By Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)
Now that we are officially underway with provincial playdowns across Canada, we start to preview multiple provincials. This part covers the Northern Ontario Scotties, the BC Scotties and the PEI Scotties & Tankard playdowns that are taking place this weekend.
Here’s a quick recap of how we did last week first. Over in Quebec, we got the men’s playdowns right as Jean-Michel Menard worked his way through a number of must-win games to get back to the Brier, while Eve Belisle defeated our pick Marie-France Larouche in the women’s finals.
We didn’t predict this, but Jon Solberg capture the Yukon’s playdowns on the men’s side on Sunday and will be in the pre-qualifying event in March.
Oh yeah, the Northwest Territories men’s playdowns are this weekend as well, but I think you already know we’re both rooting for Jamie Koe.
Northern Ontario Scotties (January 18th-22nd)
Last Year’s Scotties Finish – 2nd (7-4 – 4th in round-robin)
The Field (Skip to Lead)
Krista McCarville, Kendra Lilly, Ashley Sippala, Sarah Potts
Larissa Mikkelsen, Shana Marchessault, Ali McCulloch, Kady Stachiw
Hailey Beaudry, Kendra Lemieux, Emily Cooney, Erin Tomalty
Tracy Fleury, Jennifer Wylie, Jenna Walsh, Amanda Gates, Crystal Webster
(Note that Team Fleury has a five person rotation)
In the land of the moose, we know that the overall depth is not great but the last two previous champions are definitely near the top of the country. Tracy Fleury got Northern Ontario out of the relegation round in 2014 and almost got in playoffs, while Krista McCarville almost gave the province their first ever Scotties title last year.
So basically it’s going to come down to McCarville and Fleury with McCarville going unbeaten in provincials and beating Fleury three times in a row a year ago. This season Fleury does have a win on the World Curling Tour but hasn’t had the best of times at the major events, though she made the quarter-finals at the Canadian Open this month.
Although she hasn’t won an event this year, McCarville made it to the final at the Tier 2 Tour Challenge and was one shot away from a trip to the finals at the National. She also has a win in her only meeting with Fleury this year, which took place at the Boost National.
I still think the final will be extremely close but McCarville should make it to the Scotties for the 2nd year in a row. However I will leave you with this. If you want to see comedy fun from Northern Ontario, you’ll want Team Fleury to win to watch the chaos that Amanda Gates can cause. If you want a better shot at the Scotties crown as a Northern Ontario fan, you’ll want Team McCarville to win.
Darn right I’m going to pick the more fun team to reach the Scotties. Although they’ve had some consistency issues, which happened a bit at the Canadian Open in North Battleford, I still think they can play well enough to beat McCarville when push comes to shove. With that said, it’s going to be a heck of a provincial final, though I would like to see more than four women’s teams playing my home province’s playdowns in the future.
British Columbia Scotties (January 17th-22nd)
Last Year’s Scotties Finish – Tied for 11th (2-9)
Diane Gushulak, Grace Maciness, Jessie Sanderson, Sandra Comadina
Lindsay Hudyma, Holly Donaldson, Stephanie Jackson-Baier, Carley Sandwith
Dailene Pewarchuck, Patti Knezevic, Adina Tasaka, Rachelle Kallechy
Kesa Van Osch, Kalia Van Osch, Shawna Jensen, Amy Gibson
Julie Herndier, Nadine Wadwell, Brianna Hanni, Chantel Kosmynka
Mara Mallett, Shannon Aleksic, Brette Richard, Blaine De Jager
Karla Thompson, Kristen Recksiedler, Erin Pincott, Tyrsta Vandale
Sarah Wark, Kristin Pilote, Stephanie Prinse, Michelle Dunn
Well it looks like the Kelly Scott era is officially over as she did not even compete in the qualifiers to get into provincials. It’s still pretty competitive within the province though with three teams (Gushulak, Mallett and Thompson) playing in the Grand Slam of Curling’s Tier 2 Tour Challenge.
During that event in Cranbrook, Mallett went 1-3, Gushulak reached the quarter-finals and Thompson made it to the semis. Also, Thompson has added Erin Pincott to her lineup, who has won a Canadian Junior title with Corryn Brown.
All three teams also have wins this season and are the favourites here. However I’m going to with the rink with a bolstered lineup and go with the defending champ Karla Thompson to repeat as BC champ.
I still feel like we’re just waiting for Corryn Brown to graduate from the junior ranks and make the province a playoff threat again, but Thompson got BC back in the main field last year and should have a strong return visit if she wins this week. With that said, don’t count out 2014 Scotties champion Kesa Van Osch from being in the mix.
PEI Scotties and Tankard
Last Year’s Scotties Finish – 9th (4-7)
Last Year’s Brier Finish – 12th (2-9 – Relegated)
Tammy Dewar, Darlene MacLeod London, Robyn MacDonald, Gail Greene
Lisa Jackson, Jaclyn Reid, Melissa Morrow, Jodi Murphy
Robyn MacPhee, Sarah Fullerton, Meghan Hughes, Michelle McQuaid
Veronica Smith, Jane DiCarlo, Whitney Young, Aleya Quilty
Boy, things have gone from bad to worse in PEI, especially with Suzanne Birt not being in this year’s field. Hey, remember when they almost won the Scotties in 2010?
Anyways, this is basically Robyn MacPhee’s playdowns to lose, especially after she had a decent year on the tour that included winning the OVCA Women’s Fall Classic. The other team that could maybe spoil the party is 2015 provincial junior champion Veronica Smith, but I don’t see that happening.
The MacPhee rink is half of the old Birt rink from last year with MacPhee and Hughes, along with Sarah Fullerton joining the ranks. For me, I don’t think they will have much trouble getting out of the province, especially given their current level of depth. A mid-table finish at the Scotties doesn’t sound too crazy either, depending on the field of course.
Robert Campbell, John Likely, Mark O’Rourke, Rod Macdonald
Phil Gorveatt, Kevin Champion, Mike Dilon, Mark Butler
Tyler Harris, Tyler MacKenzie, Sam Ramsay, Mike Trudeau
Blair Jay, Barry Cameron, Darrell Thibeau, Alan Montgomery
Eddie MacKenzie, Anson Carmody, Robbie Doherty, Sean Ledgerwood
Jamie Newson, Matt MacLean, Dan Richard, Connor MacPhee
Calvin Smith, Corey Miller, Pat Ramsay, Nick Blanchard
Dennis Watts, Erik Brodersen, Andrew Macdougall, Doug MacGregor
Last year around this time we figured the future seemed promising for PEI with Adam Casey, especially after a strong showing at the 2015 Brier in Calgary. That turned out not to be the case in Ottawa, as their rink struggled and ended up falling to the relegation round. Then, to make matters worse, Casey moved to Saskatchewan and is curling on Shaun Meachem’s rink.
Anyways it’s a decent sized field compared to previous years and in terms of a favorite, it would probably have to be Eddie MacKenzie once again as Anson Carmody (who played with MacKenzie two years ago) and Robbie Doherty have joined his rink this year.
In terms of getting out of the relegation round though, it will all depend on who comes out of Nova Scotia.
With the Brier being in St. John’s this year, the battle for two Maritime rinks to try and get the last spot in the field will be interesting to watch. When it comes to this playdown though, I’m in agreement with Brett, as this seems like MacKenzie’s to lose.