#BetweenTheSheets: Hej, Hej Sverige
Sandviken, Sweden is ready to say "Välkommen" to the world
March Madness on ice continues.
We kickstarted the month of March with the Tim Horton's Brier in London, Ontario.
With that event less than a week in our rearview mirror, we are already looking ahead to the next big event.
And this one is on global ice as we prepare to crown a new world women's champion.
13 of the best teams in the world will make their way to Göransson Arena in Sandviken, Sweden to chase world championship glory.
The NCAA #MarchMadness tournament announced their men's and women's brackets last weekend and play hit the hardcourts this week. And we already have seen massive #TeamUpset / #BracketBuster results.
Could we see similar in Sweden?
Well if you have March Madness fever, do not forget to cool yourself down on the ice as curling brings its own flavour of March Madness into your house this weekend.
In fine #TwineTime tradition, welcome to the World Women's Curling Championship Preview post.
In support of #MarchMadness (my favourite time of the year), the preview post will once again do a full Seed Report (similar to the #PowerRankings) of the 13 teams entered into the field.
From there, some key elements to watch for and concluding with the #TwineTime predictions.
Take note, the Seed Report below are based on the current World Curling Federation Women's World Rankings.
For reference, behind the nation name is the team representing the nation and their team ranking is included followed by in brackets the team's overall record and their Head 2 Head record against the field this season.
As they would say in Sweden, "Välkommen till March Madness"
World Women's Curling Championship
2022 Champion: Switzerland (Team Tirinzoni)
Format: 13 team RR with Top 6 qualifiers to the playoffs. 1st and 2nd place receive bye to SF.
1. Switzerland - Team Tirinzoni, #2 (62-18 overall, 14-6 H2H)
The 3-time champions are back to #DefendTheIce and aim for title #4 in a row. And, based on results this season, truly own their seeding atop the table. They have won 5 tour titles, including the Boost National #gsoc title, and have a runner-up finish in another tour event. The last major event held in Sweden, the 2022 European Curling Championships, they reached the final before being "upset" by Denmark (whom they will face off against Thurs. March 17). Perhaps one small cause of concern was failing to qualify at the Masters in December and the Canadian Open in January, going a combined 1-7. Of course at their next event at the end of January, they went 8-0 and won the title in Bern. This is a championship team who knows how to win and have proven to be a tough out on world championship ice.
2. Sweden - Team Hasselborg, #9 (39-19, 14-8)
Seems weird to see that #9 world ranking next to the name "Hasselborg" right? But don't let the "low" ranking (for them) fool you. This is still the 2018 Olympic champions and they have their sights set on the one championship missing from their resume. And while they may have missed the playoffs at #ECC2022 on home ice, they have found success on Euro tour ice this season in winning tour titles in Oslo and Sundbyberg, Sweden and a runner-up finish at an event in Karlstad. They also have QF results at 3 #gsoc events (Masters, Tour Challenge, Canadian Open). The Swedish champs may not have looked as dominant this season as we are used to seeing but that does not mean we underestimate them chasing that one trophy they want so bad.
3. South Korea - Team Ha, #19 (52-26, 5-5)
The dark horse sleeper pic of the championship will be Korea's Team Ha. An unknown perhaps to a few teams, and fans, but a dangerous team not to be underestimated. They may be young but they have talent far beyond their years. They surprised many by winning the Korean championships back in June 2022 and backed up their win with a run to the final at the inaugural Pan Continental Curling Championships in November. They also won silver at the World University Games in January as well as a tour title at the US Open of Curling and a tour runner-up finish in Swift Current. Remember, they knocked off USA's Team Peterson in the Pan Continental SF folks. This team may be under the radar but they are very dangerous.
4. Canada - Team Einarson, #1 (45-14, 10-7)
The 4-time Canadian champs are back once again with some unfinished business on their minds. They have been the team to beat all season on tour and earned that #1 ranking next to their names. While they may not have played a ton of events this season and/or won a ton of tour titles, they are consistent. And consistency is what you need in week-long events like the Scotties and World Championship. They did win the Masters #gsoc title in December, alongside the 3 slam finals they reached as well (National, Tour Challenge Tier I, Canadian Open). The bronze medal win at #PCCC2022 should not be overlooked or undersold either. 6 tour events. 5 finals. 1 title. Plus the Scotties win of course. Those stats look pretty telling to add up to a world championship win, no?
5. Japan - Team Fujisawa, #6 (47-18, 9-8)
Can the #5 seed / #6 ranked team actually be considered the favourite? Why not?! They, arguably, have won 2 of the biggest events of the season: Pan Continental Curling Championships and Canadian Open. And both wins were inaugural wins in similar ways. The PCCC win cemented them as the 1st ever champions at the new continental event. Their #gsoc win was their 1st and a 1st for Japan. Sure they failed to qualify at other slams (Tour Challenge Tier I, Masters) but they also reached the SF at the National before winning their slam title in Camrose in January. Worth noting, they won the Japanese Curling Championship just over a month ago so they are coming to Sweden with even more momentum, confidence and (probably) lots of smiles.
6. Scotland - Team Morrison, #21 (42-24, 7-10)
If Japan is a #Fav, could Scotland be a #TeamUpset? They fall just outside a Top 20 ranking, struggled early in their season but then won a tour title (Leduc) and picked up a huge bronze medal win at the European championships. Since their "surprise" Euro result, they have reached another tour final and SF alongside winning the Scottish Curling Championships last month, going undefeated en route to the title. After the heartbreak of last year's world championship, this team may become the darling story in Sweden if they can continue their late season winning ways. Watch out for them to be in the playoff hunt late into the RR.
7. USA - Team Peterson, #13 (39-19, 6-9)
Fresh off a perfect 9-0 record to claim the US title last month, Team Peterson arrives in Sweden with a bit of a question mark. Which team shows up? The one who dominated the USA championships, won a tour title in Eveleth, MN and reached the SF at the Masters? Or the one who struggled to finds wins at the National, Tour Challenge Tier I and Canadian Open, going a combined 3-10? The Pan Continental result could be telling, as they started the competition strong (including a RR victory over Canada's Team Einarson) but fell apart late in losing to Korea's Ha in the RR and SF before falling to Canada in the bronze medal game. This is a highly experienced team who should be in the fight for one of those Top 6 playoff spots. It just depends if they can put together the right wins at the right time against the right teams.
8. Denmark - Team Dupont, #33 (22-10, 13-2)
Talk about an enigma team where nobody knows fully what to expect this week, welcome to the ice Denmark's Team Dupont. They have only stepped on the ice for 4 tour events this season, reaching the SF at 2 and losing the TB at another (Tour Challenge Tier II). BUT there is that remarkable European championship run they went on, posting an impressive 10-1 overall record to claim the title. If THAT team shows up in Sweden, watch out!! The Dupont sisters have a ton of experience so that will not be a factor here. They just need to put the total package game plan together. Remember, the past 2 years they have reached the playoffs at the world championships. Should we be surprised anymore if they do the same once again? Plus, look at that season H2H record...Yowie Wowie!! Those 2 losses? Against Turkey's Team Yildiz at #ECC2022 and against Germany's Team Jentsch in St. Gallen in January. Bring out #PinkCoatSeason and dance vibes! And, ICYMI, the blog sat down with skipper Madeleine Dupont post-Euro victory. You can listen to that fun interview HERE or on your fav podcast apps.
9. Germany - Team Jentsch, #24 (44-32, 11-13)
While Denmark has become the new European darling, Germany has perhaps fallen into the background. Skip Daniela Jentsch has been on the international ice many times, from her numerous world championship appearances to her plethora of European championship appearances. Yet she continues to come up just short of that big prize more often than not. Don't let the modest season record fool you though. This team has won 3 tour titles this season, with 2 of them coming back-to-back in Janurary. We also saw them on #gsoc ice a few times as well, playing at the National and Tour Challenge Tier I. Sure they failed to qualify and finished 1-7 overall but the experience could be a positive factor. Plus look at all those games against the field. Germany may be on the wrong side of the advantage heading into the event but that is a lot of games against familiar opposition, which is still a positive. Jentsch will always be in the playoff hunt and, with this field, we know those #5 and #6 playoff spots are going to be a fight amongst a number of teams. She has been in the dog fight for playoff spots before. The question is, which side of the cut line will she land on this time?
10. Norway - Team Rørvik, #25 (33-26, 8-9)
This is a team of two halves throughout the season. During the first half of the season, we saw this team start events on fire, often winning a few games and looking strong. But then they would falter in final RR games and/or the playoffs and come up just short. For example, their opening 2 events of the season saw them make deep playoff runs but fail to take home the title. In Oslo, for instance, they opened 4-0 but then lost 3 straight. to finish 4th overall. They had similar results at tour events in Tallinn, Estonia and Perth, Scotland where they reached both finals but lost in the finale. But, the second half of the season appears to be a new year, who dis? The final in Perth was followed with another tour final in Karlstad except this time they finished the job and won the title, defeating Team Hasselborg in the final. And they JUST won the Norwegian championship last weekend. If we look solely at their record in 2023, they are a strong 14-6 with back to back wins entering the world championship. Don't sell this team as a playoff pretender folks. They could be a surprise playoff challenger. Oh and don't let that modest season record fool you. Remember back in November where they entered the Norway Cup as a tune-up for Europeans? The Norway Cup is a men's tour event. They went 0-6 against the top men's teams in Norway so perhaps put an * next to 6 of those losses. Against their women's opposition, they are 33-20 on the season.
11. Italy - Team Constantini, #20 (43-32, 9-16)
The 2022/23 season has been a breakout season for Team Constantini. Fresh off that mixed doubles Olympic gold medal from the skipper, the Italians have looked very sharp. They won a tour title in Swift Current (defeating Korea's Team Ha in the final), reached the SF at 2 other tour events, a QF at another and played in their debut #gsoc event (Canadian Open, 2-3 DNQ). They have had a busy season, entering 11 tour events plus Euro's. And Euro's was a strong momentum boost, reaching the playoffs before losing the SF (vs. SUI Tirinzoni) and the bronze medal game (vs. SCO Morrison). The team has been here the past 2 years as well, improving their results from 2-11 (2021) to 4-8 (2022). Can they produce a 2 win swing in their overall record once again, reach 6 wins and be right in a possible playoff hunt? What we have seen this season is to never underestimate Italian curling now!
12. Turkey - Team Yildiz, #87 (15-17, 4-12)
The stats line may not look impressive, being sub-.500 on both accounts, but do not let that fool you either. The Turkish champs have put together some impressive wins this season, including victories over Dupont and Jentsch. In fact, who is the 1 team to defeat Dupont at the Euro's last November? Yup, Team Yildiz ruined their attempt at a perfect record in the RR. At those Euro's, they opened with 3 straight losses before winning 5 straight and moving into the playoff hunt. They lost their final RR game (vs. Hasselborg) to be eliminated but they were right in the thick of things. They also reached a SF earlier in the season in Tukums, Latvia, ultimately finishing in 3rd place overall. After making their world championship debut last season, picking up a 1st W for Turkey and making noise at Euro's this season, do not underestimate their #TeamUpset potential here. After all, records are just numbers right?
13. New Zealand - Team Smith, #149 (4-4, 0-4)
Turkey made their debut last year. New Zealand will do the same this year. And Turkey picked up their first W last year. Can New Zealand do the same this year? We have only seen Jessica Smith and her team at the Pan Continental Curling Championships last November, where they went 4-4 to secure the 5th place finish and earn their ticket to Sweden. They beat the teams they needed to but also lost to the 4 teams joining them in this field (Japan, Korea, Canada, USA). Do not undersell this team as just a "championship rookie" team though. The wildcard factor for them will be Bridget Becker. While she may also be making her world women's debut, she is not new to world championship ice. She has competed in 6 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships, including winning silver in 2010. If the team can lean on her experience, it could help them fight off the butterfly effect of a world championship debut and surprise a few teams who may not be familiar with them.
There are quite a few interesting storyline to watch out for this upcoming week in Sweden.
Here are the 10 ends the blog will be keeping close 👀 on:
🥌 Can Switzerland's Team Tirinzoni accomplish the #4peat?
For Alina Paetz, she is trying to win her 5th world championship. We saw the theme of "The more things change, the more they stay the same" resonate with the results at the Scotties and the Brier. Will the theme hold true on world championship ice? Or is this the year the Queens of the Ice fall back to reality?
🥌 Will home ice become the difference maker for Sweden?
Sweden has not won a world championship since 2011 (Team Norberg) and Team Hasselborg recently felt the sting of unlucky home ice in failing to reach the playoffs at the 2022 European Curling Championships. Sweden has hosted this championship 3 times in the past (1985, 1990, 2004). Each time Sweden failed to reach the podium with their best result being 4th place in 1985. Hasselborg may be feeling the pressure, especially after back-to-back silver medal wins in 2018 and 2019 followed by 4th place results in 2021 and 2022. In the larger picture, lets also hope for healthy curling considering pregnancy is a foot on the Swedish team right now. Championships are great but adding to and creating a family is always more important.
🥌 Can Team Einarson perform on international ice?
Team Einarson may be the 4-time defending Canadian champions but they have yet to contest a world championship outside of their home nation. The 2020 world championships were cancelled due to COVID. 2021 was held inside the #IceBubble in Calgary. 2022 was in front of friendly Canadian fans in Prince George. How will the team hold up without the fan support? Last year they found the podium for the first time, winning bronze. Will that be positive momentum at least as they prepare to be visitors for the first time? And of course see above for the comment regarding building a family. Hoping for healthy days ahead for future mom and baby of course.
🥌 Welcome back to Japan's Satsuki Fujisawa?
This will be only Fujisawa's 3rd world championship appearance (2013, 2016). Can you believe her 1st appearance was 10 years ago already and we have only seen her once since? It almost seems like a non-believable trivia fact given the resume of Team Fujisawa over the past 8 years. But her return could be a triumphant one given the resume this season. Japan has only landed on the podium once in 25 previous appearances, Fujisawa's silver win in 2016. Could #HERstory be made in Sandviken?
🥌 Danish Pressure?
For the 1st time in her 14 world championship appearances, Denmark skip Madeleine Dupont has a target on her back. Heavy is the head who wears the <European> crown, no? In the past, Dupont has come to the world championships as an under the radar team, expected to be in the playoff hunt but not getting a ton of credit for being a championship contender. This year will be different. They dominated the European Championships and will not be flying under the radar this time. How she, and the team, handle the pressure will be worth watching.
🥌 Who is Ha?
Not familiar with Korea's Ha Seungyoun? If not, you should be. And if not yet, you will be. Ha's breakthrough performance on international ice at the Pan Continental may have caught a few curling fans, and teams (Team Einarson?) by surprise. That will not be the case in Sweden. Remember, it was only 3 years ago Ha curled with Kim Min-ji to win silver at the 2020 World Junior Curling Championships. Kim left to join rival Team Gim. Ha took over skipping duties, won the Korean championship and is now making her world women's debut. Looking for the perfect "under the radar" team to make a deep playoff run? This is your team!
Welcome to the world championships New Zealand! The Kiwi's will make their world championship debut in Sweden, having qualified for the field based on their 5th place finish at the Pan Continental. While other teams may be feeling pressure in a stacked (and experienced) field, Team Smith will be playing with house (or donated) money. Were they expected to be here? Nope. Will they have fun, enjoy the experience and possibly surprise a few of their opponents? Absolutely. And props to them, the New Zealand Curling Association and men's reps Team Hood for their tremendous fundraising efforts to get them to Sweden. It was an incredible fundraising drive, culminating in a total amount of $28,950 from 121 donors across the world (including #TwineTime). This is a fun team with great energy, having seen them play in Calgary at the #PCCC2022. Rockheads, this could be one of your new #FanFavs.
🥌 Great Scot...FINALLY!
The heartbreak of the 2022 world championship was Team Morrison being forced to withdraw from the competition, in their debut appearance, due to COVID-19. One never knows if the opportunity to compete at a world championship will come your way again and to have your debut taken away due to medical reasonings is devastating. But Morrison is back to represent Scotland once again and will FINALLY (hopefully!) get a redemption story on the ice. And don't underestimate them either. Remember they won bronze at #ECC2022. If there was ever a team ready to seize the day, this is the team. But also a stark reminder for us all, never take anything for granted!
🥌 Sophomore Success or Sophomore Slump?
Which will be the storyline for Turkey and Team Yildiz in Sweden? We saw them make their world championship debut last year, a first for Turkey as a curling nation. They finished 11th overall, going 2-10 and collecting their 1st world championship win (def. Czech Republic). Their second win was the walkover W due to Scotland's withdraw remember. So what will they do in their sophomore appearance? Can they take the lessons of last year, combined with their recent successes at European Curling Championships, and pad a few more Ws in the column? Or will they suffer the slump we often see teams go through the second go around?
🥌 The Experience Factor
Folks, this field is STACKED with experience. When we compare the 2023 field to the 2022 field, we see 9 of the 13 teams returning. Of those 4 non-returning teams from 2022, we get Japan's Team Fujisawa (two-time Olympic medal winners), USA's Team Peterson (world bronze in 2021), a strong debut contender (Korea's Team Ha) and a debuting nation (New Zealand's Team Smith). We have Olympic champions (Sweden's Team Hasselborg). We have world champions (Switzerland's Team Tirinzoni). We have continental champions (Japan and Denmark). We have Olympic mixed doubles medal winners (Italy's Stefania Constantini and Norway's Kristin Skaslien). And we have Germany's Daniella Jentsch, making her 9th world championship appearance and is a two-time Euro bronze medal winner (2018, 2021). There are going to be some very good, and very strong, teams finishing this event with only 2 or 3 wins folks. It is going to happen. It will also be a fight to get to the 7 wins mark, essentially known as the "safe spot" for a playoff berth. Could a 6-6 record even be enough to get into the playoff bracket this year, given how strong this field is?
1. Switzerland 2. Japan 3. Sweden 4. Canada 5. Korea 6. Denmark 7. USA 8. Germany 9. Scotland 10. Italy 11. Norway 12. Turkey 13. New Zealand
Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Korea, Denmark
Sweden (Team Hasselborg) def. Canada (Team Einarson)
Japan (Team Fujisawa) def. Switzerland (Team Tirinzoni)
What say you rockheads? Agree? Disagree?
Japan (Team Fujisawa) def. Switzerland (Team Tirinzoni)
#TwineTime Podium Picks
Gold - Japan
Silver - Switzerland
Bronze - Sweden
What say you rockheads? Agree? Disagree?
Who do YOU think will land on the podium? Will we see any surprise results? Who will be #TeamUpset?
And take note, World Curling TV will broadcast games on The Curling Channel via Recast starting with a blockbuster opening game between Pan Continental Champions Japan and European Curling Champions Denmark.
The full broadcast schedule can be found HERE and you can find more details on The Curling Channel page HERE.
ICYMI, the blog released a #Brier2023 Parting Rocks post earlier this week. Relive the high's (and low's) and #HIStory moments from London HERE.
To those competing at #WWCC2023, the ice is yours. The world is watching.
And as they will say in Sandviken this week, "lycka till och bra curling!"
Yes, the blog is currently learning Swedish on Duolingo 😉
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