Wednesday, 21 September 2022

#PBInvitational2022 Preview

#BetweenTheSheets: PointsBet Canada Invitational Preview

The #Sweep16BracketChallenge Seed Report

March Madness meets curling. From the hardwood to the cool slippery ice, curling will be introduced to their first March Madness-style elimination event this week in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

16 women's and men's teams will hit the ice looking to become the sole surviving champion and head home with a nice amount of cash in their pockets.

Call it #MarchMadness.

Call it #Sweep16.

Call it #SeptemberSweeps.

Call it #PBInvitational2022.

Whatever you want to call it, the excitement factor is through the roof.

Plus we get a full on Fantasy Curling Bracket Challenge for fans.

And a cool ONE MILLION DOLLAR grand prize for anyone able to complete a perfect bracket! 🤑 

Before diving into the event itself, lets talk about what is up for grabs. It is all about the money, honey!

Each team will receive $5,000 to cover travel and accommodations, which can be helpful given the cost of travel to New Brunswick.

As teams progress through the bracket, they will increase their take home cash amount. Here is the breakdown:

Sweep 16: $3,000

Elite 8: $6,000

Final Four: $12,000 

Champion: $24,000

Total Winnings: $50,000

A lot of money on the line for the teams who are able to survive the single-elimination tournament format.

Remember, unlike tour events or #GSOC events, this is single-elimination.

All hope is not lost for those teams who are eliminated in their opening game. Through the leadership of Kyle Doering, a Repechage (Second Chance) event will take place at the Capital Winter Curling Club in Fredericton and will have a $5,000 purse.

Lets break down the field. Note in parenthesis is the current world ranking and the outright odds (via SportsHandle) per team.



1. Team Einarson (3, +150) - We have yet to see the Canadian champs on competitive ice this season so they may be considered a bit of a "wild card" compared to most of their competition. Although as much of a "wild card" as a #3peat Scotties champion can be. Sure there may be some light rust under the slider but it will only last an end or two. Still a strong fav to win the title here. And the draw is not too shabby for them, on paper anyway.

2. Team Lawes (2, +800) - Lawes actually jumped Einarson on the world rankings with their championship win at the Mother Club last weekend. 2 events. 2 finals. 1 title. It all stacks up as a title threat in Fredericton. If you follow #MarchMadness though, you know those #2 vs. #7/#10 battles can be very tricky...or in this case very slippery.

3. Team Fleury (5, +300) - The Fleury/Homan combo will be a TV highlight and the first chance for many to see 2 of Canada's fav curlers together on one team. Fans are chomping at the bit to see them in action in primetime. They opened their season a few weekends ago with a run to the finals in Edmonton. However, as #Favs go, they have arguably the toughest path to the final.

4. Team Carey (10, +1000) - Never underestimate a Scotties champ and while 2-time winner Chelsea Carey may have a new front end with her and curling back in home province of Manitoba, she is always dangerous in these type of high-profile events. They reached the SF in their season-opener event but went 2-3 at the Saville Shoot-Out, missing out on the playoffs. Second Liz Fyfe may be the wild card factor for their success in Fredericton. A tricky opening game vs. Sturmay though could be followed by a blockbuster vs. now Manitoba rival Jones in the Elite 8.

5. Team Jones (8, +1500) - A bit surprised to see the odds for Team Jones after the strong start to the season they are having. 3 events. 3 qualifiers. 1 QF. 1 SF. 1 title. I would say that is a pretty impressive resume. The only downside might be their seeding. With March Madness rules, a #5 seed is always prone to the opening round upset vs. the #12 seed. And they are playing against the home crowd. If they survive the opener though, do not be surprised to see them playing for the championship. It really does feel as those are the two most-likely options: First round loss or Final appearance.

6. Team Scheidegger (11, +700) - Playing the odds, Scheidegger enters as the fourth best shot to claim the title...and as a #6 seed. Impressive for the new team out of Alberta. They are coming off a SF result in Leduc, which comes on the tail end of a SF finish at the Saville Shoot-Out. The wild card here is skipper Casey Scheidegger will be unable to join the team due to work commitments (shout out to all the teachers back in the classroom this year). Former teammate Kristie Moore will step into the skip role for the team, a role she is familiar with and actually plays this season with her own new team. Can the small audible in line-up cause them to get frozen out in their opener vs. the #PolarPower though?

7. Team Duncan (16, +1500) - As a #12 seed is dangerous to the #5 seed in the opening round, a #7 seed is very dangerous for a possible #2 seed in the Elite 8. Team Duncan is that dangerous #7 seed capable of earning #BracketBuster status. We have only seen them on the ice once this season, a SF result at the Summer Series event in Quebec. They posted a 4-4 record at the Scotties last season as well. They will also be calling an audible though with Julie Tippin stepping in at vice for Megan Balsdon.

8. Team Rocque (19, +1500) - Rocque may be coming to Fredericton with a slight chip (see what I did there?!) on their shoulder after going 3-2 at the Saville Shoot-Out in the season opening event, just missing the playoffs due to TB formula. Those #8 vs. #9 opening round battles are always intense and can go either way, pitting very equal teams against one another. I hope this game gets equal coverage to the other opening round games because it could be the sleeper game of the opening round.

9. Team Black (24, +2000) - Remember last year's Scotties when Nova Scotia's Team Black made a playoff run and fought back against Team McCarville after being down 1-9 after 4 ends of play? This is a no quit, grind it out team who can make big shots and should never be counted out. Who would think a linescore of 9-1 would end up playing out the entire game and eventually read 9-8 in the 8th end? They will also have crowd support with the pro-Atlantic Canada crowd cheering them on. The major critique against them in their opener is they have yet to hit the competitive ice this season.

10. Team Barker (25, +1500) - Another team who competed at the Scotties last season, finishing with a 4-4 record. Sure puts their opening battle vs. Duncan in perspective right? Both finished 4-4 at the Scotties last season. Both flying under the radar here. Both capable of pulling big upsets. Both capable of suffering opening round defeats. Similar to a few teams above, they have also not hit competitive ice this season. It will be interesting to see how the defending Sask champs fair in their season-opening event.

11. Team Galusha (18, +1500) - Opening round upset special bells ringing all over the place with #PolarPower Team Galusha. This team is riding the momentum train still from last season, reaching the playoffs at the Scotties and having a season to remember on tour. When you look at double digit seeds capable of wreaking havoc on your bracket, this is the leading #BracketBuster team to watch out for. And while they may have only played one event this season, it was a QF result at Saville. The upset bells should be ringing folks. Special props to skipper Kerry Galusha for all her travel hiccups in getting to Fredericton. Wow! Flight delays and cancellations and flight changes alone should almost spot her an early 2-0 lead in her opening game. They may be the underdog as the #11 seed but they are playing a new team without their regular skipper.

12. Team Kelly (27, +600) - #TeamUpset watch will be paying close attention to home fav Andrea Kelly and company. Remember their breakthrough at the Scotties last season? Reaching the playoffs and walking away with a bronze medal? The result included a huge Championship Round victory over eventual champion Team Einarson to book a spot in the 1 vs 2 PPG. This is a team nobody in the field wants to see drawn next to them. Add in the coveted #TeamUpset seed of #12 and March Madness stars may align for the home province. Their opener vs. Jones quite possibly will be the opening game of the tournament, men's or women's, with the winner having a great shot at reaching the SF to possibly challenge Einarson. The only downside? Kelly has not hit the ice this season where their opposition is coming off a tour title.

13. Team Sturmay (20, +3000) - Gotta like the #NextGen feel to this bracket with Alberta's Sturmay sliding in as the #13 seed. The 2019 Canadian junior champ seems poised to breakout in the women's game and this could be their big season. They have already reached one final this season (Leduc) but also failed to qualify at the Saville Shoot-Out and U25 NextGen Classic. The #13 seed upset does not happen often but if they play with a "nothing to lose" attitude, enjoy the moment and put all the pressure on their opposition, anything can happen. The team is playing the double audible here though with Kira Brunton and Calissa Daly filling in for Abby Marks (vice) and Paige Papley (lead).

14. Team Birt (47, +2500) - The Fan Vote winners from the Island slot into the #14 seed and will be a crowd favourite when they hit the ice. And not only because of their Super Spare Colleen Jones stepping in at vice for Marie Christianson. Suzanne Birt has always been a crowd favourite, as shown with winning 48.8% of the fan vote to earn the final spot in the field. It will be an uphill battle for our top vote getters, drawing championship challenger Team Fleury in the opening round having not played an event yet this season and slotting in Jones at vice, even with the resume of the six-time Scotties champ.

15. Team Deschenes (52, +1500) - This will be an interesting team to watch. The 2022 Canadian Junior Women's Champions from Nova Scotia were skipped by Taylour Stevens. Stevens aged out of junior competition at the conclusion of last season so the Canadian champs will now be skipped by Ontario's Emily Deschenes. And who did Stevens and company beat in said Canadian final? Ontario, skipped by Deschenes. Deschenes will now take lead of the team in preparation for the 2023 World Junior Curling Championship. They may be massive underdogs at this event, drawing #2 Lawes in their opener; however, this is also a great test event to start their season in pursuit of world junior championship glory. There is a bigger, more global, play at stake here.

16. Team Larocque (167, +10000) - Northern Ontario's Tracy Larocque qualified for this event via the team's championship win at the 2021 Canadian Curling Club Championships. At those championships, the team went 5-1 in the RR to qualify for the Championship Round and, after suffering an opening playoff loss, reached the playoffs as the final qualifier via the B-bracket. They would not lose again, knocking off the #1 seed (Yukon) and #2 seed (Ontario) to claim the title. Sure they will have every odd and rock possible stacked against them in their opening game vs. Einarson but it will still be awesome to see a Canadian Champ vs. Canadian Champ Sweep 16 battle. 


1. Team Gushue (1, +200) - Similar to our #1 women's seed and Canadian champs, this event will also mark the season debut for Brier winners Team Gushue. Of course, unlike their female champion counterparts, there will be a slight lineup alteration this season with E.J. Harnden in at second for the departing Brett Gallant. This is not uncommon for Gushue to start his season later than a majority of his competition so the concern risk level is quite low, even with a new teammate. Anything short of at least a Final Four appearance will be quite shocking, with no disrespect meant to the opposition.

2. Team Bottcher (4, +275) - Fresh off a season-opening championship win in Okotoks last weekend, all the momentum is with Team Bottcher right now. Remember Mr. Gallant from above? Well apparently all he does is win, win, win, no matter what or with whom! First event with a new team in many years and he goes out to add another tour title to his resume. Maybe he is the golden goose after all? Overall, this team is probably the actual favourite here, seedings and rankings aside. 12 Brier titles. 5 world titles. 3 Olympic medals. 2 Olympic gold medals. Undefeated this season. Are you betting against them?

3. Team Dunstone (5, +400) - Similar to competitor Bottcher, new look Team Dunstone also made their season opening appearance last weekend in Okotoks and walked away with a strong SF result. They may be the #3 seed here but it seems like they are perhaps flying under the radar more than the top contenders. We see a lot of people talking about Gushue, Bottcher, Koe, Carruthers, even Flasch more than Dunny as a top threat heading into the event. And I think that is exactly how "The Sheriff" likes it. Talk about the opposition while I take them all down. The opener vs. fan fav Greg Smith will be fun to watch. Don't sleep on this team folks! Second Colton Lott could be the sleeper MVP of the entire event. And, on paper, Dunny might have the best path to the Final Four.

4. Team Koe (8, +300) - Speaking of #NextGen sleeper MVP picks, what about Team Koe vice Tyler Tardi? Solid season debut for the young B.C. stud, playing with Ku-Dog and reaching the final in Okotoks. Sure they took the loss to AB rivals Bottcher but that is one game in a long list of games these two teams will end up playing against one another. This is a multi-volume rivalry not a Coles Notes paperback. When you are asked to name an iconic curler you either want on your team in clutch games or never want to see in the hack as your opposition, likely the response to both will be Kevin Koe! The home province fans may be against him a bit in the opener, taking on U Sport bronze medal winner Team Smeltzer, but survive that game and it could get interesting. Koe vs. Gushue Final Four? Skipper rematch from last year's Brier final.

5. Team Carruthers (7, +900) - The early line on the renewed backend pairing of Reid Carruthers and Jason Gunnlaugson has been a positive one. And the proof is in the pudding as they say. 2 events. 1 final. 1 QF. The blending of the top two teams from Manitoba has created a new Super Team for the province and a dangerous one at that. They are in the often dreaded #5 seed spot though, where upsets often often, and this team may have the toughest draw path to the final. And they draw a very familiar face in the opener vs. fellow MB title threat Team Calvert. If they survive, look at that Elite 8 potential match up though vs. Koe.

6. Team Howard (15, +900) - While we have yet to see the #6 seeds hit the ice this season, unlike most of their opposition, familiarity will be their advantage. They are one of the few top men's teams in Canada not to have an offseason shake up. 60 year old Glenn Howard is still a threat on the ice and is not going anywhere for the time being. The competitive fire still burns and this team could surprise the field. Their opener pits the oldest player in the field (Howard) vs. one of the youngest #NextGen future stars (Felix Asselin). And if there is an opening round toss up game, it could be this one.

7. Team Flasch (9, +1100) - The dark horse threat in the field? We saw what happens when you underestimate the lightning bolt at the Brier...they shock the system, electrocute the ice and start taking victim names. The Sasky champs are similar to the seed above them, being a team who stuck together after last season and is ready to make a climb up the rankings to kick off this next quadrennial. They started the season with a slight hiccup, missing the playoffs in Baden, but have since rebounded with back-to-back SF results in Martensville and Okotoks last weekend. Remember the note above about those dangerous #7 seeds, especially against the favoured #2 seed? #BracketBuster?

8. Team Epping (12, +1200) - The #8 vs. #9 game for the men's bracket will be an all-Ontario battle between two skips who are very familiar with one another and are joined by new look teams. Team Epping has been one of the busier teams in the early part of the season, having already played 4 events. Advantage? Depends which team shows up. The one who failed to qualify in 2 events or the one who reached a SF in Leduc and QF in Okotoks. The positive? They will come to Fredericton with momentum of the QF last weekend so confidence should be high. But their opener vs. McEwen is a complete 50/50 toss-up. And what will the winner have left in the tank for a potential Elite 8 battle vs. Team Gushue?

9. Team McEwen (18, +2000) - The John Epping connection will be all over the place in this opening game as former Epping teammates Ryan Fry and Brent Laing are now playing with import skip Mike McEwen out of Ontario. Mike McEwen out of Ontario. Seems weird to say, no? The new team did start the season with a bang, reaching the SF in Martensville, but hit a snag two weekends ago in Leduc failing to qualify. It might be the only slight advantage favouring the opposition in this even battle right now, Epping comes here off a QF finish while McEwen failed to qualify in their last event. But, given the calibre and resume of these 8 players, it really won't matter on previous results when the first rock is thrown. This game alone will be a #BracketBuster for a majority of people as there really is no favourite here.

10. Team Sturmay (20, +3000) - Bottcher and Koe may be faces who run the place in Alberta curling but Karsten Sturmay is ready to take his place among the discussion. And what a perfect opportunity for a national coming out party then right here in Fredericton. Sturmay partnering up with Manitoba's Kyle Doering might be one of the most under-valued moves in the offseason. Doering is a beast of a competitor with a championship resume and sky's the limit potential. Their opponents, Team Flasch, are listed above as the dark horse threat but I can also see Sturmay knocking them off and following up with sending Bottcher packing as well. The team reached a final in Leduc back in August and made the QF last weekend in Okotoks (losing to Bottcher). Pick with or against them at your own peril.

11. Team Asselin (30, +3000) - The opening round #TeamUpset potential pick? Hmmm, March Madness stats would suggest picking the #12 over #5 makes more sense but, in this event, perhaps both #11 over #6 games is more likely? Felix Asselin and his Quebec boys may be one of the least talked about teams heading into the event, which means they are in a perfect position to bust your bracket and wave the #TeamUpset flag. Lets remember, this is not an inexperienced team. Asselin has been to 3 Briers since his debut in 2018. Vice Martin Crete is a proven champion...and not on line calling/yelling alone. And Asselin did throw fourth stones while Mike Fournier called the game. This is team brimming with confidence in themselves and sometimes that is all you need to pick up the W. Upset potential alert??

12. Team Calvert (31, +5000) - Speaking off those upset potential #12 seeds, Manitoba's Team Calvert certainly fits the mold. Calvert is the 2015 Canadian junior champ remember so he has championship pedigree on the resume. And he has been knocking on the men's Manitoba door for a few seasons, looking to make the move. An opening round game vs. provincial rival Team Carruthers is the perfect opportunity. The huge advantage for this team is they have been together for 4 seasons now and continue to curl together. The team who stays together, curls best together? They are fresh off a SF appearance last weekend at their season-opening event, The Mother Club Fall Curling Classic.

13. Team Smeltzer (109, +5000) - Home town. Home ice. Home crowd. Huge underdog. Welcome to the life of New Brunswick's Jack Smeltzer. Smeltzer received their spot in the field as the host committee selection but do not undersell them right away. Smeltzer, as skip of UNB Reds curling, won a bronze medal at the 2018 U Sports championship and has represented NB at the Canadian juniors. Sure they have a monstrous hill to climb in their opener vs. Koe but almost everyone is an underdog against Koe. The #NextGen potential can be on display here for the home town fans and if they soak in the moment and have fun, anything can happen. Koe is expected to win and win big. But also has way more pressure on him by comparison. We play the games for a reason folks. The worst case scenario? A great learning experience going forward for the young team.

14. Team Smith (91, +6600) - Bring on the Fan Vote pick, winning 42.8% of the vote to claim the final spot in the field and the #14 seed. We also have another team from The Rock in the field, meaning there are 4 men's teams representing Atlantic Canada. Greg Smith has been a crowd favourite since his Brier debut in Regina in 2018. Returning to the Brier inside the #IceBubble in 2021 only solidified his fan fav status...and earned him a spot in the TSN 1v1 Hall of Fame. He has the game and the shot making abilities. If Smith can call his style of game, not make ends too complex for him and enjoy the moment, he can give #3 Dunstone a run for this money. If Dunny is The Sheriff, does that make Smith the Bank Robber? If so, he could rob all of you out of $1M by busting your bracket early.

15. Team Rooney (61, +6600) - If you watched the 2022 Canadian Junior Curling Championships, you should be quite aware of the potential Landon Rooney and his squad brings to the ice. Rooney, representing Ontario 1, lost their second RR game of the event and never lost again. They reeled off 9 straight wins to capture the title, including outscoring their opposition 28-14 in 3 playoff games. This team is not afraid of rocks in play and can score some big ends. Perhaps a contrast to their opening round opposition, Team Bottcher, who sometimes plays a more wide-open game. The upset potential may be limited here; however, this could be a much closer game going into deep ends than many might expect on paper. Plus this team is fresh off a QF appearance last weekend at the Gord Carroll Curling Classic.

16. Team Deagle (208, +15000) - The 2021 Canadian Curling Club Champions out of Nova Scotia round out the men's field and, similar to the women's bracket, ensures an opening round battle of Canadian Champ vs. Canadian Champ. Nick Deagle and his team took the long road to winning the club championship. They finished 3-3 in the RR to claim the final spot in the Championship Round. They upset Saskatchewan in their opening A Bracket game before losing to PEI, dropping to the B Bracket and winning the final playoff qualifier game vs. Manitoba.  They would go 2-0 in the playoffs though, exacting revenge on top seed PEI in the SF before once again defeating Saskatchewan to take the title. They are the longshot in the entire competition and lowest ranked. And they draw Brad Gushue in the opener. But hey, Gushue hasn't hit the ice this season yet either so...

As mentioned in this week's #PowerRankings blog post, #TwineTime will be participating in the Sweep 16 Bracket Media Challenge.

It only seems fair (and transparent) to reveal my full bracket. Here we go...



Sweep 16:

(1) Team Einarson def. (16) Team Larocque

(8) Team Rocque def. (9) Team Black

(5) Team Jones def. (12) Team Kelly

(4) Team Carey def. (13) Team Sturmay

(11) Team Galusha def. (6) Team Scheidegger

(3) Team Fleury def. (14) Team Birt

(7) Team Duncan def. (10) Team Barker

(2) Team Lawes def. (15) Team Deschenes

Elite 8:

(1) Team Einarson def. (8) Team Rocque

(5) Team Jones def. (4) Team Carey

(3) Team Fleury def. (11) Team Galusha

(2) Team Lawes def. (7) Team Duncan

Final Four:

(5) Team Jones def. (1) Team Einarson

(3) Team Fleury def. (2) Team Lawes

PointsBet Canada Invitational Championship: (3) Team Fleury def. (5) Team Jones


Sweep 16:

(1) Team Gushue def. (16) Team Deagle

(8) Team Epping def. (9) Team McEwen

(5) Team Carruthers def. (12) Team Calvert

(4) Team Koe def. (13) Team Smeltzer

(11) Team Asselin def. (6) Team Howard

(3) Team Dunstone def. (14) Team Smith

(7) Team Flasch def. (10) Team Sturmay

(2) Team Bottcher def. (15) Team Rooney

Elite 8:

(1) Team Gushue def. (8) Team Epping

(4) Team Koe def. (5) Team Carruthers

(3) Team Dunstone def. (11) Team Asselin

(2) Team Bottcher def. (7) Team Flasch

Final Four:

(4) Team Koe def. (1) Team Gushue

(2) Team Bottcher def. (3) Team Dunstone

PointsBet Canada Invitational Championship: (4) Team Koe def. (2) Team Bottcher

There you have it rock heads. The #TwineTime bracket for all you to see and judge. Don't forget to fill out your bracket and enter the #Sweep16BracketChallenge.

Can you #BeatTheBlog?

Can you predict a PERFECT BRACKET to score the $1,000,000.00 grand prize?

Don't forget, a special Celebrity Invitational event will take place following the conclusion of the Elite 8 round (Friday evening). There will be two games played and the teams look to be comprised of:

🥌 Brendan Bottcher, B.J. Neufeld, Briane Harris, Patrick Roach (Actor, Trailrr Park Boys)

🥌 Jennifer Jones, Kevin Koe, Marc Methot (Hockey Player), Shayne Corson (Hockey Player)

🥌 Mark Nichols, Val Sweeting, Stephanie Labbe (Soccer Player), Classified (Rapper)

🥌 Kaitlyn Lawes, Ben Hebert, Georgia Simmerling (Cyclist), Donovan Bailey (Sprinter)

The games will feature Team Bottcher vs. Team Jones and Team Nichols vs. Team Lawes.

For fans interested in watching these games, they should be streamed on the event's live stream channels via Curling Canada's Facebook and Instagram.

To those competing on the ice in Fredericton, good luck and good curling!

To those competing off the ice in the Bracket Challenge, I look forward to defeating you all! 😉😂

But in all seriousness, I actually would love to see someone predict a perfect bracket and win the $1M. It would be such a cool story.

Good luck everyone.

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