker/Muyres (CAN)
  8. Wendel/Wingfors (SWE)
  9. Heldin/Lindstrom (SWE)
  10. Komarova/Goriachev (RUS)


With the purse being so high, and perfect timing with the curling calendar, it is easy to see why the #QMDC has drawn the attention of many of the top mixed doubles teams from Canada and around the world. Unfortunately the top duos from Sweden and Russia will not be competing this weekend.

Lets also remember the theme for mixed doubles: #NoLeadIsSafe! As we know, mixed doubles games can be roller coaster rides of high scores, lead changes and drama making predictions *almost* impossible. But hey, why bother writing about the sport if we cannot throw a few fun predictions at the house and see which, if any, land near the button right? Bring. It. On.

Welcome to the first #TourLifePredictions section of 2019 as we focus on the Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic in picturesque Banff/Canmore. Worth noting, how cool is it to see all the pools in the competition named after a local mountain or mountain range? Smart marketing right there folks!

#TourLifePredictions


Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic

Banff/Canmore

2018 Champions: New Event

Format: 36 duos divided into 6 pools of 6. Top 12 qualify with Top 4 earning play-off round byes to the QF


Pool A - Rundle

Favourite: Norway's Skaslien/Nedregotten should be the early favourites in what could be a very tight pool for playoff positions. The Olympic bronze medal winners continue to put in a balanced all-in approach to mixed doubles while also excelling with their respective men's and women's teams. Remember Skaslien skipped Norway to the Euro B-division title in November while Nedregotten is a member of Team Walstad, who qualified Norway for the upcoming men's world championships based on their result in Tallinn. Add in the fact this couple won the second leg of the Curling World Cup, qualifying for the grand finale, and has put together very consistent mixed doubles tour results, it is tough for anyone to argue against them as a favourite for a playoff spot.

#TeamUpset: The Alberta duo of Bobbie Sauder/Brendan Bottcher could be a #TeamUpset contender here. While the big three will garner the most attention and may have stronger results together, Sauder/Bottcher are no stranger to mixed doubles either. Sauder has a tour runner-up result on her resume this season, teaming with Shawn Donnelly and losing the final in Sherwood Park to Rachel Homan and Marc Kennedy. And we all know Bottcher has the credentials to make some pistol good shots when needed. This team may fly under the radar right into a playoff spot.

What 2 Watch 4 (W2W4): Welcome back the Walkers! Laura Walker will once again join forces with hubby Geoff Walker for this event while regular partner Kirk Muyres enjoys a relaxing beach vacation. These two haven't played together for over a year now though so it will be interesting to see how the chemistry works...and as a newly married couple. They should be a team to watch though given they are past runner-up's at the Canadian championship together (2016). And seller discount on Scotland's Aitken/Andrews. While many people may place their bets on a Canadian team or the strong Norway/Swiss duos to emerge victorious here, do not sell current #1 ranked Aitken/Andrews short on making a deep run towards the title here either. This pool is very competitive, perhaps even the Pool of Death for this competition, and we could see one or even two strong teams miss the playoffs because of it.

Projected Standings: 1. Skaslien/Nedregotten  2. Aitken/Andrews  3. Walker/Walker  4. Sauder/Bottcher  5. Ashton/Croteau  6. Sarna/Graham


Pool B - Lady Mac

Favourite: Is there really any question here? Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris are the face of this competition. They are the marketing dynamo drawing many people to Banff/Canmore to take in this inaugural event and are easily one of the top contenders for the title. And why not? Olympic champions. Tour winners. Their resumes individually and combined make them the most decorated duo in the field. It will be very tough to see anyone in this pool knock them off the top perch.

#TeamUpset: Brazil, Brazil, Brazil!! You can bet Luciana Barrella and Marcio Cerquinho will be fan favourites when they hit the ice this weekend representing Team Brazil. Brazil have become regular competitors on the world mixed and mixed doubles scene the past few years and have become a developing nation in curling. This is the exact definition of #growthesport! While a playoff spot might be tough to come by, the Brazilian duo is no stranger to mixed doubles competition and could pull off a few W's along the way.

W2W4: Scottish pride once again? Jayne Stirling and Fraser Kingan may not be the most well-known Scottish duo in the competition but do not undersell their ability to make a playoff run here either. They are the defending Scottish champs and competed at last year's world mixed doubles championship. While they finished the RR with a strong 6-1 record, they fell in the opening round of the playoffs to Japan and wound up with a slightly disappointing 9th place finish. The duo currently sit #14 on the world rankings and should be considered a strong playoff contender here.

Projected Standings: 1. Lawes/Morris  2. Stirling/Kingan  3. Park/Moskowy  4. Schmeimann/Ginter  5. Barrella/Cerquinho  6. Tran/Peterman


Pool C - Sulphur

Favourite: We have a few Canadian champions in this pool. 2016 champs Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant are the big names in this group and will be considered strong favourites to advance to the playoff round. They have proved themselves to be a formidable couple on and off the ice and already have a tour title under their belts this season, winning a major event to kick off the season in Battleford, SK. But do not underestimate another Canadian champ in Robert Desjardins. The first ever Canadian mixed doubles champ in 2013 will be a tough contender here curling with Emilie Desjardins. The Desjardins also have a tour title to their credit this season, picking up the W in Kitsbuehel, Austria (where they defeated current #1 ranked Aitken/Andrews in the final).

#TeamUpset: Seattle, Washington duo Em Good and Mac Guy could be a strong #TeamUpset flag bearer heading onto the ice this weekend. Many fans, and even competitors, may not be familiar with this team but they have been around the mixed doubles circuit for awhile and have established themselves as a strong team. Currently ranked #52 in the world, we have only seen them twice on tour this season. They did reach the QF in Madison, WI where they lost to Chelsea Carey / John Morris. Perhaps not a threat for the title but if they pull off one or two upset wins in the RR, they may just find themselves with an outside shot at the Top 12 and a playoff berth come Saturday night. Plus they may have the best team name in the tournament #GoodGuy

W2W4: A very dangerous Swiss/Canada couple lurks in this pool and could surprise the lot and emerge on top after the RR. Marlene Albrecht and Matt Wozniak have strong individual resumes with their former men's and women's teams but have come together to form an equally strong and competitive duo in the discipline. Currently ranked #12 in the world, they also have a tour title to their credit this season, winning the big event in Bern, Switzerland where they defeated top Swiss duo Perret/Rios in the final and Aitken/Andrews in the SF. They may just be the most dangerous under the radar team in the entire competition.

Projected Standings: 1. Albrecht/Wozniak  2. Peterman/Gallant  3. Desjardins/Desjardins  4. Sigvaldason/McMillan  5. Good/Guy  6. Moncur/Moncur


Pool D - Three Sisters

Favourite: We all know who is going to be tabbed the favourite in the Three Sisters pool right? Switzerland's Perret/Rios have all the credentials to establish themselves as not only a threat here but also heading into the upcoming world championships this Spring. What more can we say about their resume that hasn't been highlighted elsewhere above? They will be playing in the playoffs this weekend.

#TeamUpset: Do you know Kirsten Silcox and Jason Keerak? No? While you might by the end of this competition. The duo out of Cochrane, Alberta may just shock and awe curling fans in attendance when they step on the ice against their perceived more well-known competition. Do not underestimate Silcox/Keerak though. If you paid attention to the mixed doubles event in Sherwood Park earlier this season you will know why. The duo may have failed to reach the playoffs but did advance to the consolation bracket final, losing to Kristen Streifel/Steve Laycock. While they finished 10th overall, it was a strong result for the #TeamUpset contenders against a very strong field. Can they rediscover the magic in an event hosted basically in their own backyard?

W2W4: While Perret/Rios are the favourites, Pool D could also have a Pool of Death feel to it as well. USA's Anderson/Dropkin sit as the #6 team in the world and have been playing stellar mixed doubles this season. Shannon Birchard and Catlin Schneider have a finals appearance under their belts this season as well, losing the championship in Madison. Sherry Just is also an established mixed doubles player but will now be curling with Sam Wills instead of regular partner Ryan Deis, so it is unclear how the new duo will perform. Lets just say the Three Sisters pools is full of strong mixed doubles players and could be one of the more entertaining pools to watch unfold during the RR. #StayTuned

Projected Standings: 1. Perret/Rios  2. Anderson/Dropkin  3. Birchard/Schneider  4. Silcox/Keerak  5. Just/Wills  6. Dreaver/Birnie


Pool E - Cascade

Favourite: We may have to crown co-favourites in Pool E folks. We have one of the strongest and most feared duo's in Jennifer Jones/Brent Laing. We have former Canadian champions and world silver medal winners Jill Officer/Reid Carruthers. Tough to argue against either team being considered a favourite to win this pool....or win this entire event. Jones/Laing started the season winning gold at the Winter Games NZ. And while Officer stepped away from competitive curling at the end of last season, it is great to see her back on the ice with her former Canadian champ partner Carruthers to keep the competitive ice burning. Plus, this pairing gives us a mouth watering Jones vs Officer match to close out the RR Saturday afternoon. Perhaps a battle for first place and a bye to the QF even? I would imagine all eyes will be on Banff Saturday at 4:30 p.m. (MST).

#TeamUpset: Can couples make it in mixed doubles? We have seen a few do quite well. Skaslien/Nedregotten. Jones/Laing. Peterman/Gallant. Walker/Walker. Albrecht/Wozniak. But some have not panned out as well as many would have anticipated/hoped (ie: McEwen/McEwen). Where will Erin Pincott / Matt Dunstone fall on this list? Pincott/Dunstone should be considered a threat to make a playoff push here. Pincott has found success on the #wct with Corryn Brown out of B.C. while Dunstone has resurrected his skipping passion this season and transformed his new team into a men's contender and earning some Brier dark horse love already. But can they work as a team? Can happiness off the ice translate into success on the ice? Time to find out....

W2W4: The Canadian duo's listed above will probably garnish all the attention from fans and media in attendance but it could be a young English team ready to steal the spotlight from them all here. Anna and Ben Fowler are the most experienced mixed doubles tandem in the pool and have the most international experience and success (again in mixed doubles). We last saw the Fowler's compete at the 2017 world championships, finishing just outside the playoffs with a respectable 4-3 record. At the 2016 championships the duo reached not only the playoffs but the QF round before falling to USA and wound up finishing in 8th place. Team Fowler currently sits #19 in the world rankings, reaching the final in Pinerolo, Italy as well as finishing 3rd in Sochi, Russia and the QF in Kitzbuehel, Austria. This is a deceivingly dangerous team who understands the game of mixed doubles quite well and could surprise a few of their Canadian opponents.

Projected Standings:  1. Jones/Laing  2. Officer/Carruthers  3. Fowler/Fowler  4. Pincott/Dunstone  5. Strong/Scoffin  6. Villemaire/Ishida


Pool F - Grotto

Favourite: While the other 5 pools all seem to have a top echelon of team(s) considered favourites, the Grotto pool is wide open for the taking. If we go on world ranking, USA's Nina Roth and Kroy Nernberger would be the favourites here sitting at a world ranking of #43. While they have not played a ton of events together on tour, they did put together a strong run to the SF in Duluth, MN earlier this season.

#TeamUpset: Welcome back to the ice Cheryl Bernard! Bernard will be joined by husband Terry Meek as the duo tried to turn back the clock a bit and make a push towards a mixed doubles curling title. The 2010 Olympic silver medal winner has stayed in the public eye as a commentator with TSN the past few seasons but it is great to see her back on the ice competing at a high level once again. Winning the #QMDC title may be a bit of a reach given the strong competition in Banff/Canmore but I am guessing Bernard/Meek will be one of the more popular duo's in the entire competition with fans all weekend, regardless of results. And hey, never underestimate a player with a resume like Bernard's either folks. In a wide open pool, the #TeamUpset contender may just rise to the top.

W2W4: Anything and everything. Outside of the USA duo, this is an #AlbertaStrong pool with every other competitor currently listing Alberta as home or was originally from the host province. Past Canadian champ Charley Thomas is back competing in mixed doubles but will not be teaming with regular partner Kalynn Park. Originally Thomas was listed to compete with Val Sweeting but, as of Thursday morning, is now listed to join forces with Nadine Scotland (a #TwineTimeFam member btw). Scotland took the year off so it will be interesting to see if she has any ice rust under her slider and how the new tandem does. Thomas is an established mixed doubles vet though and knows the discipline quite well so his knowledge and leadership could be the wild card finish for this team. Plus we get to see him square off against former teammate back in the day Colin Hodgson in the final RR draw Saturday afternoon with, what could become, a de facto elimination game. Just how amicable was that break-up? Old teammates, old friends or old teammates, bitter rivals?

Projected Standings: 1. Roth/Nernberger  2. Carey/Hodgson  3. Scotland/Thomas  4. Bernard/Meek  5. Rocque/Steinke  6. Crump/Wilson


Qualfiers: Skaslien/Nedregotten, Lawes/Morris, Albrecht/Wozniak, Perret/Rios, Jones/Laing, Roth/Nernberger, Aitken/Andrews, Stirling/Kingan, Peterman/Gallant, Anderson/Dropkin, Officer/Carruthers, Walker/Walker

#QMDC Championship: Kristen Skaslien / Magnus Nedregotten (NOR) def. Kaitlyn Lawes / John Morris (CAN)


What say you rock heads and stoners? Do you agree or disagree with the #TwineTime predictions? Which team(s) will you be cheering for in Banff/Canmore and who do you think will slide away with the $10,000 winner's cheque on Sunday afternoon?

The #TwineTime blog may just be heading out to this event this weekend to take in the action LIVE. If you are in the Banff/Canmore area you should check out the action as well. Tickets are very reasonable and come support the inaugural event while also getting an in-person look at the discipline of mixed doubles from some of the best duos in the world.

#StayTuned


The #TwineTime blog returns to the regular scheduled program next week with an update on the #PowerRankings plus we preview the next #gsoc major: The Canadian Open.

And ICYMI in all of your holiday celebrations, check out the Top 8 of '18 blog post where we look back at the top 8 blog posts of the past year based on YOUR page views. Which posts made the countdown and which made the perfect draw to the four foot for a podium finish? And which post landed right on the button as the top blog post of 2018?

Happy New Year!