The Punkari Brothers 2017 Brier Preview

2017-brierWritten by Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)

It’s time once again for the Tim Hortons Brier, and this year were heading far east to St.John’s, Newfoundland, where the atmosphere will likely be through the roof. In terms of the field this year is an interesting mix of veterans and a few first timers as well, as it’s not quite as stacked as we’ve seen over the last two years of the event.

Well I think it’s still a darn good lineup, maybe except for a couple of teams, but it should be a better week than last year in Ottawa. Granted, it was never going to match the insanity that was the 2015 event in Calgary, but being in Newfoundland for the first time since 1972 should make this a week to remember.

1) Newfoundland and Labrador – Bally Haly Golf & Curling Club

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Skip – Brad Gushue, Vice – Mark “Bam Bam” Nichols, Second – Brett Gallant, Lead – Geoff Walker

Grand Slam Record – 18-6 (Quarter-Finalist, Semi-Finalist, Semi-Finalist, Champion)

It’s been an interesting year thus far for Team Gushue as Mark Nichols had to play skip for almost the entire first half of the season as Gushue recovered from hip and groin injuries. However their performance did not fall off that much, as the team made the playoffs in every event and won the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard. Gushue returned at the Boost National where he made it to the semis, and then followed that up with a victory at the Canadian Open.

We all know the story by now of Gushue coming so close to getting that elusive Brier title. This could be perhaps his best shot yet as they have been the most consistent team on tour this year. With the Brier at home, it would seem fitting to finally win it all this year, and I’m going on record and predicting there will be a riot no matter what happens with them in the final.

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1) Newfoundland & Labrador (Brad Gushue)

I feel like I’ve said this the last three years, but it does seem like there’s no better chance for Gushue to finally win the Brier title than this year. The team has been strong no matter the lineup all season long and they are going to have a ton of support all week long. It’s hard to bet against them.

2) Northern Ontario – Community First Curling Centre (Sault Ste. Marie)

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Skip – Brad Jacobs “Cups”, Vice – Ryan “Medium Size” Fry “79″, Second – E.J. Harnden, Lead – Ryan “Pete” Harnden

Grand Slam Record: 17-8 (Runner-Up, DNQ, Champion, Semi-Finalist)

This has definitely been a much better season compared to last year for Jacobs, where the trend seemed to be to do great in the round robin and then crash and burn in playoffs. They got their second Grand Slam title at home in the Boost National, though they did have to do it the hard way. The consistency has been there this year as well, though they did have one bad stretch from the Tour Challenge to the Canada Cup, where they failed to make the playoffs at both events.

Now a lot of people are probably hoping that we get the Battle of the Brads in this year’s Brier final and I think there is a fairly good chance at that. Believe it or not, the teams are 2-2 against each other this year and they are also dead even in all time meetings at 18-18.

When it comes to this week, I can see each side splitting the round-robin and playoff matchup, but I have Gushue squeaking it out in the final. However, if this intense team have the mojo working in the final, get out of their way.

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2) Northern Ontario (Brad Jacobs)

I’m a little bummed out the beard isn’t back, but Jacobs is again in fine form heading into the Brier. If he’s consistent all week long and they don’t have any bad ends in the playoffs that have cost them the last two years. Northern Ontario has an excellent chance of spoiling the party in St. John’s.

3) British Columbia – Vernon & Kelowna Curling Clubs

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Skip – “Johnny Mo” John Morris, Vice – Jimmmmmmmmmm Cotter (Throws fourth stones), Second – Tyrell Griffith, Lead – Rick Sawatsky

Grand Slam Record: 12-8 (DNQ, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, Semi-Finalist)

John Morris has reunited with Jim Cotter, with whom he finished runner-up at the 2013 Olympic Trials and the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier. It looks this team had not missed a beat and they have had some good performances this year, including a win at the Driving Force Abbotsford Cashspiel.

Jim’s probably glad that Johnny Mo has returned and Cotter himself can be a much better player in that regard. From what we saw a couple of years ago, he can be a terrific shooter when the chips are down, so this could be the most likely team to break up the Brad show.

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3) Manitoba (Mike McEwen)

Now that he’s been to a Brier, McEwen knows what to expect on the big stage and I think that will play to his advantage. He hasn’t had a dominant performance on the Tour this season like he has in the past, but this feels like a squad that is flying in under the radar and might be the biggest sleeping giant this week.

4) Manitoba – Fort Rouge Curling Club (Winnipeg)

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Skip – “Magic” Mike McEwen, Vice – B.J. Neufeld, Second – Matt Wozniak,  Lead – Denni Neufeld

Grand Slam Record: 11-10 (Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, DNQ, Quarter-Finalist)

Statistically this has not been one of McEwen’s best seasons to date. Yes he does have two wins this season on the Tour, but he just seemed a little bit off compared to his usual sharp showings on the Grand Slam circuit.  He did manage to put in some of his best games of the year in the Manitoba provincials and he got the better of hisprovincial rival Reid Carruthers as well.

I would say that Team McEwen is kinda going into this year’s Brier a bit under the radar, but I would still not count out Magic Mike since this is his second Brier appearance so he should be more comfortable in this atmosphere.

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4) British Columbia (John Morris)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, never count out Johnny Mo. During the last couple of months, Morris and Cotter have been playing brilliantly on the Grand Slam circuit and I expect them to continue that run of form once again this week as they return to the playoffs.

5) Team Canada – The Glencoe Club (Calgary)

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Skip – Kevin Koe, Vice – Marc Kennedy, Second – Brent “Lainger” Laing, Lead – “Benny Heebz” Ben Hebert

Grand Slam Record: 8-11 (DNQ, DNQ, Quarter-Finalist, DNQ)

Early on this season, it looked like Team Koe were not missing a beat from last year as they went on a 11 game win streak and had a 16-2 record in their first three events.

Then once the slams came around things fell apart and seemed like the Kevin Koe of 2015 was showing up again as he was missing shots he would normally make. Even Marc Kennedy was having a few struggles, but he has bounced back as of late.

At the moment, this team is kind of in the same boat as Chelsea Carey was heading at the Scotties, but they are hoping that their play at the Continental Cup and their win at the TSN Skins Game will turn things around. Would it surprise me though if they went on to repeat? Not at all.

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5) Team Canada (Kevin Koe)

Like Brett said earlier, this has the same vibe that Chelsea Carey was at entering the Scotties last week. If this team is back to it’s normal form, they’ll be in the mix to return to the final. However, if Koe’s struggling with his hits like he has been at a few of the Grand Slams this season, it could be a long week.

6) Quebec – Curling Club Etchemin (Saint-Romuald)

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Skip – Jean-Michel Menard, Vice – Martin Crete, Second – Eric Sylvain, Lead – Philippe Menard

Grand Slam Record: 1-3 (Competed in one event – DNQ)

Once again Jean-Michel Menard is here to destroy your TV speakers. The road back to the Brier was not an easy one for Menard though, as he barely qualified for the provincial playoffs but he kicked it into gear and won the event.

The past couple of showing for Menard at the Brier have been somewhat disappointing, but those fields were absolutely stacked. This year, however, I could see Menard giving the front runners fits.

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6) Quebec (Jean-Michel Menard)

Like Krista McCarville, Menard doesn’t play much on the tour but he’s always a threat at the nationals. A mid-pack finish seems most likely, but a possible tiebreaker berth isn’t that far fetched.

7) Alberta – Saville Sports Centre (Edmonton)

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Skip – Brendan Bottcher, Vice – Darren Moulding, Second – Bradley Thiessen, Lead – Karrick “Jackhammer” Martin

Grand Slam Record: 7-12 (DNQ, DNQ, DNQ, Quarter-Finalist)

As mentioned before in our provincial preview this year was a golden opportunity for Brendan Bottcher to make his Brier debut and he made the most of it. He’s a Canadian and World Junior champion and he’s already played in big arenas on the Grand Slam circuit.

We’ve already talked about the lineup change with Darren Moulding replacing Pat Simmons after Christmas, but Bottcher’s coach is the Old Bear himself Kevin Martin, so he has to help this team big time in terms of getting used to the Brier. They may finish higher than where I’m predicting them but some first time jitters may prevent that from happening.

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7) Alberta (Brendan Bottcher)

You always have to get a Brier under your belt before you become a legit threat, so this will be a great learning week for the Alberta squad. With that said, this group has the talent to possibly get in the playoff discussion if they get off to a strong start.

8) Ontario – St. George’s Golf & Country Club (Etobicoke)

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Skip – Glenn Howard, Vice – Richard Hart “Surgeon”, Second – David Mathers, Lead – Scott Howard

Grand Slam Record: 6-5 (Competed in two events – DNQ, Runner-Up)

Glenn Howard is once again back for his 17th Brier appearance and this year he has brought in David Mathers to have a mix of youth and experience. We have not heard much from him on the Grand Slam scene, but Howard was the runner-up at the Tier 2 Tour Challenge event to Greg Balsdon.

It’s kind hard to tell where Glenn could be in final standings, and while I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled off a few upsets, he’s nowhere near his dominant form of a few years ago.

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8) Ontario (Glenn Howard)

Another year and another appearance at the Brier for Glenn Howard, as John Epping can’t seem to get out of Ontario yet. Given the strength of the field, a mid-table result seems fair for Howard, but he might be able to turn back the clock and have a strong week.

9) Saskatchewan – Highland Curling Club (Regina)

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Skip – Adam Casey, Vice – Catlin Schneider, Second – Shaun Meachem, Lead – Dustin Kidby

Grand Slam Record: N/A

After having a dismal performance at last year’s Brier as the skip for Prince Edward Island,  Adam Casey made the move to the land of the Green Riders and took over skipping duties for Shawn Meachem, who was the runner-up at last year’s provincials.

That move paid off as they obliterated Steve Laycock in the provincial final this year. Casey’s experience at the last couple of Briers should help this rink out, but this is the true Wild Card of this year’s field.

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9) Northwest Territories (Jamie Koe)

The living legend has returned to run wild at the #Patch and curl along the way. With no pre-qualifying game to worry about this, I think Jamie should have a pretty solid week. Plus, I’m sure he wants to have just as good a result as his sister Kerry did at the Scotties.

10) Northwest Territories – Yellowknife Curling Club

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Skip – Jamie Koe “3:16”, Vice – Chris Schille, Second – Brad Chorostkowski , Lead – Robert Borden

Grand Slam Record: N/A

“So I won the game “WHAT” I took the team out “WHAT” Went to the patch “WHAT” Sat down and chatted with friends “WHAT”, Had a beer “WHAT” Two Beers “WHAT” Three Beers “WHAT” a shot of whiskey “WHAT” a margarita “WHAT” and a bloody mary”

Ahem…. Anyway, the king of  the patch has returned and he will probably raise hell over there. Besides the usual chaos over there, he might be in contention for a few more wins at this year’s Brier since he does not have to worry about the relegation round anymore. Since this year’s field isn’t as crazy strong as the last couple of years, he should have a better showing at the end of the week.

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10) Saskatchewan (Adam Casey)

As Brett mentioned earlier, this is a team that can finish anywhere in the final standings. Casey’s a talented shooter, but it’s always tough for a team that doesn’t play a ton on the World Curling Tour to make adjustments to playing at the Brier. Just look at what happened to Saskatchewan women’s champion Penny Barker last week.

11) Nova Scotia – Halifax Curling Club

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Skip – Jamie “Don’t Call Me Charlie” Murphy, Vice – Jordan Pinder, Second – Scott Saccary, Lead – Phil Crowell

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Last year Jamie Murphy suffered a heartbreaking final shot loss in the pre-qualifying final to Jamie Koe. So Murphy is back in the pre-qualification round once again and it’s basically a two horse race with him and Prince Edward Island. I think he should be able to qualify for the main field and also have a chance to end an 11 game losing streak in the round-robin.

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11) Nova Scotia (Jamie Murphy)

With no Jamie Koe in the mix, Murphy should be able to get through with ease. I’m not sure if he’ll surprise in the main field, but he should be able to get Nova Scotia’s first round-robin win in quite some time.

12) New Brunswick – Capital Winter Club (Fredericton)

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Skip – Mike Kennedy, Vice – Scott Jones, Second – Marc LeCocq, Lead – Jamie Brannen

Grand Slam Record: N/A

To be honest I feel bad picking New Brunswick in this spot again, as Mike Kennedy was our biggest surprise at last year’s Brier. This is a team that can make a lot of shots, and they should play well all week long, so they can be a team that surprise once again.

Ottawa Ont.Mar 5, 2016.Tim Hortons Brier.N.B. skip Mike Kennedy, Curling Canada/ michael burns photo

12) New Brunswick (Mike Kennedy)

This veteran squad will play well all week, especially since they are already locked in the main draw, but it’s hard to see them anywhere else but the bottom of the pack with how strong this year’s field is once again.

13) Prince Edward Island – Charlottetown Curling Complex

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Skip – Eddie Mackenzie, Vice – Sean Ledgerwood, Second – Matt Nabuurs, Lead – Robbie Doherty

Grand Slam Record: N/A

After Adam Casey left Prince Edward Island, it’s up to Eddie Mackenzie to get them back out of the relegation zone. In his last appearance at a Brier in 2014, he had his best showing with a 4-7 record so he does have experience going for him. If he does manage to make the field I can only see him being in the 10th to 12th place range.

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13) Prince Edward Island (Eddie Mackenzie)

The battle between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island will be a big one as they try to get a third team from the East Coast into this year’s field. They’ll give Murphy all they can handle, but it’s hard to see them doing well in the main field.

14) Yukon – Whitehorse Curling Club

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Skip – Craig Kochan, Vice – Jon Solberg (Throws 4th Stones), Second – Ray Mikkelsen, Lead – Darrin Frederickson

Grand Slam Record: N/A

This year we have a brand new representative for the Yukon and its Craig Kochan. Kochan himself is a multi-time Northern Ontario Junior Champion and has competed in Canadian Mixed championships as a skip for Northern Ontario. It’s still difficult to tell how this rink will perform since they don’t play on tour much at all though, they could maybe give Nova Scotia and PEI a bit of a scare.

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14) Yukon (Craig Kochan)

Nothing like another Northern Ontario connection in the field. The Yukon will be another pesky team, though maybe not on the same level as the women’s side with Sarah Koltun in the coming years, but I’m not sure if they’ll be able to make it in the main field.

15) Nunavut – Iqaluit Curling Club

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Skip – Jim Nix, Vice – Edmund MacDonald, Second – Greg Howard, Lead – Darryl McGrath

Grand Slam Record: N/A

We also have a new representative this year for Nunavut in Jim Nix. We don’t know much at all about the Nunavut squad this year but the same thing applies as before. If they can keep things close then it would be good for the future especially since they will be in the main field next year with the new pool format.

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15) Nunavut (Jim Nix)

As we’ve said before, this is all about experience for Nunavut. Hopefully the province can get some decent showings in the junior ranks in the coming years as they get thrown to the wolves on the men’s side.


The Punkari Brothers 2017 Scotties Review

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Written By Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)

Coming into this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts the women’s curling scene was a tough one to predict. especially with a lot of upsets in the provincials. At the end of the week in St. Catharines, however, we saw some career best performances and a championship final that is the curling game of the year as of right now.

Champions – Ontario (Rachel Homan)

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Well I guess we can stop debating Rachel’s performance now. All week it felt like Team Homan were a bit different from what we’ve seen in their past Scotties. They may not have been destroying the field, but they started off with a 10-0 record and ended up with their second best overall team percentage in their five trips to the Scotties.

After losing two straight games to Manitoba, you almost had the feeling that things could turn out like it did for Homan at the 2014 Worlds when she beat everyone but Switzerland. But a great start in a very dramatic final helped the rink win their third Scotties title, and the first for second Joanne Courtney.

I still can’t quite figure them out though as they try to be a more complete team, and I’ll have to see how things go at the Worlds before I can decided where exactly this rink will stand coming to the Olympic Trials.

Of the three titles that Rachel has won, this one was easily the toughest to come by given her battles with Michelle Englot. There were some head-scratching moments at times from the team, but when they were on their game they were tough to stop. If they play like they did in the semifinals and the finals at the Worlds in China, Homan should finally win a world title. If they struggle against what looks to be a tough field, it could be a tough week.

At any rate, Rachel’s officially among the greats now with three national titles in five years and becoming the youngest skip to win a Scotties trifecta. Also, I’m super please to see Joanne Courtney win a title, as I thought she played well all week.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Lisa Weagle – 86% – Tied for 1st

Second – Joanne Courtney -85% – 1st

Vice – Emma Miskew -84% – 1st

Skip – Rachel Homan – 84% – 1st

Team – Ontario -85% – 1st

Runner-Up – Manitoba (Michelle Englot)

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It’s amazing how things can come together at just the right time. In Michelle Englot’s first season in Manitoba she makes it to her first ever final and gave Team Homan all they could handle, including a pair of wins over the eventual champions.

All week long, she would come after teams by putting rocks in play early and that proved to be the key to her success. With a strong performance at the Scotties, and the brilliant play of third Kate Cameron, this is a team to keep an eye on next year as they look to play their way into the Olympic Trials.

Out of all the teams at the Scotties, this was probably the most consistent one. Englot’s strategy was great all week, especially in her three games against Homan, and Cameron was easily the breakout performer from the event. I’m excited to see how this rink does next year, and they might be back at the Scotties as Team Canada if Homan happens to win the Olympic Trials in Ottawa.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Raunora Wescott – 84% – Tied for 4th

Second – Leslie Wilson – 80% – Tied for 6th

Vice – Kate Cameron – 81% – Tied for 3rd

Skip – Michelle Englot – 80% – 4th

Team – Manitoba – 81% – Tied for 4th

Bronze Medalist – Team Canada (Chelsea Carey)

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For the defending champions, the season had not been the greatest for them but they seemed to turn things around at the Scotties. Even though they had a tough loss to start the week off against Ontario, they gave Manitoba their only round-robin defeat on their way to a 9-2 record.

However, things went South big time in the 3 vs. 4 game, where Carey’s draw weight was basically non-existent. They turned things around to win the bronze medal game, but the big story came afterwards as Amy Nixon announced that she would be leaving the team at year’s end. Team Carey’s looking for someone new to fill that vice slot, and that’s something to keep an eye on during the off-season.

Had Carey’s draw weight hadn’t vanished against Northern Ontario, she might have had a legit shot of playing in the final. Given the not so great run-up to the Scotties, the way they played all week bodes well for the future. Seeing Amy Nixon leave the sport is a bummer though, and I’m curious as to who they bring in for the Olympic run. Fingers crossed it’s Heather Nedohin, but I doubt it’s her.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Laine Peters – 86% – Tied for 1st

Second – Jocelyn Peterman – 83% – 3rd

Vice – Amy Nixon – 81% – Tied for 3rd

Skip – Chelsea Carey – 83% – 2nd

Team – Canada – 83% – 2nd

Fourth Place – Northern Ontario (Krista McCarville)

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Throughout the week, it just seemed like Northern Ontario was off just a little bit and they weren’t quite as sharp as we had expected, even though everyone was in the top five when it came to their stats. When the playoff rolled around though, it seemed like they found another gear with their win over Team Canada and if it wasn’t for one bad early end, they could haven beaten Ontario as everyone on the team played well.

Looking towards the future, it will be interesting to see where Team McCarville ends up in terms of making it straight to the Olympic Trials or having to go through the pre-trial route next year, especially with how they’ve preformed at the last two Scotties.

Brett already touched on McCarville’s playoff run, but her round-robin losses were interesting as well. She got blown out by Alberta, coughed up a big lead to Manitoba and had a back-and-forth battle with Ontario, which may have put her in better standing by the end of the week if she won any of those games. While she didn’t quite match up to our expectations of winning the whole event, it was still another good week for a Thunder Bay rink that is no longer a sleeper on the national stage.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Sarah Potts – 84% – Tied for 3rd

Second – Ashley Sippala – 81% – Tied for 4th

Vice – Kendra Lilly – 80% – 5th

Skip – Krista McCarville – 81% – 3rd

Team – Northern Ontario – 82% – 3rd

Biggest Surprise – Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha)

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I was torn as too what my biggest surprise team would be prior to going with Kerry Galusha, as you could also make a case for Quebec’s Eve Belisle or Stacie Curtis of Newfoundland & Labrador.

After finally getting out of the relegation round Galusha made the most of her return to the main stage as she had her best ever performance with a record of 5-6. In fact she was in the playoff mix until Thursday afternoon and gave a lot of tough challenges to the top teams in the field. After missing out the last two years on getting into the main draw, this performance was something special for Galusha as she almost led the Northwest Territories into their first trip to the playoffs.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Sharon Cormier – 75% – 12th

Second – Danielle Derry – 78% – 8th

Vice – Megan Koehler – 73% – 10th

Skip – Kerry Galusha – 74% – 6th

Team – Northwest Territories – 75% – Tied for 9th

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While Galusha’s run was awesome, my biggest surprise was Quebec’s Eve Belisle. While her stats weren’t super fantastic, she played well all week and almost got her way into a tiebreaker. If she can build off of this showing next year, Quebec might be a possible sleeper team in Penticton

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Brittany O’Rourke – 79% – Tied for 8th

Second – Trish Hill – 80% – Tied for 6th

Vice – Lauren Mann – 76% – 8th

Skip – Eve Belisle – 74% – 6th

Team – Quebec – 77% – Tied for 7th

Biggest Disappointment – British Columbia (Marla Mallett)

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Boy this is one you’d want to scratch your head over. How did things go so horribly wrong for Marla Mallet and team, especially when two players ended up on All-Star teams. It seemed like nothing went right after losing a close game in the opening draw to Nova Scotia, especially with Marla herself did not throw well and seemed to struggle with the ice. It’s been a couple of years in a row now that BC has finished near the bottom and that has to be a worry going forward.

While I still think British Columbia will be in okay shape in the future, especially if Corryn Brown plays as well as she has in Juniors, this was a really bad week for the Mallett rink. Unlike Penny Barker’s Saskatchewan rink, who were getting their feet wet on a national stage, this was a team that was playing well in two positions and struggled in the other roles. Had Mallett and Richards been just average, British Columbia could have been in the same spot as Quebec at the end of the week.

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Also, there was a severe lack of Heather ‘Shitballs’ Nedohin coverage, but that’s another story.

Round-Robin Stats

Lead – Blaine De Jager – 86% – Tied for 1st

Second – Brette Richards – 76% – Tied for 10th

Vice – Shannon Aleksic – 82% – 2nd

Skip – Marla Mallet – 69% – 12th

Team – British Columbia – 78% – 6th

Award Winners

First Team All Stars

2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Skip – Rachel Homan – Ontario

Vice – Emma Miskew – Ontario

Second – Joanne Courtney – Ontario

Lead – Blaine De Jager – British Columbia

Second Team All-Stars

2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Lead – Lisa Weagle – Ontario

Second – Sarah Wilkes – Alberta

Vice – Shannon Aleksic – British Columbia

Skip – Chelsea Carey – Team Canada

Marj Mitchell Award

2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Kerry Galusha – Northwest Territories

Sandra Schmirler MVP Award

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Rachel Homan – Ontario

Punkari Brothers Shot Of The Week

Rachel Homan – Double Runback Takeout against Northern Ontario in the Semifinal

 

 

 


The Punkari Brothers 2017 Scotties Preview

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Written by Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)

The 2017 Scotties Tournament Of Hearts is the last one in the current Olympic cycle, so for teams that are looking for trials or pre-trials spots, this takes on a more significant purpose.

As for the event itself, it almost has a similar feel to last year’s in Grande Prairie with a group of teams that are legit contenders and others fighting for scraps, especially with a lot of the favorites in certain provinces falling by the waste side. (See our disastrous provincial picks for more on this.)

Also this Scotties marks the final one in which it involves the pre-qualification round, as next year’s Scotties will have a change in format. That format is similar to the Canadian Juniors with a pool system and they will also be adding the highest ranked CTRS team that failed to qualify out of their provincial playdowns. (Don’t even get me started on rewarding teams that don’t win their provincials. I’ll call this the Rachel Homan/Mike McEwen rule by the way.)

For this year’s predictions the same format applies with our picks for the final results, complete with the teams that miss out on the field, and the records for teams that competed at the Grand Slams this season.

(Also, thrill to the photoshop jobs done by Curling Canada to get rid of it’s teams sponsors on their jackets. Channeling the spirit of Warren Hansen apparently.)

1) Northern Ontario (Fort William Curling Club – Thunder Bay)

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Skip – Krista McCarville, Vice- Kendra Lilly, Second – Ashley Sippala, Lead – Sarah Potts

Grand Slam Record: 10-3 (Competed in two slams – Runner-Up and Semi-Finalist)

Last year the talk around the Scotties was of McCarville The Magician, as she kept finding ways to claw back from deficits on their way to a runner-up finish.  Out of all the teams competing this week this seems to be the one that has had the most consistent year, as they haven’t a roller coaster ride of peaks and valleys compared to the other rinks and they’ve had good results at the Grand Slams they’ve played at.

The biggest key surrounding Northern Ontario is the play of all the positions so that life can be made easier for McCarville and perhaps Kendra Lilly. If those things hapen, Northern Ontario could win their first ever Scotties title in just their third year at the event.

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1) Northern Ontario (Krista McCarville)

In a season that has been totally unpredictable, the McCarville rink seems like the only safe bet in this year’s field. With their strong showing in only a couple of Grand Slam and last year’s runner-up result, the time seems right for the Thunder Bay rink to finally break through on a national stage.

2) Ontario (Ottawa Curling Club)

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Skip – Rachel Homan “Destroyer”, Vice – “A Miscue By” Emma Miskew, Second – Joanne ‘Frizz’ Courtney, Lead – Lisa ‘Da’ Weagle

Grand Slam Record: 14-8 (Runner-Up, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, DNQ)

Well I guess the new stuff they are trying worked. We already know about the season Homan and crew have had up to this point, and coming into the provincials we figured they would either blow everyone away or have a tire fire. Neither of those things really happened, as she only had a couple of blowout wins all week in addition to some narrow victories and one tire fire loss to Allison Flaxey.

If the rink can find that form that helped them to Scotties championships in 2013 and 2014 (which was before Courtney joined the team), they well be tough to stop. However, if things go bad and a tire fire does happen, then it might turn out like in 2015 where they almost missed the playoffs before finishing in third place.

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2) Ontario (Rachel Homan)

If things were going according to plan, Rachel’s third title would already be engraved given how good this team is on paper. However, with everything that has happened since the provincial final loss to Jenn Hanna a year ago, I’m still finding it hard to put this rink as my favourite to win the Scotties. They should make it to the final given the strength of the field. If things go South though, who knows what will happen in the lead-up to next year’s Olympic Trials in Ottawa. 

3) Team Canada (The Glencoe Club – Calgary)

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Skip – Chelsea “The Annihilator” Carey, Vice – “Pimp” Amy Nixon, Second – Jocelyn Peterman, Lead – Lanie Peters

Grand Slam Record: 7-12 (Quarter-Finalist, DNQ, Quarter-Finalist and DNQ)

This season has been pretty average for the defending Canadian champions. Sure, they did get a win very early on this year at an event in Japan, but they have struggled quite a bit at other tournaments.

Of all the contending teams, this is the one that might be the most vulnerable to missing the playoffs, but they have turned things a round a little bit at the Continental Cup and the Skins Game, so we shall see if that upward trend continues.

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3) Manitoba (Michelle Englot)

Granted, it’s going to be kind of weird seeing Englot not wearing the green of Saskatchewan at the Scotties, but I expect her squad to be right in the mix this year. It’s a pretty talented group and Michele’s veteran presence is going to be a huge asset for the rink over the course of this week.

4) Manitoba (Granite Curling Club – Winnipeg)

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Skip – Michelle Englot, Vice – Kate Cameron, Second – Leslie Wilson-Westcott, Lead – Raunora Westcott

Grand Slam Record: 7-6 (Competed in two events – Runner-Up and DNQ)

Michelle Englot, who had been a mainstay in Saskatchewan for many years, decided to jump to Manitoba this season and inherited the Kristy MacDonald rink that finished runner-up in last year’s provincials.

They have kind of been under the radar in Manitoba this year, since most people were expecting Jennifer Jones and Kerri Einarson to make it to the Scotties, but Enlgot did lead the team to their first Grand Slam final at the Tour Challenge. Her experience should help this team a lot at the Scotties this year.

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4) Team Canada (Chelsea Carey)

As Brett said earlier, this is the one team among the favourites that is the most vulnerable to missing out on the playoffs based on current form. If Carey and her rink can get back to anywhere near how they played at the Scotties last year, they should be fine. However, if they end up getting off to a bad start, it might be a tough week.

5) Alberta (Okotoks Curling Club)

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Skip – Shannon Kleibrink, Vice – Lisa Eyamie, Second – Sarah Wilkes, Lead – Alison Theissen, Super Sub Skip (Not Pictured) – Heather “Shitballs” Nedohin

Grand Slam Record – 4-2 (Competed in one event – Semi-Finalist)

For the first time in six years, 2006 Olympic Bronze Medalist Shannon Kleibrink has returned to the Scotties. She had to overcome quite a bit to make it there, however, as she suffered a back injury early on at the provincials and had to call in Heather Nedohin to fill in for a couple of games before she had a convincing win in the final over Val Sweeting.

This is a younger lineup than in previous years, but Kleibrink has done well on the tour this year as she made the playoffs at all but one event. Her experience will help them tremendously, and I would not be surprised if she ends up making it to the semis.

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5) Alberta (Shannon Kleibrink)

With Kleibrink’s back still bothering her a bit, we’re going to see a few cameos by Heather Nedohin at skip this week, which will clearly lead to great comedy. Kleibrink’s arguably the best skip to never win a Scotties and she’s probably the biggest sleeper in this field. Depending on who ends up skipping in most of the games this week, this is a rink you shouldn’t take lightly.

6) British Columbia (Golden Ears Winter Club – Maple Ridge)

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Skip – “Pimp” Marla Mallett, Vice – Shannon “Crooked Neck” Aleksic, Second – Brette Richars, Lead – Blaine De Jager

Grand Slam Record: 1-3 (Competed in one event – DNQ)

Marla Mallett has returned to the Scotties for the first time since 2009, where she nearly stunned everyone by having the best record in round-robin before losing to Jennifer Jones in the finals. The lineup she had is something to behold looking back in hindsight, as she had Diane Gushluak, Grace Macinnes and Jaclayn Brown alongside her.

She has one tour event win this year and one other playoff appearance, but to be honest, it’s really difficult to tell where this rink stands. They are one of two wildcards in this field, but I don’t think she will regain her 2009 form.

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6) British Columbia (Marla Mallett)

I feel like I’m rewriting my preview for Jenn Hanna once again when she returned to the Scotties last year for the first time since 2005. If Mallett can get anywhere near her 2009 form, it will be a heck of story. I don’t think that will happen, but I expect her to be right around the middle of this year’s field given it’s overall strength.

7) Quebec (Town of Mount Royal Curling Club and Glenmore Curling Club – Dollard-des-Ormeaux)

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Skip – Eve Belisle, Vice – Lauren Mann, Second – Patricia Hill, Lead – Brittany O’Rourke

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Over the last few years, Quebec has had not a lot of success since the days when Marie-France Larouche was a regular playoff threat. Eve Belisle is the next to step up to the plate for Quebec as she makes her first trip to the Scotties since 2010 as the new skip for Lauren Mann’s rink. Mann’s previous trip to the Scotties wasn’t the greatest though, as she went 3-7 two years ago in Moose Jaw.

Belisle has made the playoffs before at, as she qualified for the 3 vs. 4 game in 2006, so her combined skipping experience with Mann should boost this team’s performance. I think they can pull off a few upsets and maybe have an above .500 record.

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7) Saskatchewan (Penny Barker)

I got to chat with Penny and her lead Danielle Sicinski quite a lot when I worked in Moose Jaw, so I’m looking forward to seeing them play on a national stage. Seeing that most of their bonspiel play takes place around the province, this rink is the biggest unknown in the field. With the said, given Saskatchewan’s relative strong play over the years, they should comfortable finish in the middle of the standings. Also, they have cult hero Amber Holland as their fifth, so that is another reason to cheer for this rink.

8) Saskatchewan (Moose Jaw Ford Curling Centre)

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Skip – Penny Barker, Vice – Deanna Doig, Second – Lorraine Schneider, Lead – Danielle Sicinski

Grand Slam Record: N/A

For me, this is the other potential wildcard team in this year’s field. Penny Barker definitely did things the hard way at the Saskatchewan provincials as she had to win a tiebreaker before beating Stefanie Lawson and Robyn Silvernagle to win her first provincial title.

Barker won a Canadian university silver medal in 2007, but had yet to break through to the Scotties until now. We’re not sure how this rink is going to do, but we felt the same way with Jill Shumay in 2013 before she had a 6-5 record, so the same thing could happen here.

Scotties Tournament of Hearts,

8) Quebec (Eve Belisle)

The addition Belisile to the Lauren Mann is a good one but I’m not sure how they will fair in this field. I think they’ll play well, but it’s hard to see them making it into the top six in the final standings

9) Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown Curling Complex)

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Skip – Robyn MacPhee, Vice – Sarah Fullerton, Second – Meaghan Hughes, Lead – Michelle McQuaid

Grand Slam Record: N/A

This team was put together this season after a few roster changes, with the biggest being that Suzanne Birt has stepped back from curling competitively. Like most East Coast team, they don’t curl in a lot of the major events, but they did pick up a win earlier this season at the OVCA Women’s Fall Classic over the likes of Sherry Middaugh and Ayumi Ogasaware. Could this perhaps be the team that PEI fans are looking for to break out of their recent struggles? We shall see.

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9) Prince Edward Island (Robyn MacPhee)

This is another potential sleeper in the field as MacPhee has always been in the playoff conversation when she played with her sister Rebecca Jean or with Birt. Given that she hasn’t played a lot of major events, I have her lower in the standings but I wouldn’t be shocked if she ended up just on the outside of the playoff mix.

10) Northwest Territories (Yellowknife Curling Club)

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Skip – Kerry Galusha, Vice – Meaghan Koehler, Second – Danielle Derry, Lead Sharon Cormier

Grand Slam Record: 1-3 (Competed in one event – DNQ)

Once again, Kerry Galusha is stuck fighting it out in the relegation round, but with the teams being not quite as strong as the last couple of years, she has a good shot of making the main field. Earlier this season, she became the first team from the Territories to play at a Grand Slam of Curling event as she had a 1-3 record at the Tier II Tour Challenge, so that should help her out a bit.

If she makes the main field, she can pull off a couple of upsets of the top teams if they aren’t careful. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t make the cut, but at least she won’t have to go through this again in 2017.

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10th) Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha)

Thanks to the pre-qualifying round and a loss to Sarah Koltun in the 2014 Territories playdowns, it’s been a few years since Galusha has been at the Scotties. I think she should be able to get through to the main field this year, but I felt that way a year ago before she lost to Karla Thompson.

11) Newfoundland & Labrador (St. John’s Curling Club)

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Skip – Stacie Curtis, Vice – Erin Porter, Second – Julie Devereaux, Lead – Erica Trickett

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Stacie Curtis is back once again, and looking at her results from last year, she did show some improvement despite a 3-8 record. With the field that is here, there might be a slight chance of finishing towards the middle of the pack, but I’m not going to hold my breathe for the former Canadian Junior champion.

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11) Newfoundland & Labrador (Stacie Curtis)

She has played better in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go before Curtis is up in the standings in my opinion. This might be a rink that fares better if they played more on the tour, but that’s easier said than done. However, we do have the return of Mark Nichols’ sister Shelley (now known as Shelley Hardy) as an alternate.

12) Nova Scotia (Windsor Curling Club)

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Skip – Mary Mattatall, Vice – Margaret Cutcliffe, Second – Jill Alcoe-Holland, Lead – Andrea Saulnier

Grand Slam Record: N/A

In one of the biggest upsets of the provincials (besides Jennifer Jones not making the Manitoba Final of course), Mattatall had the best record in round-robin play and they dominated Jill Brothers in the final to make it to the Scotties. I’m not expecting much from them to be honest, but at least they don’t have to worry about the relegation round.

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12) Nova Scotia (Mary Mattatal)

This is Mary’s sixth trip to the Scotties, but it’s her first since 2005 and she was last a skip at the event in 1998. Her team is currently on a 12-1 run with the provincial Scotties and Senior playdown titles in their back pockets, but it’ll be a tough challenge to be in the mix with some of the top rinks. I do think they can pull of a surprising win or two though.

13) New Brunswick (Capital Winter Club – Fredericton)

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Skip – Melissa Adams, Vice – Jennifer Armstrong, Second – Cathlia Ward, Lead – Katie Forward

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Melissa Adams had been the runner-up in New Brunswick four times in the last six years before finally breaking through last month. She has had some good events on the Tour, but the Scotties are a different beast. I would not be surprised if she does make it through to the main field, and I expect her to be in the 9th to 11th range in the standings if she does.

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13) Yukon (Sarah Koltun)

While I hate the fact that the new 16-team format will reward teams that lose at the provincials (that and bringing back Team Canada each year but that’s another rant for another day), the one positive is that both Galusha and Koltun will be in the main field in Penticton next year. Koltun’s a super-talented shot maker who is one to watch in the future, but I think she’ll just miss out on the main field in a close battle with Galushua.

14) Yukon (Whitehorse Curling Club)

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Skip – Sarah Koltun, Vice – Chelsea Duncan, Second – Patty Wallingham, Lead – Jenna Duncan

Grand Slam Record: N/A

After stepping back last year to focus on her studies, Sarah Koltun has returned to help the Yukon get out of the relegation battle. She’ll be super glad that this format will be gone next year, as it will help her rink get more experience in the years to come. After all, she did have a fourth place finish at the Canadian Juniors back in 2013. If she makes it into the main field this year, I have her finishing around 10th to 12th in the standings.

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14) New Brunswick (Melissa Adams)

It’s good to see Adams make it to the event, but I’m not sure if she’ll have enough to overcome the two Territories rinks this week. The experience will be huge though if she is able to get back to the event next year with the expanded field.

15) Nunavut (Iqualit Curling Club)

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Skip – Geneva Chislett, Vice – Denise Hutchings, Second – Robyn Mackey, Lead – Jenine Bodner

Grand Slam Record: N/A

One event that people may have forgotten about last year’s Scotties was that Nunavut picked up their first ever win a year ago by beating British Columbia, which was huge for the territory. I can’t see them winning any games this year, but if they can keep things somewhat close, that would be a good building block.

2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

15) Nunavut (Geneva Chislett)

Next year will be a big one for Nunavut as they will be in the main field and find themselves up against the top rinks in the country. If they can stay in the mix this week, it will be a good sign for them going forward.


2017 Curling Provincial Preview Blowout Spectacular (Part 5)

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Well those Scotties predictions of ours didn’t go well did they? (Nor did last week’s men’s playdowns picks)

Anyways, it’s time finish off the provincial previews for this with the last five spots up for grabs at this year’s Brier.

Alberta (February 8-12)

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Last Year’s Brier Finish – 1st (8-3 – Tied for 3rd in round-robin)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Charley Thomas, Nathan Connolly, Brandon Klassen, Craig Savill

Brendan Bottcher, Darren Moulding, Bradley Thiessen, Karrick Martin

Ted Appleman, Tom Appleman, Shawn Donnelly, Adam Enright

Mick Lizmore, Daylan Vavrek, Carter Lautner, Brad Chyz

Graham Powell, Tom Sallows, Jordan Steinke, Chris Wall

Roland Robinson, Jeff Erickson, Ryan Konowalyk, James Knievel

Thomas Scoffin, Tristian Steinke, Jason Ginter, Brett Winfield

Jamie King, Glen Kennedy, Sean Morris, Todd Brick

James Pahl, Mark Klinck, Aaron Bartling, Thomas Stroh

Josh Lambden, Chris McDonah, Rob Collins, Colin Stroeder

Aaron Sluchinski, Justin Sluchinski, Eric Richard, Kyle Richard

Jeremy Harty, Dylan Webster, Joel Berger, Gregg Hamilton

With Kevin Koe already going to the Brier as the defending champion, this year’s Alberta playdowns has more of a wide-open feel to it that feels similiar to when Jennifer Jones isn’t in the Manitoba playdowns.

It’s basically down to two skips with Brendan Bottcher and Charley Thomas, who have both had interesting seasons.

Bottcher brought in former Brier champion Pat Simmons, which felt like a major upgrade, but it didn’t really work out as he left the team following Christmas. Darren Moulding came in at third for the Canadian Open, and that worked out as they reached their first Grand Slam of Curling playoff this year.

Thomas has been pretty busy all year, including subbing for Brad Gushue at the Canada Cup when he was injured. He’s brought in Craig Savill, which is great to see after his battle with cancer last season. The Thomas rink has made it to the playoffs at a Grand Slam this year at the National, and they also won their only head-to-head meeting with Bottcher.

It’s going to be really close, but I’m going to give this one to Thomas. However, seeing that the Alberta Scotties were wacky, I’m going to also say that Thomas Scoffin could end up being a spoiler.

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After seeing Moulding play with the Bottcher rink in North Battleford, I feel like the late change might work out alright for his squad. Like Brett, this should be a close battle with two skips to watch for in the coming years, but I’ll pick Bottcher to make his first Brier appearance.

British Columbia (February 8-12)

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Last Year’s Brier Finish: Tied for 9th (3-8)

The Field

Andrew Bilesky, Steve Kopf, Daniel Wenzek, Cameron Watt

Tom Buchy, Dean Horning, Dave Toffolo, Darren Will

Wes Craig, Miles Craig, Cameron De Jong, Dave McGarry

Sean Geall, Jeff Richard, Brendan Willis, David Harper

Jeff Guignard, Chris Faa, Jeff Sargent, Nick Kuit

Glen Jackson, Andrew Komlodi, Corey Chester, Joel Cave

Dean Joanisse, Paul Cseke, Jay Wakefield, John Cullen

Mark Longworth, Michael Longworth, Aron Herrick, John Slattery

Ken McArldle, Denis Sutton, Daren Boden, Glen Allen

John Morris, Jim Cotter, Tyrell Griffith, Rick Sawatsky

Richard Brower, Jan Bos, Mike Moss, Deryk Brower

Tyler Tardi, Sterling Middleton, Jordan Tardi, Nicholas Meister

Thanks to a win in the last draw of the 2016 Brier, British Columbia can thank their lucky stars that they won’t have to fight it out in the relegation round.

Anyways, John Morris has returned to the Jim Cotter rink this year and they haven’t missed a beat from their time together in the 2013-14 season. They are the obvious favourites, but the usual suspects like Andrew Bilesky and Sean Geall will be in the mix.

A darkhorse in all of this is the new Canadian Junior Champion Tyler Tardi, Aka Team Fresh/Team Mint. Like Matt Dunstone last year in Manitoba, Tardi could win the provincials but be unable to attend the Brier as the world juniors will be at the same time.

With all that said, it should be a relatively easy road for Morris as he tries to bring British Columbia back to the mix at the Brier, depending on the rest of the field of course.

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If I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, it’s to never count out Johnny Mo. Him and Cotter have been playing really well over the last month and I expect them to win the provincial with ease. I do hope Tardi has a good showing though.

Northern Ontario (Feb. 8-12)

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Last Year’s Brier Finish: 3rd (11-0 – 1st in Round Robin)

The Field

Chris Glibota, Dustin Montpellier, Eric Gelinas, Matt Gordon

Jordan Chandler, Sandy MacEwan, Luc Oment, Lee Toner

Dylan Johnston, Mike Badiuk, Cody Johnston, Travis Showalter

Al Hackner, Kory Carr, Frank Morissette, Gary Champagne

Bryan Burgess, Rob Champagne, Al Macesmchuk, Pat Berezowski

Ryan Sayer, Graehem Sayer, Ryan Forget, Gavan Jamieson

Brad Jacobs, Ryan Fry, E.J Harnden, Ryan Harnden

Tanner Horgan, Jacob Horgan, Nicholas Bissonnette, Maxime Blais

Once again Northern Ontario could be the Brad Jacobs show and he has had a better season than last year with two wins this season on the tour.

The only teams that could challenge him are last year’s runner up Jordan Chandler and Canadian Junior Bronze Medalist Tanner Horgan. Horgan actually played at the Boost National Grand Slam event in December and finished with a 1-3 record, with his lone win coming over Steve Laycock.

They’ll make things interesting, but I think Jacobs will once again make it to the Brier.

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As much as I want to pick Al Hackner for the heck of it, it’s getting to the point in Northern Ontario where you can pencil in Jacobs like you do for Brad Gushue in Newfoundland. Granted, there’s a lot more competition in Northern Ontario, but the Olympic champion is just too strong compared to the rest of the pack.

New Brunswick (February 8-12)

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Last Year’s Brier Finish: Tied for 9th (3-8)

The Field

Josh Barry, Rene Comeau, Andrew Burgess, Robert Daley

Ryan Cain, Dimitri Makrides, Mike Flanney Jr., Brent Stewart

James Grattan, Paul Flemming, Kevin Boyle, Peter Case

Mike Kennedy, Scott Jones, Marc Lecocq, Jamie Brannen

Jeremy Mallais, Jason Vaughn, Ryan Freeze, Jared Bezanson

Terry Odishaw, Grant Odishaw, Chris Jeffery, Merk Kehoe

Jason Roach, Andy McCann, Darren Roach, Brian King

Charlie Sullivan, Paul Dobson, Mark Dobson, Spencer Mahwinney

Thanks to Mike Kennedy’s performance last year, he kept New Brunswick out of the relegation round for this year’s Brier. When it comes to the provincials, it’s a really interesting field, with the likes of Kennedy, James Grattan and Jeremy Mallais among the favourites.

However I think this could be Rene Comeau’s year as the former Canadian Junior runner-up has brought in Josh Berry and he is back skipping, which has to help. I’m picking him to win it, but it’s going to be tough.

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I’m going with Comeau as well for a couple of reasons. Not only does he have a talented young rink, but we’ve seen a number of surprising results in the provincials already this season, so why not go with another one. Also, I’ve been burned the last couple of years in picking James Grattan.

Manitoba (February 8-12)

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Last Year’s Brier Finish: 4th (8-3 – Tied for 3rd in Round-Robin)

The Field

(As usual, because of such a gigantic field and since I’m no fun, a link is provided for the field. http://viterrachampionship.ca/teams)

As always we save the biggest field for last, as Manitoba has 32 teams because why not.

Before we get to the two main favourites, there are two squads to keep an eye one. One of them is last year’s provincial runner-up Matt Dunstone, who has a different lineup this season after joining the men’s ranks full time. The other possible darkhorse is cult hero and King of Bomb City Jason Gunnlaugson, who has Dunstone’s team from last year and was in the Top 10 in the CTRS rankings early this season.

Of course, the two rinks to watch are the last two provincial champions in Mike McEwen and Reid Carruthers.  This season hasn’t been the greatest of ones for McEwen so far, as he’s failed to make it out of the quarter-finals at the Grand Slam events and he missed the playoffs at the Canada Cup. In a way, it’s sort of similar to what happened to Brad Jacobs last year.

On the other hand Carruthers is having a career year, as he’s picked up an Olympic Trials spot by winning the Canada Cup and is in the mix for being the best team in Canada this season. Unlike other years, this turned out to be a somewhat easy pick for me as I’m going with Carruthers to win Manitoba over McEwen.

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Let’s finish this thing off with a possibly crazy pick.

Yes I know Carruthers is having a really good season, and McEwen has gotten over the hump of trying to get to a Brier, but let’s be honest. Don’t you want to see Gunner throwing 300 MPH bombs at the Brier?

That’s right, I’m picking my boy to win Manitoba. Hey when you’ve crashed and burned through your provincial picks all year, you might as well wrap it all up in style.


2017 Curling Provincial Preview Blowout Spectacular (Part 4)

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Written by Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)

As the Scotties provincials begin to wrap up, we now turn our attention to the Tim Hortons Brier as we have a couple of provincial playdowns already underway and a couple set to begin in the next few days.

Nova Scotia (January 23-29)

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Last year’s Brier finish – 13th (Lost Pre-Qualifying Final to Northwest Territories)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Paul Dexter, Mark Robar, Michael Brophy, Taylor Ardiel

Mike Fleming, Kevin Ouellete, Kris Granchelli, Don McDermaid

Brent MacDougall, Shea Steele, Jared Brown, Rob Moore

Robert Mayhew, Chris MacRae, Neil Gallant, Nick Burdock

Jamie Murphy, Jordan Pinder, Scott Saccary, Phillip Crowell

Chad Stevens, Cameron Mackenzie, Ian Juurlink, Kelly Mittelstadt

Kendal Thompson, Bryce Everist, Brendan Lavell, Jamie Danbrook

Stuart Thompson, Colten Steele, Travis Colter, Billy MacPhee

For the second year in a row the winner of this provincial will have to fight through the relegation round. In all fairness, they probably shouldn’t even be in this situation as Jamie Murphy had Jamie Koe seemingly eliminated last year until a bad final shot in the win or go home game.

This year’s field is not as good as it has been in previous years and the favorite by a mile has to be Murphy. It should be an fairly easy road for Murphy to win Nova Scotia and he does have a real good chance of getting out of the relegation round in 2017.

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Last year’s 7-4 loss to our hero Jamie Koe (#patch) was a punch to the gut for Murphy, but I suspect he’ll make up for it this year by getting into the main field if he wins provincials. However, Nova Scotia can sometimes have an unlikely provincial winner so keep that in mind as the weekend plays out.

Newfoundland and Labrador (January 24-29)

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Last Year’s Brier Finish – 2nd (9-2 – 2nd in Round-Robin)

The Field

Adam Boland, Stephen Trickett, Zach Young, Evan Kearley

Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker

Paul Harvey, Steve Bragg, Andrew Manuel, Mike Day

Trent Skanes, Nick Lane, Jeff Rose, Mike Mosher

Colin Thomas, Cory Schuh, Spencer Ford, Spencer Wicks

Well this is basically the shortest preview yet. Good luck to anyone trying to stop Brad Gushue from winning the province for like the millionth time. Gushue himself is pretty much back in form after having surgery on his groin and not playing until the National.

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Gushue did miss a lot of the season but was on fire during the playoffs at the Canadian Open, which was only his second event back. If he doesn’t win the provincials, especially with the Brier taking place in St. John’s this year, the world will implode.

Saskatchewan (February 1-5)

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Last Year’s Brier Finish: 6th (5-6)

The Field

Brad Heidt, Mark Lang, Glen Heidt, Dan Ormsby

Bruce Korte, Kevin Marsh, Daniel Marsh, Matthew Lang

Scott Bitz, Warren Jackson, Aryn Schmidt, Dean Kleiter

Randy Bryden, Troy Robinson, Brock Montgomery, Trent Knapp

Adam Casey, Catlin Schnider, Shaun Meachem, Dustin Kidby

Dale Craig, Cory Fleming, Dustin Phillips, Grant Scheirich

Drew Heidt, Jesse St.John, Cole Tenetuik, Chadd McKenzie

Brent Gedak, Clit Dieno, Derek Owens, Shawn Meyer

Jason Ackerman, Curtis Howarth, Brent Goeres, Scott Deck

Jason Jacobson, Dustin Kalthoff, Nicklas Neufeld, Rory Golanowski

Kody Hartung, Joshua Heidt, Tyler Hartung, Kelley Knapp

Steve Laycock, Kirk Muyers, Colton Flasch, Dallan Muyers

Ryan Armstrong, Tyson Armstrong, Allen Dmytryshyn, Mike Robson

Ryan Deis, Scott Manners, Jason Macphee, Kalin Deis

Brady Scharback, Jake Hersikorn, Quinn Hersikorn, Brady Kendal

Carl deConick Smith, Jeff Sharp, Matt Ryback, Mark Larsen

Over in the land of the Green Riders, the field is not quite as open as it was in the Scotties, as there are two for sure contenders in Steve Laycock and Shaun Meachem.

Laycock’s had a pretty good season, which was highlighted by a World Curling Tour evnet win in Edmonton, so we know that he’s somewhat back to the form that saw him get a third place finish at the Brier two years ago in Calgary.

Meachem was last year’s provincial runner-up and he gave Laycock everything he could handle in the final. He’s had a pretty good season as well and acquiring Adam Casey from PEI gives the lineup a big boost.

The Meachem rink is one to keep an eye out for in the future, but this is still Laycock’s province and I expect him to return to the Brier.

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I fully expect Laycock to win a fourth straight provincial title, but Saskatchewan is always known for throwing in an upset every couple of years. Meachem’s the main threat to do that obviously, but Bruce Korte’s rink did well at the Canadian Open in North Battleford and will be in the mix. Also keep an eye on Brady Scharback’s rink, as they could be a force in the coming years.

Ontario Tankard (January 29-February 5)

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Last Year’s Brier Finish – Tied for 7th (4-7)

The Field

Scott Bailey, Joe Frans, Craig Van Ymeren, Travis Fanset

Greg Balsdon, Jonathan Beuk, Don Bowser, Scott Chadwick

Mark Bice, Adam Spencer, Tyler Morgan, Steve Bice

Dayna Deruelle, Kevin Flewelling, David Staples, Sean Harrison

John Epping, Mathew Camm, Patrick Janssen, Tim March

Mike Harris, Mike Anderson, Scott Hodgson, Scott Foster

Cory Heggestad, Andrew Thompson, Wylie Allen, Kelly Schuh

Glenn Howard, Richard Hart, David Mathers, Scott Howard

Scott McDonald, Codey Maus, Wesley Forget, Jeff Grant

Wayne Tuck Jr., Chad Allen, Kurt Armstrong, Matt Pretty

This year’s Ontario Tankard is going at the exact same time and the same place as the Ontario Scotties in Cobourg, and the question is if John Epping can finally get over the provincial hump. He’s got a good shot once again after another strong season, which was highlighted by making the semifinals at the Canada Cup.

The main threat standing in his way once again is Glenn Howard, who is somewhat we haven’t heard a lot about when compared to recent years. He went 0-4 at the Masters and then lost the Tier 2 Tour Challenge final on the Grand Slam Circuit, but he’s made the playoffs in four out of six World Curling Tour events.

Another team that could sneak in to the finals is 2014 provincial Greg Balsdon, who beat Howard in the Tier 2 Tour Challenge Final. They’ll both give Epping fits, but I expect him to finally get out of his provincial slump and make it to the Brier.

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With Mike McEwen finally breaking through in Manitoba last year, Epping now holds the title of best skip who hasn’t made it to the Brier yet. This feels like his provincial to lose, but I felt that way the last two years when he lost to Mark Kean and Glenn Howard in the final. Will see if the third time is indeed the charm.


2017 Curling Provincial Preview Blowout Spectacular (Part 3)

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By Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)

So far this year’s provincials have gone pretty much status quo, though there have been a couple of exceptions (I’m looking at you British Columbia)

Anyways, we’re going to finish off the Scotties playdowns in the third part of the provincial previews, as will have a few Brier predictions coming up tomorrow in Part 4.

As Brett mentioned, we missed the boat big time in BC as Karla Thompson missed the playoffs and Marla Mallett won for the first time since 2009. He also got Northern Ontario right with Krista McCarville while I went with Tracy Fleury.

We did get both playdowns right in PEI though as Robyn MacPhee and Eddie MacKenzie both won. More importantly though, Jamie Koe is heading to the Brier again so we all win.

Saskatchewan (January 24-29)

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Last Year’s Scotties Finish – Tied for 5th (6-5)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Sherry Anderson, Jessica Hanson, Krista Fesser, Brie Spilchen

Penny Barker, Deanna Doig, Lorraine Schnieder, Danielle Sicniski

Stefanie Lawton, Beth Iskiw, Sherri Singler, Jessica llles

Mandy Selzer, Erin Selzer, Megan Selzer, Sarah Slywka

Robyn Silvernagle, Dayna Demers, Cristina Goertzen, Kara Thevenot

Kim Schneider, Shalon Flemming, Natalie Bloomfield, Kristy Johnson

Nancy Martin, Ashley Quick, Megan Firechs, Teresa Waterfield

Chantele Eberle, Kristie Moore, Larissa Murray, Debbie Lozinzci

Brett Barber, Sherry Just, Colleen Ackerman, Rachel Frizler

Pop quiz, who is missing from this years field?

Time’s up. The answer is Jolene Campbell, as the defending champion failed to qualify for this year’s provincial and gives us a more open field than in recent years.

Now we do see Stefanie Lawton in the field once again and she’s once again switched up the lineup with Beth Iskiw at vice and new lead Jessica Illes. They haven’t had the best of seasons though, including an 0-4 record at the Grand Slam of Curling’s Tier II Challenge.

So could there be a different champion? Well other contenders include Sherry Anderson, Robyn Silvernagle and possibly Chantelle Eberle, but Lawton does have so much experience over the year’s that it’s hard to pick against her. However, I would take that pick with a grain of salt.

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Like Brett said, no Jolene Campbell makes this event pretty wide open. Given how she played at last year’s provincials, I wouldn’t be surprised if Silvernagle captured the title, and that would be really cool since she curls out of North Battleford where I’m working these days.

However, if you look at Lawton’s record at the provincials since she won her first title in 2005, she’s only missed the finals twice (2006 and 2010). Given her track record, it’s hard to bet against the four-time provincial champion.

Newfoundland and Labrador Scotties (January 24-29)

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Last Year’s Scotties Finish – 10th (3-8)

The Field

Stacie Curtis, Erin Porter, Julie Devereaux, Erica Trickett

Beth Hamilton, Adrianne Mercer, Ashley Rumboldt, Heidi Trickett

Shelly Hardy, Michelle Jewer, Kelli Turpin, Rhonda Whelan

Cindy Miller, Jessica Cunningham, Noelle-Thomas Kennell, Courtney Barnhill

Heather Strong, Stephanie Guzwell, Sarah Day, Kathryn Cooper

This year’s Newfoundland and Labrador Scotties has five teams compared to three from a year ago, which is an improvement. However, it’s really down to the same three contenders though in Curtis, Hardy and Strong.

All three rinks haven’t done much on the WCT scene, so it’s kind of tough pick a clear winner. However, I think Strong’s experience will pull her through, even if she has a slightly different lineup.

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I’m on the same page with Brett here again, as this is going to be a pretty tough battle all week. Strong’s lineup is different but she’s got some good players on the team and should make it back to the Scotties, where she could be in the mix for a mid-table finish.

New Brunswick (January 25-29)

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Last Year’s Scotties Finish – Tied for 11th (2-9 – Relegated)

The Field

Melissa Adams, Jennifer Armstrong, Cathlia Ward, Katie Forward

Justine Comeau, Emma Le Blanc, Brigitte Comeau, Keira McLaughlin

Shelly Graham, Sharon Levesque, Connie Nichol, Jane McGinn

Sarah Mallais, Carol Whitaker, Leah Thompson, Jane Boyle

Shaelyn Park, Julia Goodin, Molli Ward, Lauren Whitewayy

Sylvie Robichaud, Jessica Ronalds, Nicole Bishop, Michelle Majeau

Shannon Tatlock, Sandy Comeau, Emily MacRae, Shelby Wilson

Whoever happens to win this provincial will have to fight their way through the relegation round after New Brunswick finished 12th at last year’s Scotties. There was a big change in the province as defending champion Sylvie Robichaud has a brand new lineup this year, while last year’s team, now skipped by Rebecca Atkinson, failed to qualify for provincials.

Robichaud is among the favorites along with many time runner up Melissa Adams. However, last year’s Canadian Junior bronze medalist Justine Comeau is making her debut, and there’s a good chance she could  pull off the upset. In fact, I believe it’s going to happen and I’m picking Comeau to win it all. However, I don’t know if she’ll make it out of the relegation round, especially with Kerry Galusha and Sarah Koltun in the mix.

New Brunswick skip Justine Comeau calls line - photographer Amanda Rumboldt

By all rights, I should be picking Adams or Robichaud. But like the Mary Fay rink, to an extent at least, Comeau is part of a new wave of young curlers that may become strong forces for the Maritime region in the coming years. I’m also picking her to win the province, but I can’t see her getting into the main field with Galusha and Koltun both there.

Nova Scotia (January 23-29)

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Last Year’s Scotties Finish – Tied for 5th (6-5)

The Field

Mary-Anne Arsenault, Christina Black, Jennifer Crouse, Jennifer Baxter

Theresa Breen, Tayna Hillard, Jocelyn Adams, Amanda Simpson

Jill Brothers, Erin Carmody, Blisse Joyce, Jenn Brine

Christie Gamble, Brigitte MacPhail, Kaitlyn Veitch, Michelle Lang

Kristen Macdarmid, Kelly Bachman, Liz Woodworth, Julia Williams

Mary Mattall, Andrea Saulner, Jill Holland-Alco, Margaret Cutliffee

Nancy McConnery, Jocelyn Nix, Mackenzie Proctor, Shelly Barker

Julie McEvoy, Sheena Moore, Jill Thomas, Caeleigh MacLean

This is mostly a two horse race, with Mary-Anne Arsenault and defending champion Jill Brothers. Both teams are having good seasons, with Brothers having a win at an event Moncton and holding a 1-0 advantage over Arsenault this season.

Brothers has also brought in Erin Carmody, who was a major part of PEI’s runner-up finish at the 2010 Scotties. That addition should allow her to repeat, but it’s hard to tell yet if she’ll be a playoff contender.

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The addition of Carmody, who hasn’t been back to the Scotties since almost winning it all in the Soo, puts Brothers as the clear-cut favourite for me in Nova Scotia. They might get into the playoff picture as well this year, but it will all depend on the rest of the field in St. Catherines.

Alberta (January 25-29)

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Last Year’s Scotties Finish – 1st (9-2 – 1st in round-robin)

The Field

Holly Baird,  Pam Appelman, Leslie Rogers, Chana Martineau

Nadine Chyz, Heather Jensen, Rebbeca Konschuh, Heather Rogers

Delia DeJong, Teryn Hamliton, Amy Janko, Megan Watchorn

Karynn Flory, Richelle Nanninga, Sydney Lewko, Sarah Brown

Trisha James, Michelle Gnam, Raeleigh Milner, Chelsey Whitney

Shannon Kleibrink*, Lisa Eyamie, Sarah Wilkes, Alison Thiessen

Jodi Marthaller, Tessa Ruetz, Nicole Larson, Valerie Ekelund

Geri-Lynn Ramsay, Jody McNabb, Brittany Tran, Claire Tully

Valerie Sweeting, Lori Olson-Johns, Dana Ferguson, Rachelle Brown

Casey Scheidegger, Cary-Anne McTaggart, Jessie Scheidegger, Stephanie Enright

Holly Scott, Megan Anderson, Tara Lamoureux, Trina Ball

Kalynn Virtue, Shana Snell,Amanda Craigie, Kaitlin Stubbs

Note: Shannon Kleibrink suffered a back injury prior to the provincials, with 2012 champion Heather Nedohin filling in for at least the start of the week

For most of the season, it looked like Alberta was going to be the Val Sweeting show, since Chelsea Carey is already returning as Team Canada and Kelsey Rocque is not at the provincials this year as she is competing at the World University Games.

However, Val has a really tough opponent awaiting her in Casey Scheidegger, who has won four of six events this and capture the Canadian Open title in her first ever Grand Slam of Curling event. Plus, Scheidegger is 2-0 against Sweeting this year.

Compared to last year, Sweeting has had a much improved season, including a win at the Tour Challenge event. It will likely come down to those two again, and while Scheidegger has had her number this year, Sweeting’s provincial experience should be the difference. Besides, who doesn’t want to see what madness Ferguson and Brown can cause at the Scotties.

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Schiedegger’s sudden emergence this year makes this provincial a lot more interesting than it first appeared. However, Val’s been in this situation before and I think she should be able to come away with the win and being among the favourites for the Scotties title. With that said, a Heather Nedohin win would be beyond amazing.

Manitoba Scotties (January 25-29)

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Last Year’s Scotties Finish – 4th (7-4 – Tied for 3rd in round-robin)

The Field

Jennifer Briscoe, Sheri Horning, Courtney Reeves, Lorelle Weiss

Lisa Menard, Lisa Deriviere, Leslie Cafferty, Laurie MacDonnell

Cheryl Reed, Sam Murata, Pam Robins, Roz Taylor

Tiffany McLean, Mallory Black, Danielle Robinson, Cassandra Lesiuk

Colleen Kilgallen, Kim Link, Renee Fletcher, Karen Fallis

Joelle Brown, Alyssa Calvert, Erika Sigurdson, Lindsay Baldock

Christine MacKay, Gaetanne Gauthier, Taylor Madia, Katrina Theissen

Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jenna Loder, Katherine Doerksen, Sarah Pyke

Beth Peterson, Robyn Njegovan, Mellisa Gordon, Breanne Yozenko

Meghan Armit, Nikki Hawrylyshen, Laura Budowski, Taryn Dreger

Brianne Meilleur, Rhonda Varnes, Janelle Vachon, Sarah Neufeld

Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer, Dawn McEwen

Michelle Englot, Kate Cameron, Leslie Wilson, Raunora Westcott

Darcy Robertson, Karen Klein, Vanessa Foster, Michelle Madden

Shannon Birchard, Nicole Sigvaldason, Sheyna Andreis, Mariah Mondor

Kerri Einarson, Selene Kaatz, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish

Like always, Manitoba has one of the biggest fields and there are as many as five teams that can win the title. With that said, it’s realistically going to come down to Jennifer Jones and Kerri Einarson.

Einarson, of course, is the defending champion and she has come a long way since she last faced Jones at the provincials in 2015 and 2013. She’s had an alright year on the tour, which was highlighted by her first ever Grand Slam of Curling event win at the Boost National.

Jones is again having a solid year, which included a convincing win in the Canada Cup final that we will be touching on in a little bit. She’s also 2-0 against Einarson this year and other than her trip to the Olympics in 2014, Jones has been to every single Scotties since 2004.

While I think Einarson will give her a scare, I think Jones will keep her streak going.

Las Vegas Nevada, Jan16, 2016.World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling 2016. Team North America skip Jennifer Jones, Curling Canada/ michael burns photo

Although she’s had some strange losses this year, including a bizarre last three ends that led to a quarter-final loss to Casey Scheidegger at the Canadian Open, it’s crazy to bet against Jones when we get to this time of the year. With that said, Einarson and Englot will give her a tough challenge if they meet in the playoffs.

Ontario Scotties (January 29-February 5)

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Last Year’s Scotties Finish – Tied for 5th (6-5)

The Field

Cathy Auld, Lori Eddy, Karen Rowsell, Jenna Bonner

Megan Balsdon,  Jessica Corrado, Stephanie Corrado, Laura Hickey

Allison Flaxey, Clancy Grandy, Lynn Kreviazuk, Morgan Court

Jacqueline Harrison, Janet Murphy, Stephanie Matheson, Melissa Foster

Heather Heggestad, Ginger Coyle, Michelle Smith, Lauren Harrison

Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney, Lisa Weagle

Sherry Middaugh, Jo-Ann Rizzo, Lee Merklinger, Leigh Armstrong

Julie Tippin, Chantal Duhaime, Rachelle Vink, Tess Bobbie

Welp, we might as well have save the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) for last.

After the absolute shocking upset by Jenn Hanna last year in the provincial final, many people were wondering how Rachel Homan and crew would recover. They still had a great year after that loss and early on this season things were looking good, as they had a 23-4 record and won two events. Granted, part of that run was overshadowed by losing the Masters final to Allison Flaxey and being upset by Michelle Englot in the quarter-final of the Tier 1 Challenge, but you’d expect her to bounce back.

Then things went sideways. She was routed by Jennifer Jones in the Canada Cup final (highlighted by a tire fire of a third end where she gave up a steal of four), had a bad performance in the quarter-finals of the National and was knocked out by Krista McCarville after a strong round-robin (though she did give up three points in the last end to lose to Tracy Fleury in her last game before the playoffs) and had a dreadful week at the Canadian Open that brought an end to her streak of 18 straight playoff appearances.

Now, am I being too harsh? Perhaps, but Rachel’s play is easily the biggest story of the curling season for me coming into the provincials. Also, with the fact that they are trying to be a more “complete” team and not playing to their strengths of a dominant hitting game and utilizing “The Weagle” shot (seriously, where the heck did that go?), that has to play into their struggles as of late.

Despite all of that, Homan remains one of the favourites in Ontario, but the one rink I think can take her down for sure is Allison Flaxey. The 2014 provincial champion is having a career year, which included her first Grand Slam event win over Homan. Now granted, her performance has fallen off slightly as of late, but I expect her to bounce back, especially with Lynn Kreviazuk on her team. The other team that may be in mix is Jacqueline Harrison, who won the Tier 2 Tour Challenge and beat Homan twice at the Canadian Open.

If Homan gets back into the form that she was at a year ago leading into the provincials, she makes it back to the Scotties no problem. However, if she pulls another one of those tire fire performances, you can expect Harrison or Flaxey to pounce. Based upon what I’ve seen this year, I think another tire fire will happen and Flaxey will defeat Homan (who is somehow still the top team in the world, which makes no sense to me) in the final.

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So let’s get to Rachel Homan first. As you all probably know right now, she’s right up there with Eve Muirhead as my favourite curler on the planet and when she’s on her game, her rink is hard to stop.

With all of that said, there’s no way I can pick her to win the Ontario Scotties.

Simply put, I can’t trust her at the moment. The destruction tour that was the first half of her 2015-16 season went out the window when she lost to Jenn Hanna at the provincials, as the invincibility factor is gone. I mean losing to Jennifer Jones is one thing, but when your other major losses at big events come to Allison Flaxey, Michelle Englot, Krista McCarville, Jacqueline Harrison (twice) and Casey Scheidegger, it starts to become harder and harder to take that number one team in the world ranking seriously.

Having seen the rink in person at the Canadian Open in North Battleford, something is indeed up as they were well and truly off their level of play from the last couple of years when I’ve seen them in person. Now everyone has a bad week of course, but given the rink’s last 12 months, it makes it impossible for me to automatically pick them as Ontario champions.

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As such, I’m picking Allison Flaxey to win it all. She’s won a Grand Slam title this year, she’s been competitive at almost every event she’s been in and you can make a case (along with Jennifer Jones and Anna Hasselborg) that she’s had the best season out of anyone in a campaign where no one has yet to step out from the back on the women’s scene. Jacqueline Harrison and Sherry Middaugh could be in the mix as well, but it’s hard to bet against a former provincial champion that has a well-balanced rink.

With all that said, watch for Homan to either run through the table and win the title or have a monumental tire fire. There’s no in between here.


2017 Curling Provincial Preview Blowout Spectacular (Part 2)

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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.

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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)

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         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.

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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)

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Last Year’s Scotties Finish – Tied for 11th (2-9)

The Field

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.

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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

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Last Year’s Scotties Finish – 9th (4-7)

Last Year’s Brier Finish – 12th (2-9 – Relegated)

Scotties Field

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.

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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.

Tankard Field

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.

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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.