#BetweenTheSheets: Euro Midterm Grades
Plus an update to Power Rankings mountain
Plus this past weekend saw one of the most stacked fields on tour compete in Red Deer with a men's and women's tour event.
We have A LOT to break down in this post folks.
Lets start with #ECC2022.
The blog was unable to provide a full preview last week due to a birthday winter vacation and taking in Grey Cup festivities. For those unfamiliar with Grey Cup, it is similar to the Super Bowl except for Canadian football.
And the league has been around MUCH longer. This year was the 109th Grey Cup game. So much fun was had. But check out the #TwineTime socials for more info on all that.
We are here to talk about curling after all.
If the preview had been completed, the regular playoff picks would have included the familiar names of Scotland, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland (men) and Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark (women) with championship picks going to Sweden (men) and Switzerland (women).
The predictions for 2023 B-division relegation would have been Turkey/Spain (men) and Latvia/Hungary (women) while 2023 A-division promotion from the 2022 B-division would have been Finland/Netherlands (men) and Estonia/Czech Republic (women).
But this is why we play the games folks. We have seen some upsets, surprise results and a logjam in the women's standings.
Bring out the red marker...here are the European Curling Championships Midterm Grades:
Team Dupont (Denmark) - Who saw this fun-loving team starting the competition 6-0, including victories over powerhouse teams Sweden and Switzerland? Sure they took their first loss Tuesday vs. Turkey but they are in the playoffs, qualified for the world championship and are looking like a legit threat to the title. Is this the Season of the Pink Coat for skipper Madeleine Dupont?
Team Retornaz (Italy) / Team Mouat (Scotland) - Both teams have qualified for the playoffs with identical 7-0 records. Both teams have looked like the main championship contenders, building towards a blockbuster final RR draw against one another likely for first place overall. Both teams have very equal stats as well, from overall curling percentage (Italy 86%, Scotland 84%) to Points For / Against (Scotland 60/30, Italy 54/32). Retornaz continues to build on a breakout season while Mouat continues towards a #DefendTheIce mentality. Both are looking very strong.
Team Paulauskaite (Lithuania) - Not familiar with the 50 year old Lithuanian skipper Virginija Paulauskaite? You might want to learn the name now because her team is sitting atop the B-division with a perfect 6-0 record and aiming to take Lithuania to the A-division for the first time in #HERstory. This is the 7th ECC appearance for Paulauskaite with previous final placement results of 21st, 19th, 18th, 17th, 14th and 15th. Lithuania has bounced between B and C-divisions over the years but 2022 is the strongest this team has looked and they are on the cusp of a playoff spot and earning one of the two promotion tickets for 2023.
Team Mercier (France) - When the B-division men's pools were released, I doubt many saw France as being the first team to clinch a playoff spot. They are placed in a pool with Netherlands, Latvia, Hungary and Austria. But here they are sitting with a 5-0 record and the only team to have a playoff spot locked down. What makes it even more surprising is they entered #ECC2022 with an overall tour record of 2-6 and were unable to compete in their final tune-up event in Basel. Could this #TeamUpset lead France to A-division promotion? They wrap up the RR with a huge game vs. favourites Netherlands (Team Gosgens).
#HoppSchwiiz (Team Schwaller/Team Tirinzoni) - Both teams have booked their spot in the playoffs with 6-1 records. Both are looking like championship contenders. And both are trying to end long ECC championship droughts for their nation with the last men's champion being Team Michel (2013) and last women's being Team Feltscher (2014). Is 2022 the year Switzerland finally gets back into the S Club Party and ends the Sweden/Scotland domination?
Team Karagoz (Turkey) - The Turkish men are right in the playoff hunt with a 4-3 record. Their 3 losses thus far? Italy, Scotland and Switzerland. The three teams already in the playoffs. Their big game comes on Wednesday vs. fellow 4-3 (and home nation) Sweden. It is a #WinAndIn game. But, even if they come up short, this has been a solid A-division debut for the team and they have made #HIStory, following the accomplishments of the women's team last year, in qualifying for the world men's championship.
Women's Parity - When looking at the standings for the A and B-divisions, there are logjams for playoff spots. For the A-division, entering the final day of RR action, 5 nations sit 4-3 (Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Turkey) with Scotland right behind (3-4). Denmark and Switzerland (6-1) have qualified for the playoffs but there are still 2 spots up for grabs and it is anyone's guess who will take them. For the B-division, Lithuania (6-0), Czech Republic and Estonia (both 5-1) are close to locking down playoff spots but the final spot is a race with three teams sitting 3-3 (Belgium, Slovenia, Slovakia) and two teams at 2-4 (England, Finland). For all the talk in the past about how "predictable" curling can be, this is a great showcase of #growthesport. There are surprising nations/teams pushing for playoff spots. We have seen top teams take "surprise" losses. And it feels like both A and B-division titles are wide open for the taking. This is going to be a fun final weekend. Could we see more surprise results?
Team Eriksson (Sweden) - Maybe the blog is being a bit hard on the world champs but we have come to expect strong results from them week in and week out. They have won a slam and were dominating the tour heading into this event on home ice. But the #SwedishVikings have struggled a bit early. Their 3 losses are not bad losses, losing to the teams ahead of them in the standings and all strong championship contenders. But how many of us thought they would loss ALL THREE of those games? Perhaps a bit of getting used to curling with a full team of four again as well after all those wins as a three-man team? Beat Turkey on Wednesday and playoff bound. Lose though and head scratching will begin.
Team Yildiz (Turkey) - The team made a splash on ice last season at this event, making #HERstory in earning the nation a spot at the world championships. Fast forward and here they are right in the playoff hunt. From A-division rookies to A-division playoff challengers in one season? Amazing! Sure their stats are not the best overall and consistency is still a work in progress but they own RR wins over experienced opponents Denmark and Germany and control their fate in the final two RR games vs. Norway and Sweden. If they can take a win or two to close the RR, a HUGE #TeamUpset result could land them in the playoffs and playing for a medal.
Team Hasselborg (Sweden) - Similar to the men above, Hasselborg was rolling out a slightly altered lineup at this event with Johanna Heldin at lead and everyone else moving up a spot while vice Sara McManus prepares for upcoming motherhood (wishing her and family all the best of course!!). The team sits 4-3, right in the playoff hunt, but many expected this team to probably already have a playoff spot clinched at this point of the event. The opening draw loss to Denmark set a tone and the team is still trying to catch up. Remember, at one point they were 0-2. But opening losses to the two teams atop the table (Denmark, Switzerland) are not looking so bad now. Can they get on a roll now though to make the playoffs and push to regain their Euro title? With games against Italy and Turkey remaining, they control their own fate.
Team Nikolav (Ukraine) - When you have to battle your way through the C-division to qualify for the B-division, many perhaps write you off as not being a playoff challenger. Yet here is the young Ukrainian team sitting 2-2 in Group A and still in the playoff hunt. Considering everything going on back home, the attempt to build curling as a sport in Ukraine and the fight just to get here, playoffs or not, this has been a breakthrough event for the boys and Ukrainian curling. If they can at least retain their B-division position, this is a winning event overall and a bright spot for the sport in the future.
Men's B-Division - Outside of France's perfect 5-0 record and locking down a playoff spot, no other nation has really looked dominant or ready to seize control of the competition. And there are some very experienced teams competing, including Netherlands (Team Gosgens), Latvia (Team Truksans), Wales (Team Pougher), Finland (Team Kiiskinen), England (Team Woolston) and Ireland (Team Wilson). With final RR games coming up, the question will be which team takes control of their own fate and can any team emerge as a favourite? Remember the two B-division finalists earn promotion to #ECC2023 A-division.
Team Walstad (Norway) - We knew the men's field would be tough and the margin of error slim to make a playoff push but not many would have predicted Norway to be sitting 2-5 at this point of the competition. They are eliminated from playoff contention and are fighting for a world championship ticket still. They control their world championship fate though with final RR games vs. Denmark (0-7) and Turkey (4-3). Remember, this is a team who has reached four tour finals this season, including two titles, and was looking very strong heading into this event. They should be fine to qualify for #WMCC2023 but overall they may be a bit disappointed with the final result here.
Team Morrison (Scotland) - It has been a mixed season for the Scottish women, starting their season slow but building momentum heading into this event. Remember, they did win a tour event in Leduc last month. It has been a .500-type of season for the team and they sit 3-4 right now so the stats and the grade align to the results. They are still in the playoff hunt though, even if on the fringe right now. They wrap up play with games against Hungary (0-7) and Norway (4-3). They needs wins and some help along the way. The RR W over Sweden could be a huge advantage too. But can they find consistency in winning to make a push up the table?
The round robin for the women wraps up Wednesday with two draws while the men play a single draw on Wednesday and conclude their RR on Thursday.
Remember, the Top 4 qualify for the playoffs with a 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3 playoff bracket.
And the Top 8 men's and women's teams qualify for the world championships. Sweden, as host of the Women's World Curling Championship, have already secured their spot and will be one of the eight women's designated spots with seven remaining based on final RR standings.
Worth noting, the Top 8 for the women have already been decided heading into the final day of play with Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, Italy, Germany and Scotland earning their tickets while Latvia and Hungary will be relegated to ECC2023 B-division.
For the men, Scotland, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden and Turkey have punched their world championship spots with Germany and Norway closing in. The final spot should come down to the winner of the Czech Republic-Denmark game.
#ECC2022 was not the only curling event grabbing attention this past weekend though. Here is your weekend runback.
🥌 Prism Flow Red Deer Curling Classic - Team Dunstone (MB) def. Team Koe (AB). Dunstone took a loss in their opening game (vs. Kleiter) and never lost again, running off 7 straight Ws to claim the title. They qualified out of the B-side and knocked off Team Whyte (QF) and Team Bottcher (SF) to reach the final. Koe had an opposite approach, qualifying A-side and winning 5 straight games to reach the final before taking their only loss of the weekend. In the playoffs, Koe defeated Team Morozumi (QF) and Team Horgan (SF).
🥌 Curling Stadium SaskTour Series - Team Knapp (SK) def. Team Bernath (SK). An A-qualifier rematch emerged in the championship final...with a reversal of results. Bernath entered the final undefeated while Knapp looked for revenge for their earlier loss. Both teams finished with only one loss for the event but Knapp took home the championship trophy.
🥌 Stu Sells Port Elgin Superspiel - Team Champ (ONT) def. Team Smith (NL). Team Alex Champ went a perfect 6-0 to claim the title, qualifying via the A-side and knocking off Team Ainsley (QF) and Team Willsey (SF) in the playoffs. Team Greg Smith took the #CSideGrind path to the playoffs with a QF win over Team Mooibroek and SF win over Team Howard.
🥌 Mid-Canada Fasteners Classic - Team Chambers (MB) def. Team Wiebe (MB). Both teams entered the final with identical 4-0 records after 3-0 RR records and SF wins. Team Corey Chambers took home the title to wrap up a perfect 5-0 weekend, including a SF win over Team Sigurdson. Team Ryan Wiebe was runner-up with a 4-1 overall record, including a SF victory over Team Smith.
🥌 Prism Flow Red Deer Curling Classic - Team Homan (ONT) def. Team Scheidegger (AB). Homan took the path to least resistance in winning the title, qualifying via A-side and going 6-0 overall. They knocked off Team Hunkin (QF) and Team Peterson (SF) to reach the final. Interestingly enough, they also knocked off Peterson (A-SF) and Hunkin (A-qualifier) to reach the playoff bracket. While Homan played the least amount of games needed to win, Scheidegger went the opposite route. They qualified via the #CSideGrind, finishing with an overall record of 7-3 for the weekend. They defeated Team Lawes (QF) and Team Fujisawa (SF) to advance to the championship final.
🥌 Spitfire Arms Cash Spiel - Team Black (NS) def. Team Crouse (NS). Black dominated the field to claim the title in Windsor, NS, going 3-0 in the RR and knocking off Team Powers in the SF. Overall, they outscored their opposition 43-12 in 5 games. Crouse finished the weekend 3-2 overall, with a 3-1 RR record and a SF win over Team Curtis.
🥌 Mid-Canada Fasteners Classic - Team Clark-Rouire (MB) def. Team Briscoe (MB). Both teams advanced to the final with 2-1 RR records in the 4-team field. The final was a rematch of the final RR game for both, a game also won by Team JCR.
🥌 Service Experts Shootout - Mixed Doubles Super Series - Team Martin / Griffith (SK/BC) def. Team Einarson / Jacobs (MB/NOnt). Martin/Griffith were a perfect 7-0 in claiming the title in Leduc. The team went 4-0 in the RR before playoffs wins over Team Walker/Muyres (QF) and Team Perret/Rios (SF) to reach the final. Einarson/Jacobs reached the final with a 3-1 RR record and playoffs wins over Team Jones/Laing (QF) and Team Weagle/Epping (SF). The SF win avenged an earlier RR loss.
The Power Rankings are live and will take into consideration ECC2022 results, even with the event currently underway.
Plus, will the results in Red Deer shake up the mountain?
1. Team Tirinzoni (1) - Sure they took a RR loss to Denmark and that might cost them the #1 seed going into the playoffs but this still looks like the best team in the world and the #ECC2022 favourite.
2. Team Homan (6) - The Red Deer field was stacked and Team Homan breezed through it like nothing. Going undefeated against a strong field, in follow-up to a #gsoc title and tour SF result the previous weekends, has made this team look very confident and very strong heading into another slam before the Christmas break.
3. Team Fujisawa (4) - The PCCC champs qualified A-side, skipper made a game-saving double in the QF W vs. Team Holland and the team reached the SF. Overall another solid weekend of play from the Japanese fan favourites.
4. Team Gim (2) - Team Gim finally seems to be enjoying some time off. Expect them to be a playoff contender at the Masters next month.
5. Team Einarson (3) - Skipper reached a MD final as the team took a break. They still look like the most complete team in Canada, even if Homan has passed them on mountain. Could a Homan/Einarson rivalry be building towards the 2023 Scotties?
6. Team Scheidegger (10) - Back-to-back finals appearances and the team from Alberta seems to be finding their mojo now as a new team. Is this the dark horse team to challenge Einarson/Homan/Lawes at the Scotties this season? Would you want to play them right now?
7. Team Dupont (NR) - When you knock off main championship contenders Switzerland (Tirinzoni) and Sweden (Hasselborg), people start to take notice. Dupont has been a steady climb over the past few seasons, including reaching the Olympics field in 2022. No longer are they an also-ran but now they are cementing their spot as a main challenger. Lets see what they do in the playoffs.
8. Team Lawes (5) - The team may be using a #SuperSpare model right now but the results are still consistent. They qualified for another playoff bracket in Red Deer and continue to look to be one of the strongest new team formations of the season.
9. Team Hasselborg (7) - As mentioned above in the ECC midterm report card, it hasn't been a bad Euro's but it hasn't been what we were expecting either? Still a championship threat of course but maybe our expectations are too high? They cannot win every game they play after all, right? First they need to lock up a playoff spot, then we can see where the final rocks spin.
10. Team Wrana (HM) - While their Swedish rivals compete on home ice at ECC2022, Team Wrana is in Canada continuing to make a name for themselves. Their last three events have seen a SF (Tour Challenge), F (Sundbyberg Open) and QF (Red Deer Curling Classic) have this team finding their momentum and confidence. Sweden is officially a two-team nation with both teams regular championship threats week in and week out.
Hon. Mention: Team Black, Team Peterson, Team Jones, Team Ha, Team Kitazawa, Team Skrlik
1. Team Dunstone (3) - A new #1? With Team Edin/Eriksson looking a bit off this week in Sweden and Team Gushue not competing, the title in Red Deer against that field certainly is enough to propel Team Dunstone atop the mountain. They have been climbing with vigor the past few weeks and the result this weekend pins their flag on top. Now the question is, can they stay there? The chase is fun but now they are the hunted.
2. Team Koe (5) - An undefeated run to a championship final should make the mountain take notice and, similar to the rationale above for Dunstone's ascent to the top, Koe makes a big climb this week as well. You just feel like a championship win is coming for them in the very near future.
3. Team Edin/Eriksson (1) - For all the reasons mentioned above with the #ECC2022 midterm grades. Still a top team. Still one of the best in the world. They are just looking a bit more "human" right now, against their standards at least. The mountain is not going to drop them too far...after all, remember what they have accomplished over the past month leading into ECC.
4. Team Gushue (2) - When you do not hit the ice but your main opposition does in a stacked field in Red Deer and a strong field at Euros, you expect to fall a bit down the mountain. No cause for concern though, this is how Power Rankings go after all.
T5. Team Mouat (8) - Now THIS is the Team Mouat we have been waiting to see all season. And they showed up at exactly the right time. The Scottish lads are dominating the Euro field in Sweden and look well in control on their quest to #DefendTheIce. This is also what their opposition was hoping not to see anytime season....a confident Team Mouat regaining their swagger. Very dangerous!!
T5. Team Retornaz (HM) - Speaking of confidence and swagger, Italy's Team Retornaz has looked equally as dominant in Sweden and sit tied atop the standings with their Scottish opponents. It only seems fair to have them tied on the Power Rankings as well. They still play one another in the RR and, possibly, in the Euro final? From #TeamUpset to Dark Horse to Championship Contender. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy in the sport either.
7. Team Whyte (6) - Ok, so they could not accomplish the #3peat in winning three tour events in a row but they didn't come up empty handed in Red Deer either with a QF finish. It might look weird to see them actually drop a spot on the mountain but it is only because of the domination factor of their two fellow European competitors looking so strong at ECC. These young boys are having a breakout season, as the blog expected.
8. Team Schwaller (9) - 6-1 in Sweden, in the playoffs and looking ready to make a championship push this weekend. Their only loss was to Italy and their next RR game on Wednesday is against Mouat. They still have a shot at finishing the RR in 1st place if they beat Mouat and then cheer Mouat on against Retornaz. These three teams are looking very strong and on equal footing right now. Do not undersell this team.
9. Team Bottcher (NR) - Welcome back to the mountain Team Bottcher. It has been a hot minute since we have seen you climb back into the Power Rankings. Red Deer was a strong weekend for the Alberta team, qualifying via the A-side and having a SF finish. And when your only loss of the event was against the eventual champion, nothing to hang your head about. Is this team ready to have consistent results and start making the rough and tough climb up the mountain now?
10. Team Dropkin (4) - All the curling over the past few weeks might have caught up to the Young Bucks in Red Deer. The Americans went 1-3 and bowed out relatively quickly from the event. Those results cause them to take a far tumble down the mountain; however, they have still had a strong season and retain a Top 10 ranking.
Hon. Mention: Team Shuster, Team Sluchinski, Team Nyman, Team Yanagisawa, Team Flasch
The European Curling Championships will spin their final rocks this weekend in Ostersund, Sweden and crown new Euro title holders. Who will emerge as the continental champion and also punch a ticket to the season-ending Champions Cup in May 2023?
Plus no rest for the wicked as tour action continues this upcoming weekend leading into the final #gsoc event of 2022 in early December.
Until the rocks start spinning, enjoy the week.