The Punkari Brothers 2015 Brier Preview

2015brierWritten by Brett Punkari (With cameos by Lucas Punkari)

Before we get rolling I just want to point out this is the hardest bit of predictions I have ever done, even more so than last year’s Olympic Trials. You can make a case in my opinion  for the top nine teams (Brett seems to have excluded Ontario from this) to win this event, and I would buy that argument. This is the best Brier field I’ve ever seen and I can’t wait for this event to get started.

 

Now that the Scotties is over it’s now Brier time as we head to Calgary where the field is really stacked. You can make a case for at least eight teams to have a legitimate shot at winning the Brier Tankard. So without a doubt this is one of the toughest fields to predict so don’t be surprised if these picks are way off. Once again, the Grand Slam Records will be mentioned like we did at the Scotties with the Masters of Curling, The National and the Canadian Open all being included.

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1Northern Ontario – Soo Curlers Association

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

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

The Olympic champs are back and to be honest, they are the most consistant team on paper even though they have won one event this year. Though in true Team Jacobs tradition, they have done things the hard way as they had to win out to make the playoffs. Also Ryan Fry’s play has not been as great this year as he has missed some shots he would make with his eyes closed.

However when this team gets on a roll almost nobody can stop them, and in two of their losses in finals (Canada Cup and The National) it was to a certain team that lost a certain provincial…..Hmm who could that be? (Oooo, throwing shade at Mike McEwen)

Either way if they can keep winning and not have to do things the hard way they are the favourites to win a second title.

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1) Brad Gushue (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Alright, we got our first disagreement. So why have I gone against Northern Ontario? Well there’s three reasons. Firstly, I’ve had this hunch that Gushue is going to win the Brier since about October. Secondly, the return of Mark Nichols has done wonders for this team as they have won two Grand Slams already this season. Thirdly, Gushue is always good it seems in odd-numbered years at the Brier. Put it all together, and that’s why I have Gushue finally winning the Canadian title for the first time. 

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2Newfoundland & Labrador – Bally Haly Country Club (St. John’s)

 

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

Grand Slam Record – 14-6 (Win, DNQ, Win)

This year has been one of Brad Gushue’s most successful to date with two Grand Slam victories, even though they had a DNQ in the other and their Canada Cup appearance was not that impressive. The return of Mark Nichols to the Gushue rink is a major boost and the lineup is probably the best Gushue has had in quite a while. If they can perform well and not force Gushue to make hero shots then perhaps he may finally get that ever elusive first Brier crown.

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2) Brad Jacobs (Northern Ontario)

If it wasn’t for my Gushue hunch, the defending Olympic gold medalist would be my pick to win it all. They are the top team in the World at the moment (although defenders of a certain Manitoba team who has yet to make a Brier would tell you otherwise) and it’s hard to bet against them. This time, however, they won’t come in under the radar.

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3) Alberta – Glencoe Club (Calgary)

 

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

Grand Slam Record – 10-6 (Quarter-Finalist, DNQ, Semi-Finalist)

As we mentioned before in our provincial previews, this lineup is godly, at least on paper. However, they have not have that strong of a season.

There have been times where they have looked great and there have been times where they looked really bad. Though it’s probably more of a case of feeling things out as this team’s lineup is new for Koe himself.

It could be perhaps a bit of a reach to pick this team this high considering the year they have had. Though I do think this lineup is way too good to not be talked about as a podium threat at the very least.

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3) Kevin Koe (Alberta)

The defending champion is back with a brand-new team that is gearing up for a run at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Given their season to date it’s easy to write them off but I fear anything less than a semi-final prediction would be foolish, even if I have them finishing behind the two Brad’s. Also, the Marc Kennedy vs. Ryan Fry matchup at third is going to be amazing, even though the CCA booked that game for Sunday morning. That schedule maker should be fired. 

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4Manitoba – West St. Paul Curling Club

 

Skip – Reid Carruthers, Vice – “Pimp” Braeden Moskowy, Second – Derek Samagalski, Lead – Colin Hodgson

Grand Slam Record – 8-4 (N/A, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist)

After last season Jeff Stoughton cleaned house and Reid Carruthers decided to become a skip again. He has put together a pretty decent combination, with a former Canadian Junior champion (Moskowy) and a former Brier Competitor as well (Samagalski).

Although we have not seen a lot of this team, Carruthers has definitely picked up his shooting ability and Samagalski’s big weight ability helps too. Overall for a first year team it is a pretty potent combination, however this is Carruthers first ever Brier as a skip so it’s tough to say how it will go for him.

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4) John Morris (Team Canada)

Brett will get into his reasons why he’s not convinced on Johnny Mo’s squad a little bit later on, but I have this team as a playoff threat. Sure their season hasn’t been stellar with a limited schedule, but you have three members of last year’s championship team and a skip who almost led Jim Cotter to a Brier and Olympic Trials title a year ago. Doubt this rink at your own peril.

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5Saskatchewan – Nutana Curling Club (Saskatoon)

 

Skip – Steve Laycock, Vice – Kirk Muyres, Second – Colton Flasch “Gordon Saviour of the Universe”, Lead – Dallan Muyres

Grand Slam Record – 11-7 (Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, Runner-Up)

This year has been a career year for Steve Laycock. In addition to making his first ever Grand Slam final and coming inches short of his first title at the Canadian Open, he has also had two wins on the World Curling Tour as well. This is a team that just seems to get better and better ever since we took notice of them at the pre-trials two years ago and Laycock has become a more complete player. They have a pretty good shot at making their first playoff appearance but with the field as stacked as this one is, it’s going to be extremely tough.

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5) Mike McEwen (Manitoba)

After some tough luck, Mike McEwen actualized all of the years of dominance on the World Curling Tour by…wait what’s that? HE LOST THE PROVINCIAL FINAL AGAIN?!?!?

In all seriousness the luck this team is on at the provincials is just horrific. I picked the team I’ll mention shortly to win the event but now it’s just getting to the point with McEwen where it’s starting to become gut-wrenching. Here’s hoping the lineup stays intact and gets to the Brier soon.

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5) Reid Carruthers (Manitoba)

This is a team that I loved on paper the moment I saw it, and not just because my boy Braeden Moskowy is there. This is a solid squad from top to bottom that will probably trade provincial titles with McEwen in the years to come. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs in their first go-around, but I expect them to be in the mix for a tiebreaker at least.

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6) British Columbia – Vernon & Kelowna CC

 

Skip – Jimmmmmmm Cotter, Vice – Ryan Kuhn, Second – Tyrel Griffith, Lead – Rick Sawatsky

Grand Slam Record – 3-6 (DNQ, N/A, Quarter-Finalist)

What a different a year makes. Last year Jim Cotter was one win away for a stunning Olympic trials win and he was one win away from his first Brier crown. Now he is back to his usual darkhorse role as he looks to prove that he can get it done as a skip and that he does not need John Morris to help him, which is what a lot of people are going to be talking about.

In terms of this season, they got off to a pretty slow start but they have picked up their play in the second half of the year. Can he beat any of the big teams to make playoffs? It’s going to be real tough.

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6) Jean-Michel Menard (Quebec)

After two strong showings in the last two Briers, I expect the 2006 champion to be in the mix once again. I would probably have this team in the playoffs as well if it wasn’t for the insane depth that is on display in Calgary this week.

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7Quebec – Club De Curling Etchemin (Saint-Romuald)

 

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

Grand Slam Record – N/A

Jean-Michel Menard has had a major resurgence the past two years at the Brier and he’s almost rekindled his title form from 2006. With this year’s lineup, he is probably the true wildcard in the field as you can perhaps make a case for him to get back on the podium or finishing mid pack, it’s just that close. Either way prepare to have your glass and speakers destroyed from his screaming. (Disclaimer: The Punkari Brothers will not be held responsible for glass and speaker damage, you’ve been warned.)

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7) Steve Laycock (Saskatchewan)

Now we get into the teams where I feel like I’ve ranked them lower than I should have. In addition to his great year on the tour, Laycock probably should have made the playoffs in a tiebreaker game last year at the Brier if it wasn’t for a late collapse against James Grattan. I expect him to be strong this week, but it will be tough to make the playoffs in this field.

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8) Team Canada – Glencoe Club (Calgary)

 

Skip – John ‘Johnny Mo’ Morris, Vice – Pat Simmons, Second – Carter Rycroft, Lead – Nolan Thiessen

Grand Slam Record – 7-9 (Quarter-Finalist, DNQ, DNQ) Note: Scott Bailey was playing second for all of the Grand Slam events

So John Morris has left Jim Cotter’s team to take over the old Kevin Koe rink and decided to play a somewhat limited schedule. Thus far it has not gone real well as it has been a major struggle for the most part, including a 1-5 record at the Canada Cup. Although they have looked better in recent months, it’s tough to see them doing well considering the limited schedule they played in this year, even though this is a good lineup on paper.

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8) Jim Cotter (British Columbia)

It’s not that I think Jim Cotter is going to have a bad week. I just think no more Johnny Mo will lead to some struggles that they might not have dealt with a year ago. With that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if last year’s runner-up is in the mix for a tiebreaker by the end of the round-robin.

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9) Ontario – Fenelon Falls CC 

Skip – Mark Kean, Vice – Mat Camm, Second – David Mathers, Lead – Scott Howard

Grand Slam Record – 1-4 (N/A, DNQ, N/A)

Mark Kean was mostly known for being a good but not great team on the tour and in Ontario over the past couple of years. Then all of a sudden, Kean’s fortunes took a turn for the better as he recruited a former Canadian Junior runner-up skip (in Camm) and two players who won a grand slam with John Epping (in Mathers and Howard.

On paper, this is a pretty darn good young lineup who could potentially be a threat down the road if they stick together. However with the amount of great teams at this year’s event, it could be a tough learning experience, but they may scare some people.

Kitchener Ont.Nov9,2013 Capital One Road to the Roar.Skip Mark Kean.CCA/michael burns photo

9) Mark Kean (Ontario)

For me, this is the biggest wild-card of the entire field. One of my favourite young teams in all of men’s curling at the moment, I was pleasantly surprised to see them reach the Brier. A 6-5 record wouldn’t stun me, but it’s going to be quite hard to do well at a Brier for the first time with a field as good as this one is.

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10Northwest Territories – Yellowknife Curling Centre

 

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

Grand Slam Record – N/A

“You talk about your guards, your taps and your John 3:16, Koe 3:16 says I just whipped your Ass!” Yeah we know he is not Stone Cold but Koe 3:16 was the shirt he had at last year’s Brier so I had to run with it. Anyway, this is the toughest lineup the former fourth place finisher has ever had to deal with, though there are some teams near the bottom he could knock off.

He is always very capable of pulling off a couple of his big upsets as well, so while it may be tough, I see Koe 3:16 staying out of relegation.

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10) Adam Casey (Prince Edward Island)

The clear-cut favourite to advance out of pre-qualifying, this talented young line-up sure picked the wrong year to make it onto the scene. I expect that Casey and his rink will pull off a couple of upsets and escape relegation.

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11) Prince Edward Island  – Silver Fox Curling & Yacht Club (Summerside)

 

Skip – Adam Casey, Vice – Josh Barry, Second – Anson Carmody, Lead – Robbie Doherty

Grand Slam Record – 3-6 (N/A, DNQ, DNQ)

We already talked about how this team came about in our provincial preview and of course they will be fighting through the relegation round to get in. What I’ve learned about Adam himself as a skip is that he is not afraid to be very aggressive and potentially try crazy and insane shots that either make look like a hero or zero.

So could he perhaps make a case to try for shot of the week honours? It wouldn’t surprise me. In all honesty, this team is real young and will be great for PEI in the future, but not with this stacked field.

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11) Jamie Koe (Northwest Territories)

Poor Jamie. Had this been any other year I would have them in the mid-pack, but not with this stacked lineup. They should still be safe from avoiding relegation though, as they have loads of experience at the Brier.

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12New Brunswick – Thistle St. Andrews Curling Club (Saint John)

 

Skip – Jeremy Mallais, Vice – Zach Eldridge, Second – Chris Jeffrey, Lead – Jason Vaughn

Grand Slam Record – N/A

In perhaps the upset of the provincials, Jeremy Mallais stunned multi-time New Brunswick champion James Grattan. The trouble is, Jeremy has never been on a stage like this before and a lot of NB curlers are used to straight ice. So that combination will unfortunately see New Brunswick drop to the relegation round in my opinion.

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12) Jeremy Mallais (New Brunswick)

Sure he’s been at a couple of Juniors in the past, but I fear Mallais is being thrown to the wolves at this week’s event. If they avoid relegation, that should be considered a huge accomplishment.

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13) Nova Scotia – Mayflower CC (Halifax)

 

Skip – Glen MacLeod (Throws Third), Vice – Peter Burgess (Throws Skip), Second-Colten Steele, Lead-Rob Mclean

Grand Slam Record – N/A

In another upset Glen MacLeod upset former Nova Scotia champ Jamie Murphy to make it to the Brier. He is in the relegation round where he has to face Adam Casey, which will be a real tough task, so I think Nova Scotia will miss its first ever Brier, since they have been there since the beginning.

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13) Glen MacLeod (Nova Scotia)

MacLeod has been to the Brier once before a third for Paul Flemming’s 5-6 Nova Scotia rink in 1998, so he knows what to expect. However, he’ll be in tough against Casey and even if he wins that game, I think he’ll be in that relegation mix with New Brunswick.

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14) Yukon – Whitehorse Curling Club

Skip – Robert Smallwood, Vice – Wade Scoffin, Second – Steve Fecteau, Lead – Clint Ireland

Grand Slam Record – N/A

Robert Smallwood has been to a Brier before but that was years ago, and this is the first time in quite a long time that Yukon has returned to the Brier. If a certain young skip (Shout-out to Brett’s boy Thomas Scoffin) returns to his province and leads this team then they might be able to fight out of relegation. However, with this current lineup, that won’t be the case.

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14) Robert Smallwood (Yukon)

In his previous two trips to the Brier, Smallwood went 2-9 in 1994 (with wins over PEI’s Mike Gaudet and Alberta’s Ed Lukowich) and repeated that mark in 1995 (with wins over Alberta’s Kevin Martin and New Brunswick’s Bryan MacPherson). Perhaps Kevin Koe should be worried, but it’s hard to see this rink making it that far. If they get to the play-in game against Casey, I would consider that mission accomplished.

 

 


The Punkari Brothers 2015 Scotties Review

Team Northern Ontario skip Tracy Horgan third Jennifer Horgan second Jenna Enge lead Amanda Gates at the Scotties 2015

Written by Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)

The 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts had a bit of history with of course the first pre-qualifying games and the first Northern Ontario representative as well. In terms of the tournament itself it started off pretty routine, however it got real interesting near the end and in the playoffs itself.

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1Manitoba – Jennifer Jones

Well it looks like the Queen of curling has finally returned as Jennifer Jones showed why she is the most successful skip in women’s curling today with a steady and terrific performance all week long. Though she had some scares and some dominant wins, the turning point came after a stunning loss to Nova Scotia mid-week as she turned up the wick. Although her  percentages were lower in the playoffs, you have to go back to her 2nd shot in the 1vs2 game and the shot that catapulted her towards another crown.

Manitoba was the most consistent team from start to finish, and it wasn’t a surprise to see them win. They reached their peak when it mattered the most, and while they weren’t totally sharp in the finals, Jones made two incredible pick takeouts in the ninth end to prevent Val Sweeting from taking the lead. They are a deserving champion and it was great to see Kaitlyn Lawes finally win a Scotties title.

Final Stats

Lead: Dawn McEwen – 1st – 90% (Perfect Game in Draw 4 – British Columbia)

Second: Jill Officer – 1st – 86%

Vice: Kaitlyn Lawes – 1st – 84%

Skip: Jennifer Jones – 2nd – 81%

Team Alberta skip Val Sweeting thrid Lori Olson-Johns second Dana Ferguson leadRachelle Brown win the semifinal at the Scotties 2015

2) Alberta – Val Sweeting

It felt like throughout the entire tournament that Val Sweeting and company were the most consistent team and seemed destined for perhaps running the table or being the favorite in the 1 vs. 2 game. Then  in the final two round robin draws it looked like they hit a brick wall, especially Val herself as draw weight had escaped her. Then, one bad end cost her in the 1 vs. 2 game, and as if things could not be any more sour, the entire team outcurled Manitoba in the final only to lose the title game for the second straight year. Ok so last year’s loss was one thing considering how much Rachel Homan destroyed everyone, but to outcurl Jones and lose has to sting even more.

The losses against Saskatchewan and Manitoba to finish off the round-robin were ugly but they stepped up big time in the semis and the finals. Sure they didn’t win it all, but they proved last year was no fluke though and I expect them to be considered a true threat once again if they make it to the 2016 event.

Final Stats

Lead: Rachelle Brown – Tied for 4th – 85%

Second: Dana Ferguson – Tied for 3rd – 81%

Vice: Lori Olson-Johns – 2nd – 82%

Skip: Val Sweeting – 4th – 79%

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3) Team Canada – Rachel Homan

This team was easily one of the favorites coming in, but this was the first year for this lineup and the fact that they have struggled in finals this season didn’t make them a shoe-in for the finals when the event began. They never really destroyed anyone at this year’s Scotties and they had a number of tough games against teams that they should have annihilated on paper.  The turning point came after their loss to Manitoba and they never seemed to get back on stride as they had lost three of their last five before squeaking out a win against Northern Ontario just to make playoffs. They ran into a red hot Saskatchewan team in the 3 vs. 4 game but managed to get revenge in the bronze medal contest. Though being on the podium three years in a row is nice, it was definitely an un-Homan like week.

Having covered the entire event in Moose Jaw this week, I can easily say that the Homan team was just off slightly, though they were incredible on the last three games they had (especially Emma Miskew’s showing against Northern Ontario). Rachel was missing shots that she would make in her sleep last year and I think that’s what made the difference. With that said, the addition of Courtney made this more or a less a brand-new rink, so a third place result isn’t all that bad. I expect this rink to be back with a vengeance in 2016.

Final Stats

Lead: Lisa Weagle – 2nd – 88%

Second: Joanne Courtney – Tied for 5th – 80 %

Vice: Emma Miskew – 3rd – 81%

Skip: Rachel Homan – 3rd – 80%

Team Saskatchewan, Stefanie Lawton, Sherry Anderson, Stephanie Schmidt, Marliese Kasner and coach Rick Folk Scotties in draw twetve action at the 2015 Scotties

4) Saskatchewan – Stefanie Lawton

It had been an up and down year for Stefanie Lawton’s rink as the skip had a child earlier in the year and Sherry Anderson took over. Then, to make matters worse, Sherri Singler injured her ankle just days before the Scotties and Stephanie Schmidt had to fill in at second. As if things couldn’t get any tougher, two of their first three games were losses to Canada and Manitoba. The team got a lot better as the week went on, including a 9-1 beatdown of Alberta, and they made it to semifinals where they came one point away from Lawton’s first ever Scotties final. To lose the bronze medal game and finish fourth again has to be disappointing but considering what has happened to this team throughout the year it was a good results. They have a chance of reaching the podium next year if things fall the right way.

With Sweeting’s struggled at the end of the round-robin and Homan looking human, Lawton’s red-hot form had everyone convinced that she would be playing Jones in the final. If it wasn’t for a three-ender against Alberta, Saskatcheawn may have been in their first final since Amber Holland won in 2011. It wasn’t the best finish, but this rink did an amazing job of working through their challenges. It’s hard to know how things will play out come next winter, We do know that Schmidt won’t be taking over for Singler next year, as she’s joining up with Michelle Englot’s Regina rink.

Final Stats

Lead: Marliese Kasner – Tied for 4th – 85%

Second: Stephanie Schmidt -2nd – 82%

Vice: Sherry Anderson – 5th – 79%

Skip: Stefanie Lawton – 1st – 83%

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Biggest Surprise – Nova Scotia – Mary-Anne Arsenault

Yes, their record was 5-6. However Nova Scotia played a lot better than what the record showed. They had one point losses to Alberta, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan. They also had two straight upset wins over Manitoba and Canada. So had those losses went the other way they could have been 10-1! This is definitely a case of what could have been and they might have  done what Prince Edward Island almost did in 2010.

Nova Scotia may have been a playoff team, and they certainly did a lot better than I thought they would, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say they would have been a finalist. For starters, that 2010 field was a lot weaker than that was in Moose Jaw this past week. With that said, Arsenault said on a few occasions that they could have been 5-1 at one point and they may be a darkhorse for a playoff spot if they return next year, especially as the younger players have that experience of being in the national spotlight.

Team Stats

Lead: Jennifer Baxter – 3rd – 86%

Second: Jane Snyder – Tied for 3rd – 81%

Vice: Christina Black – Tied for 7th – 76%

Skip: Mary-Anne Arsenault – 8th – 74%

Team Northern Ontario skip Tracy Horgan in final draw action vs Team Canada at the Scotties 2015

My biggest surprise, however, is Northern Ontario. Now to be fair, Brett and I both had Tracy Horgan’s Sudbury rink being an outsider for the playoffs if they made it through pre-qualifying, but I never expected them to push Team Canada to the limit. This week made them known nationally and I expect them to be in the playoffs before the next Olympic Trials.

Team Stats

Lead: Amanda Gates – 11th – 78%

Second: Jenna Enge – Tied for 5th – 80%

Vice: Jennifer Horgan – Tied for 9th – 75%

Skip: Tracy Horgan – 7th – 75%

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Biggest Disappointment – British Columbia – Patti Knezevic

To go from being an alternate last year to winning your provincial title the next year has to be a dream come true. Unfortunately it turned into a nightmare for Patti Knezevic as it was a struggle from first stone to the last. You can almost compare this to Kristie Moore’s performance for Alberta in 2013 as they were not considered a world beater but for this team to struggle that badly left a lot to be desired. Also as a result BC will join the Yukon and Northwest Territories in the relegation round next year.

Perhaps Curl BC will learn from booking Kelly Scott and Kesa Van Osch in the first round of a triple knockout event. Either way, it wasn’t a good week for Knezevic and I doubt that Sarah Koltun and Kerry Galusha will be pleased to play BC next year in the pre-qualifying round.

Team Stats

Lead: Rhonda Camozzi – 7th – 83%

Second: Jen Rusnell – 8th – 75%

Vice: Kristen Fewster – Tied for 9th – 75%

Skip: Patti Knezevic – 12th – 64%

Award Winners

2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Sandra Schmirler Award (MVP): Jennifer Jones – Manitoba

1st Team All Stars

Lead: Dawn McEwen – Manitoba

Second: Jill Officer – Manitoba

Vice: Kaitlyn Lawes – Manitoba

Skip: Stefanie Lawton – Saskatchewan

2nd Team All Stars

Lead: Lisa Weagle – Canada

Second: Stephanie Schmidt – Saskatchewan

Vice: Lori Olson-Johns – Alberta

Skip: Jennifer Jones – Manitoba

Team Saskatchewan third Sherry Anderson, throws her rock in draw five action at the Scotties 2015

Marj Mitchell Sportsmanship Award: Sherry Anderson – Saskatchewan

The Punkari Brothers Shot Of The Week: Stephanie Schmidt – Saskatchewan (Triple peel in 3 vs. 4 game vs. Team Canada in the 11th end)


The Punkari Brothers 2015 Scotties Preview

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Written by Brett Punkari (With cameos by Lucas Punkari)

Before the event preview let’s round up our provincial playdown predictions series.

Part 4 (Brett’s Pick/Lucas’ Pick/Actual Winner)

Northern Ontario: Brad Jacobs/Al Hackner/Brad Jacobs

Alberta: Brendan Bottcher/Kevin Koe/Kevin Koe

British Columbia: Jim Cotter/Jim Cotter/Jim Cotter

Saskatchewan: Steve Laycock/Steve Laycock/Steve Laycock

Ontario: John Epping/Wayne Middaugh/Mark Kean

Nova Scotia: Mark Dacey/Jamie Murphy/Glen MacLeod

Newfoundland & Labrador: Brad Gushue/Brad Gushue/Brad Gushue

Prince Edward Island: Adam Casey/Adam Casey/Adam Casey

Northwest Territories: Jamie Koe/Jamie Koe/Jamie Koe

Manitoba: Mike McEwen/Reid Carruthers/Reid Carruthers

Oh Brett, he didn’t learn in regards to McEwen. My wacky picks (Hackner and Middaugh) didn’t come true, and Brett’s Bottcher prediction was a year early. Other than that we were pretty close though, except for our swing and a miss in Nova Scotia. Now, to our regular scheduled programming.

With all of the provincials over and done with, it is time to crown our national champion on the women’s. This year there is a relegation qualifying round with three teams fighting for a Scotties spot. So for this preview the teams will be ranked 1-14 with 13th and 14th being the two relegation teams that we think will not qualify. Some of these teams have played in the Grand Slams (in this case the Masters of Curling and the Canadian Open) slams so their records will be mentioned as well. Oh yeah, and I get to cover this event in Moose Jaw this week, so I’ll be making some random blog posts as we go along from Mosaic Place. 

1) Team Canada (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: 9-3 (Runner Up and Semi Finalist)

This season Team Homan made a change as Allison Kreviazuk left to go to Sweden. So Joanne Courtney has come in to fill her shoes and it has paid off on the sweeping side as she has made Weagle and Miskew look like fools. However they haven’t come up clutch in finals where it has matter the most. They have lost four of five finals they have been in and they have gotten out curled, especially at second. In order to bring a three-peat they have to get it done in the championship final and Joanne has to bring her best.

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1) The Rachel Homan Killing Machine (Team Canada)

Oh come on, like you were expecting me to pick someone else. In her last two Scotties title, Homan has a combined record of 25-1 and she didn’t even have to throw her final stone in any game last year in Montreal. It’s hard to bet against that especially with the best sweeper in the women’s game now onboard in Joanne Courtney.

With that said, the Homan rink can implode at a moment’s notice and in spectacular fashion (see last year’s world finals against Switzerland or the Canada Cup final in December where Rachel basically kept the game from being a romp). If they are off in any way, they are there for the taking.

2) Alberta (Saville Sports Centre – Edmonton)

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Skip: Val Sweeting “Sweetning Sauce”, Vice: Lori-Olson Johns, Second: Dana Ferguson, Lead: Rachelle Brown

Grand Slam Record: 10-2 (Winner and Semi Finalist)

This year has been a roller coaster for Val Sweeting. At the beginning of the season the team brought in New Brunswick champion Andrea Crawford to be the vice, but that didn’t last long and she left early on. Before the Masters of Curling, they brought in Cathy Overton Clapham to spare and they won the event. Then they brought in Lori-Olson Johns and things got even better as they won the Canada Cup. They have also had Team Homan’s number this season as they have beaten them in the playoffs on their way to winning the Masters of Curling and the Canada Cup. It will be super close, so don’t be surprised if they win this whole thing.

Val Sweeting

2) Val Sweeting (Alberta)

In my opinion, Sweeting has been the most impressive team in the country so far this year. They’ve build off of the momentum of their breakthrough campaign in 2013-14 and have become a major threat despite a couple of line-up changes.

It may be foolish to not pick a Jones/Homan final but with how strong this rink has been, I’m not convinced that will happen.

3) Manitoba (St. Vital Curling Club – Winnipeg)

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Skip: Jennifer Jones, Vice: Kaitlyn Lawes, Second: Jill Officer, Lead Dawn “The Mongoose” McEwen

Grand Slam Record: 7-5 (Semi Finalist and Quarter Finalist)

After winning Olympic gold in 2014, Team Jones has returned and is once again one of favorites. They have not really shown their form from the Olympics as of yet, especially in the Canada Cup as they failed to qualify for the playoffs and were near the bottom in terms of stats in four categories. Though this is the Scotties and you can be sure that Jones will try very hard to get Kaitlyn Lawes her first Scotties crown.

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3) Jennifer Jones (Manitoba)

Okay it’s probably foolish to bet against the most dominant force in Canadian women’s curling in the last decade, but I honestly think Jones is there for the taking. Her overall level of play in the Manitoba playoffs wasn’t all that hot, and coughing up a 4-0 lead and allowing nine straight points to Rachel Homan at the Canada Cup has to be a slight concern.

Like Brett said though, this rink is always on their game at the Scotties. You can make a case that they should have won six in a row prior to being in Sochi, and they will probably be in the finals again. I just can’t pick against Homan or Sweeting at the moment.

4) Saskatchewan (Nutana Curling Club – Saskatoon)

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Skip: Stefanie Lawton, Vice: Sherry Anderson, Second: Sherri Singler, Lead: Marlese Kasner

Grand Slam Record: 1-3 (DNQ – Sherry Anderson skipping)

This year has been different to say the least for Team Lawton as Stefanie Lawton herself sat out most of the year as she had her second child. Sherry Anderson was moved  back to a skipping role with mixed results, including a DNQ at the Canada Cup. With Lawton back, it should help them contend once again however they have to knock off one of the big three teams to do it.

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4) Stefanie Lawton (Saskatchewan)

In addition to being the home rink at the Scotties, Lawton and her rink won the only other major curling event held at Mosaic Place as they capture the 2012 Canada Cup. They should be in the mix for the finals but they will need to avoid a random upset that has dogged them in the past, such as their Draw 17 to defeat to Sarah Koltun that dropped them to the 3 vs. 4 Page playoff game last year.

5) Northern Ontario (Idylwylde Golf and Country Club – Sudbury)

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Skip: Tracy Horgan, Vice: Jennifer Horgan, Second: Jenna Enge, Lead: “Pimp” Amanda Gates

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Tracy Horgan became the first team to qualify for Northern Ontario in Scotties history and the former Ontario champion could have a case for being a potential playoff threat as she has had experience on arena ice before from her 2012 appearance. Now of course they have to fight through the relegation games, though they will have a bit of a leg up on ice conditions, so that has to help in some degree.

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5) Tracy Horgan (Northern Ontario)

The pre-qualifying round is going to be insane as you can make a case for Northern Ontario, Northwest Territories or the Yukon to advance. Personally, I have Horgan coming through based upon their play over the last couple of years on the tour, and if she does she has the best chance of possible sneaking into the playoffs if the big four falter. 

6) Ontario (Bayview Golf & Country Club – Thornhill)

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Skip: Julie Hastings, Vice: Christy Trombly, Second: Stacey Smith, Lead: Katrina Collins

Grand Slam Record: 1-3 (DNQ)

This was our darkhorse team to win Ontario and they came through by beating Sherry Middaugh in the final. They are among the top teams in Ontario but it’s really difficult to tell how they will do in their first ever Scotties. They should be in the mix for a playoff spot, but it’s going to be tough.

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6) Julie Hastings (Ontario)

After Crystal Webster, Hastings was probably the best skip never to have been at a Scotties based upon her strong play in Ontario. Now that she’s here, she’s flying in under the radar compared to more well-known teams, and that should allow them to be in the playoff discussion if a top rink falters. 

7) New Brunswick (Curl Moncton)

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Skip: Sylvie Robichaud, Vice: Rebecca Atkinson, Second: Marie Richard, Lead: Jane Boyle

Grand Slam Record: N/A

With Andrea Crawford moving to Val Sweeting’s team (and we all know what happened there), Rebecca Atkinson had to look for a new team and has joined Sylvie Robichaud who has been a New Brunswick runner-up over the past few years. Although Atkinson’s experience has to help Robichaud in some regard, it will be a rebuilding year for New Brunswick before we’d consider them a playoff darkhorse.

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7) Sylvie Robichaud (New Brunswick)

Robichaud has skipped at the Scotties before in 2008, where she finished with a 1-10 record with her only win coming against Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt. Atkinson has impressed me with her play with Crawford over the last few years and should help Robichaud out a lot here, even if they may not be in the playoff discussion. 

8) Newfoundland & Labrador (Bally Haly Golf & Country Club – St. John’s)

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Skip: Heather Strong, Vice: Stephanie Korab, Second: Jessica Cunningham, Lead: Kathryn Cooper

Grand Slam Record: N/A

It’s another Scotties appearance for Heather Strong, as Stephanie Korab has taken Laura Strong’s place on the team. Last year’s saw Strong get off to a 4-1 start but she lost her last six games to fall out of the playoff race. This year, with a slightly stronger field, it will be tougher for Strong to have that same type of start so don’t be surprised if she is around mid-pack all week.

Team Newfoundland/Labrador skip Heather Strong throws her rock at the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian Women's Curling Championship

8) Heather Strong (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Strong has a daunting stretch where she has to play Jones, Sweeting and Homan in rapid succession, with the qualifier team facing her in between the Alberta and Team Canada contests. If she can pull off an upset there, she might sneak into the tiebreaker mix, but she can’t afford to drop a game to one of the lesser squad.

9) Nova Scotia (Mayflower Curling Club – Halifax)

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Skip: Mary-Anne Arsenault, Vice: Christina Black, Second: Jane Snyder, Lead: Jennifer Baxter

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Mary-Anne Arsenault returns after her 2013 Scotties appearance with a much younger squad though she still has Jennifer Baxter with her. The field wasn’t great in 2013 and she could have made the playoffs had things tipped in her favor in some games. This year, I don’t see that happening.

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9) Mary-Anne Arsenault (Nova Scotia)

Obviously not having another Colleen Jones reunion tour isn’t fun but Arsenault should do alright. Okay she won’t probably won’t be in the playoff mix, but I wouldn’t be stunned if this five-time national champion pulls off a few upsets and plays a spoiler role to the top sides.

10) British Columbia (Prince George Golf and Country Club)

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Skip: Patti Knezevic, Vice: Kristen Fewster, Second: Jen Rusnell, Lead: Rhonda Camozzi

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Last year Patti Knezevic was at the Scotties as an alternate for Kesa Van Osch. When a flu bug spread it hit BC the worst as Knezevic has to skip a couple of games (a 7-3 win over Ontario and a 8-7 win over the Yukon) and at times had to play with only three players. We know she can skip on Scotties ice, which should help, but its tough to see this team finishing higher than mid pack.

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10) Suzanne Birt (Prince Edward Island)

It’s been 12 years since the two time Canadian Junior champion took the Scotties by storm with a 10-1 record and a third place finish in her debut. She’s been nowhere close to that since then and while I would love for her to be in the mix once again, I just don’t see that happening. Now if she could somehow get Erin Carmody and Geri-Lynn Ramsay to come back to PEI, that might be the spark that’s needed. 

11) Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown Curling Complex)

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Skip: Suzanne Birt, Vice: Shelly Bradley, Second: Michelle McQuaid, Lead: Susan McInnis

Suzanne Birt is still trying to find that magic form that she had way back in 2003. Though the lineup is different than in previous years, it’s really tough to see her ever rekindling that form. Though I could be absolutely wrong by the end of the week as PEI could be at best a mid-pack team, but that does not seem likely.

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11) Patti Knezevic (British Columbia)

 Like Jill Shumay in 2013, I really have no idea where to put this rink. I think I have them way too low in the grand scheme of things but since they are a brand new rink to this experience, I really can’t put them anywhere else. I fully expect this team to be the one I miss the most in my predictions.

12) Quebec (Glenmore & Etchemin Curling Clubs – Dollard-des-Ormeaux and Saint-Romuald)

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Skip: Lauren Mann, Vice: Amelie Blais, Second: Brittany O’Rourke, Lead: Anne-Marie Fliteau

Grand Slam Record: N/A

This province has had its struggles ever since Marie France-Larouche’s last appearance three years ago. Their records have been below .500 and it has gotten worse. It will be up to Lauren Mann to try to prevent relegation, though they are the best team in Quebec at the moment so they could be in okay shape. Plus, having two former Scotties competitors in O’Rourke and Fliteau should help a bit.

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12) Lauren Mann (Quebec)

They might be the top team in Quebec at the moment but the drop-off between Marie France and everyone else in that province is like the one between Eve Muirhead and everyone else in Scotland. Mann will be in tough in Moose Jaw and Quebec is my pick to be in the relegation pool for the 2016 event.

13) Northwest Territories (Yellowknife Curling Centre)

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Skip: Kerry Galusha, Vice: Megan Cormier, Second: Danielle Derry, Lead: Shona Barbour

Grand Slam Record:N/A

Normally Galusha would be almost a sure bet to make it out of the relegation round. Unfortunately with Northern Ontario in the mix it might be a very tough task. However if Galusha manages to make it out of relegation she is always capable of pulling a big upset or two so approach this team with caution.

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13) Kerry Galusha (Northwest Territories)

I actually got to see the Galusha rink play in Calgary against Team Homan in October and they gave them a bit of a scare before the defending Scotties champs pulled away. Horgan’s favoured to get out of the relegation round but Galusha won’t make things easy. If she advances, I have her finishing in ninth place and pulling off one or two upsets.

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

Last year Koltun made her first Scotties appearance right after being in the Canadian Juniors. It was definitely a learning experience with only two wins, however that included a huge upset over Saskatchewan. Unfortunately it could be a real tough road for her to make it out of relegation with the other two teams in the group. If she were to make it out I don’t see her finishing higher than the bottom of the pack.

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14) Sarah Koltun (Yukon)

Kolton’s going to a massive threat in the future but being stuck in a stellar relegation group may result in a short visit to Moose Jaw. I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes it into the main tournament though and I would have her finishing in 10th place ahead of BC and Quebec, mainly because she’s been here before.


2015 Curling Provincial Preview Blowout (Part 4)

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Written by Brett Punkari (with cameos by Lucas Punkari)

Before we get into the Brier playdowns, a brief recap of what’s happened so far and how we’ve done.

Part 1 (Brett’s Pick/Lucas’s Pick/Actual Winner)

Quebec Men’s: Jean-Michel Menard/Jean-Michel Menard/Jean-Michiel Menard

Quebec Women’s: Lauren Mann/Lauren Mann/Lauren Mann

Northern Ontario Women’s: Tracy Horgan/Tracy Horgan/Tracy Horgan

Newfoundland & Labrador Women’s: Heather Strong/Heather Strong/Heather Strong

(All of these picks were pretty straight forward to be honest. Not a bad start though)

Part 2 (Brett’s Pick/Lucas’s Pick/Actual Winner)

Ontario Women’s: Allison Flaxey/Sherry Middaugh/Julie Hastings

Nova Scotia Women’s: Mary-Anne Arsenault/Mary-Anne Arsenault/Mary-Anne Arsenault

Alberta Women’s: Val Sweeting/Heather Nedohin/Val Sweeting

Saskatchewan Women’s: Stefanie Lawton/Stefanie Lawton/Stefanie Lawton

British Columbia Women’s: Kelly Scott/Kelly Scott/Patti Knezevic

Prince Edward Island Women’s: Kathy O’Rourke/Suzanne Birt/Suzanne Birt

Manitoba Women’s: Jennifer Jones/Jennifer Jones/Jennifer Jones

(I missed on Alberta and Brett missed on PEI but we were pretty much in lock step the rest of the way. Brett did peg Julie Hastings as a dark horse but British Columbia was a massive miss. Pro-tip to Curl BC, don’t book a rematch of last year’s final as the first game in a triple knockout event the following season.)

Part 3 (Brett’s Pick/Lucas’s Pick/Actual Winner)

New Brunswick Women’s: Sylvie Robichaud/Sylvie Robichaud/Sylvie Robichaud

New Brunswick Men’s: James Grattan/James Grattan/Jeremy Mallais

(If I have to look up the guy who won the men’s New Brunswick title, that can’t be a good sign for his relegation chances. Anyways, let’s go to Brett.)

Now that the Scotties provincials are over, its time for the men to take centre stage. There is the potential to have one of the most stacked Brier fields in recent memory, though with the provincial playdowns you can never assume anything until the last rock is thrown.

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Northern Ontario – Feb 4-8 (Last Year’s Brier Finish 11th)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

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

Chris Glibota, Matt Mann, Kyle Sherlock, Mark Dugas

Mike Jakubo, Jordan Chandler, Sandy MacEwan, Lee Toner

Dylan Johnston, Mike Badiuk, Chris Briand, Travis Showwalter

Al Hackner, Frank Morissette, Kris Leupen, Gary Champagne

Ben Mikkelsen, Taylor Kallos, Brian Skinner, Dave Durant

Bryan Burgees, Rob Champagne, Al Macsemchuk, Pat Berezowski

Jeff Currie, Mike McKarville, Colin Koivula, Jamie Childs

With Team Jacobs returning to the provincial championship after their Olympic gold it will be a tough test for all of the other teams in Northern Ontario. There are some good teams here though with recent provincial champions Mike Jakubo and Jeff Currie to Living Legend Al Hackner and former Canadian Junior runner up Dylan Johnston.

However Jacobs is head and shoulders above everyone else. The question is will he win it the easy by domination or will they do it in team tradition, which is the hard way.

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Yes Jacobs should win this going away but that’s a boring pick. I’ve decided to live dangerously and go with Al Hackner. There’s a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, he’s Al Freaking Hackner. Secondly, he just about made the playoffs the last time he played at the provincials in 2013. And finally, there’s bound to be one crazy upset in the playdowns this week, so why not this one.

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Alberta – Feb. 4-8 (Last Year’s Brier Finish 1st)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Brendan Bottcher, Tom Appleman, Bradley Thiessen, Karrick Martin

Matthew Blandford, Darren Moulding, Brent Hamilton, Brad Chyz

Mick Lizmore, Nathan Connoly, Parker Konschuh, Carter Lautner

Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert

Aaron Sluchinski, Justin Sluchinski, Dylan Webster, Eric Richard

Scott Manners, Tom Sallows, Ryan Deis, Jordan Stienke

Daylan Vavrek, Evan Asmussen, Jason Gitner, Andrew O’Dell

James Pahl, Ted Appleman, Mark Klinck, Ronald Robinson

Jessi Wilkinson, Morgan Van Doesburg, Aasron Luchko, Neal Woloschuk

Brock Virtue, Charley Thomas, Brandon Klassen, D.J Kidby

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Jamie King, Jeff Erikson, Warren Hassal, Glen Kennedy

Alberta is always a tough province to get out of but this year it comes down to two teams. Former Canadian junior champion Brendan Bottcher and of course Kevin Koe.

This year Koe has a brand new team which on paper seems like a godly lineup. However they have not done that great so far. In terms of grand slam and CCA events they have had a semi final finish but two DNQ’s. Also there have been times where Kevin does not seem that confident with his shot making.

On the other side of the coin Bottcher is having a breakout year with two semifinal finishes on the grand slam circuit. Yes the slams have different rules and less ends than CCA events but it’s still impressive. Based on that I smell an upset as I think Brendan Bottcher will upset Koe and make his first Brier appearance. Also if you want some broom smashing watch the Brock Virtue team.

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Although I see Brett’s point about Bottcher pulling off an upset, I think he’s a year early on that train. For me, Koe’s new lineup is just too good for them not to win the provincials. I mean, are you going to bet against a team that has Marc Kennedy. I think not.

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British Columbia – Feb. 3-8 (Last Year’s Brier Finish 2nd)

The Field (skip to lead)

Chris Baier, Michael Johnson, Corey Chester, Sanjay Bowry

Tom Buchy, Dave Stephenson, Dave Toffolo, Darren Will

Jim Cotter, Ryan Khun, Tyrell Griffith, Rick Sawatsky

Wes Craig, Scott MacDonald, Tony Anslow, Victor Gamble

Neil Dangerfield, Denis Sutton, Darren Boden, Glen Allen

Scott DeCap, Ron Douglas, Pat DeCap, Glen Olsen

Grant Dezura, Kevin MacKenzie, Kevin Recksieder, Jamie Smith

Sean Geall, Andrew Bilesky, Steve Kopf, Mark Olson

Dean Joanisse, Paul Cseke, Jay Wakefield, John Cullen

Mark Longworth, Michael Longworth, Jonathan Gardner, John Slattery

Ken McArdle, Chase Martyn, Cody Johnston, Will Sutton

Jason Montgomery, Jody Epp, Miles Craig, Will Duggan

Darren Nelson, Russ Koffski, Jared Jenkins, Adam Windsor

Brent Pierce, Jeff Richard, Tyler Orme, David Harper

Stephen Schneider, Jeff Guignard, Shawn Eklund, Brant Amos

Daniel Weznick, Nicholas Meister, Calvin Heels, Brian Heels

This year’s British Columbia field is a little more even with John Morris back in Alberta. Jim Cotter is back to a skipping role while bringing in Ryan Khun to replace Johnny Mo.

Cotter is the favorite though former champion Sean Geall has brought in Andrew Bilesky which can make them a pretty good combination. Another darkhorse team is another former BC champion in Brent Pierce but it should be Cotter’s to lose.

Saskatoon Sk,Mar7_2012.Tim Hortons Brier.B.C. skip Jim Cotter.CCA/michael burns photo

Following his breakout year in 2014 (thanks in large part to Johnny Mo being on board) Cotter is back into his dark horse mode. I agree with Brett that he should win BC, but I think it will be closer than people think.

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Saskatchewan – Feb. 4-8 (Last Year’s Brier Finish 5th)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Jason Ackerman, Brent Goeres, Horwath Curtis, Mike Armstrong

Scott Bitz, Jeff Sharp, Aryn Schmidt, Dean Hicke

Randy Bryden, Troy Robinson, Kelley Knapp, Trent Knapp

Michael Carss, Mark Bahnrey, Loren Torfimenkoff, Tyler Matheison

Dale Craig, Brady Scharback, Dustin Phillips, Cory Fleming

Drew Heidt, Shawn Meachem, Mitch Heidt, Jeff Chambers

Brent Gedak,Catlin Schneider, Derek Owens, Shawn Meyer

Erwin Hanley, Andrew Edgar, Dean Cursons, Cory Hubick

Jeff Hartung, Kody Hartung, Tyler Hartung, Claire Decock

Jason Jacobson, Dustin Kalthoff, Tony Korol, Rory Golanowski

Josh Heidt, Brock Montgomery, Matthew Lang, Jayden Shwaga

Joel Jordison, Chris Busby, Dane Roy, Matt Froehlich

Steve Laycock, Kirk Muyers, Colton Flasch, Dallan Muyers

Kevin Marsh, Matt Ryback, Daniel Marsh, Aaron Shutra

Terry Marteniuk, Trevor Mackan, Ray Sharp, Aron Hershmiller

Jamie Schneider, Rick Schneider, Curt England, Shannon England

Though this is a pretty large field in Saskatchewan there are two names that probably standout. The most notable name is reigning champion Steve Laycock who is having a career year after making his first grand slam final. The other name that could be a threat is former Saskatchewan champion Joel Jordison, although Laycock is a league above everyone else so it should be an easy road for him to make his second consecutive Brier appearance.

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Jordison (who is from my new neck of the woods in Moose Jaw) is curling part-time this year, so that should work even more into Laycock’s advantage of being the true favourite. If there’s one province though where a team can come out of nowhere and win however, it’s Saskatchewan. So keep that in mind if a team you haven’t heard of makes it to the finals.

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Ontario – Feb. 2-8 (Last Year’s Brier Finish 8th)

The Field (skip to lead)

Greg Balsdon, Mark Bice, Tyler Morgan, Jamie Farnell

Colin Dow, Ritchie Gillan,  Brett Lyon-Hatcher, John Steski

John Epping, Travis Fanset, Patrick Janssen, Tim March

Joe Frans, Craig Van Ymern, Bowie Abbis-Mills, Jeff Gorda

Cory Heggestad, Dylan Tippin, Simon Barrick, Brandon Tippin

Mark Kean, Matthew Camm, David Mathers, Scott Howard

Ian MacAualy, Steve Allen, Rick Allen, Barry Conrad

Wanye Middaugh, Graeme McCarrel, Peter Corner, Codey Maus

Robert Rumfeldt, Adam Spencer, Brad Kidd, Jake Higgs

Aaron Squiers, Matt Mapletoft, Spencer Nuttall, Fraser Reid

Jon St. Denis, Chris Ciasnocha, Mike Aprile, Shawn Cotrill

As your reading through this field, you’ll notice an obvious name that’s missing. Yep for the first time since 2003 Glenn Howard failed to qualify for provincials. With him out of the picture this field can have as many as six teams (Epping, Frans, Kean, Middaugh, Rumfeldt and Balsdon) with a potential chance of winning it all.

So to determine a champion it comes down to tour and grand slam results. Two teams have stood out with Epping being former Grand Slam champion and Kean having qualified for playoffs on occasions. So I see it coming down to those two and I think Epping will finally breaking through to make his first appearance as a skip. However, seeing Wayne Middaugh skipping the Peter Corner rink has to make some of the teams look over their shoulder as he tries to rekindle his past skipping glory from the 90’s.

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Call me nostalgic but I got Middaugh winning this thing. For starters, he skipped my all-time favourite team to a title in 1998 (I don’t care what anyone says, that’s the best rink ever. The current McEwen squad that is king of the cash spiels would be destroyed by that Middaugh squad). Secondly, Peter Corner and Graeme McCarrell are on the team. If he had Ian Tetley or Scott Bailey as well this would be a romp.

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Nova Scotia – Feb. 3-8 (Last Year’s Brier Finish 12th) 

The Field (skip to lead)

Mark Dacey, Stuart Thompson, Andrew Gibson, Shawn Adams

Paul Dexter, Mark Robar, Neil Gallant, Tommy Bragnalo

Ian Fitzner-Leblanc, Ian Juurlink, Graham Beckon, Kelly Mittelstadt

Pete Burgees, Glen Macleod, Colten Steele, Robbie Mclean

Robert Mayhew, Michael Brophy, Nick Burdock, Ben Creaser

Jamie Murphy, Jordan Pinder, Scott Babin, Tyler Gamble

Chad Stevens, Cameron Mackenzie, Scott Saccary, Phil Crowell

Tom Sullivan, Paul Flemming, Travis Colter, Donald McDermaid

Whoever wins this province will have to fight their way through the relegation rounds with the addition of Team Canada. There are three skips who are all former provincials champions that are contenders for the crown (Dacey, Leblanc and Murphy) though based upon the lineups and how close he has come over the years to making a return trip I think Mark Dacey will win it. He’ll be the best hope for the Bluenosers to escape relegation though it could be a tough task with another maritime province which will be mentioned in a bit.

Saskatoon Sk,Tim Hortons Brier 2012.N.S. skip Jamie Murphy,CCA/michael burns photo

Although Dacey does have Shawn Adams on his side I’m going to take Jamie Murphy, who is pretty much going to be Nova Scotia’s top team over the next decade. I don’t see him getting out of the relegation round though, as there’s another team we will talk about shortly that should win that with ease.

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Newfoundland and Labrador – Feb. 3-8 (Last Year’s Brier Finish Ties for 5th)

The Field (skip to lead)

Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker

Gary Wensman, Jeff Staples, Ivan Davis, Neil Peckham

Yes you read it right. Only two teams are going to fight it out for the Newfoundland provincial title. In terms of Gushue, he’s made another lineup change with Adam Casey being replaced by a returning Mark Nichols. It will unfortunately be a bloodbath for Team Wensman but if they manage to beat Gushue in a game in the best of five series, they can feel pretty good about themselves.

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Can I just pick 1976 Brier winner Jack MacDuff instead? Gushue was going to win this either way, but the fact there are only two teams in the entire provincials has to be a massive concern for the province going forward. Hopefully that can be solved quickly.

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Prince Edward Island – Feb. 6-10 (Last Year’s Brier Finish – 9th)

Adam Casey, Josh Barry, Anson Carmody, Robbie Doherty

Blair Jay, Marc LeClair, Aidan Downey, Richard Roland

Jamie Newson, Andrew Robinson, Sean Clarey, Shawn Pitre

Robert Campbell, Kyle Holland, Mike Dillon, Taylor Mclnnis

Tyler Harris, Sam Ramsay, Cody Dixon, Mike Trudeau

Tyler MacKenzie, Kevin Champion, Matthew Nabuurs, Sean Ledgerwood

This is the other maritime province that has to fight through relegation and there is one team that has become a potential shot in the arm this province desperately needs.

Adam Casey was let go from Team Gushue so he decided to become a skip and brought along former New Brunswick player Josh Barry and Anson Carmody, who was with Eddie MacKenzie.  This team has done decent on the tour but being a young rink is the real reason why this team is a huge boost to the province. If they win the provincials, I see them making it through relegation.

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Casey’s the favourite for his province and relegation and it’s not even close. PEI probably should of avoided being in this spot last year but thanks to silly CCA rules (a combined total of three previous results were added together to determine the relegation pool) here they are. If they get out of relegation, they will probably be a mid-pack team, but that depends on the field that is in Calgary.

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Northwest Territories – Feb. 4-8 (Last Year’s Brier Finish 10th)

The Field (Skip to lead)

Larry Greenland, Georgie Greenland, AJ McDonald, Conrad Borque

Jamie Koe, Kevin Whitehead, Brad Chorostikowski, Robert Borden

Dave Mcleod, Donocan Arey, Mel Sittchinli, Richard Ross

Stephen Moss, Ron Delmage, Brett Zubot, Matthew Miller

Nick Saturino, Mark Robertson, Kevin Mcleod, Gordie Kasook

Greg Skauge, Tom Naugler, Brad Patzer, Jim Sosiak

Thanks to Jamie Koe’s previous performances, including a fourth place finish in 2012, the Northwest Territories avoided the relegation games. Even though it’s a decent sizeed field for this province, it should be an easy road foe Koe 3:16 to make another Brier return.

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You talk about your guards, you talk about your John 3:16’s. Koe 3:16 says I just smashed your rocks. Anytime I get to make a Stone Cold Steve Austin reference in a curling blog is a good day.

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Manitoba Feb4-8 (Last year’s brier finish 3rd)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Because the field is so Gigantic (32 teams) here’s a link to show all of the teams competing. (Oh your no fun Brett)

https://cdn.metricmarketing.ca/www.curlmanitoba.org/files/2015_events/personnel-safeway_media.pdf

This is the biggest provincial championship out there with 32 teams and it features Canadian junior champions, Brier winners, World Curling Tour event winners, and so much more.

This year’s title boils down to three teams. Firstly there’s Reid Carruthers who has returned to a skipping role and has had a pretty good year by winning the Stu Sells Toronto tankard and making the quarters in a grand slam event. Secondly is Jeff Stoughton. He has not had the best of years with a new lineup though he does bring back Rob Fowler and he is always in the hunt.

Finally there is the team that everyone is watching and that is Mike McEwen. They have dominated the WCT like they always have, but they did win their first CCA event in December at the Canada Cup. They are the favorites by a mile and I think it will finally be his time as they break through and put all of their previous runner ups behind them.

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Oh Brett, haven’t you learned from the last five provincials. Things can and will go wrong for McEwen’s team when you least expect it. He should have won the 2012 title but laid a huge egg against Rob Fowler, in what was his best chance to make it to the Brier. Based upon that history, I can’t go all in and pick him.

So as a result, I’m taking Reid Carruthers. For starters, he’s got Braeden Moskowy on the team who I’m a huge fan of, and he’s basically the best of the rest. I’m setting this up for yet another Stoughton win aren’t I? 


2015 Curling Provincial Preview Blowout (Part 3)

Flag-of-New-BrunswickWritten by Brett Punkari (with cameos by Lucas Punkari)

New Brunswick takes centre stage this weekend as they will wrap up the Scotties playdowns and get the Brier action underway. These look like straight forward events to pick but we thought the same thing about British Columbia last weekend.

New Brunswick Women’s – Jan 28-Feb 1 (Last Year’s Scotties Finish Tied for 5th)

The Field (skip to lead)

Melissa Adams, Danielle Amos, Nicole Arsenault-Bishop, Kendra Lister

Sharon Levesque, Debbie McCann, Linda Smith, Christy Borgland

Sarah Mallais, Leah Thompson, Kaitlyn Veitch, Jade Carruthers

Nicole McCann, Laurie Nason, Shelly Eastwood, Carol Charlton

Sylvie Robichaud, Rebecca Atkinson, Marie Richard, Jane Boyle

Shannon Tatlock, Jaclyn Crandall, Shelby Wilson, Emily MacRae

At the end of the 2014 season Andrea Crawford made a stunning move from her home province to Alberta to be part of the Val Sweeting team. However, that move blew up in her face as she left the team shortly after the season began. When that original move happened it forced Rebecca Atkinson to join Sylvie Robichuad, who is a runner up in New Brunswick over the past couple years. With Atkinson’s Scotties experience it should make for an easy provincial.

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This is Atikinson’s to lose like Brett has said already, but it’s hard to see here really making an impact on the Scotties stage now that we know most of the field, especially with Crawford no longer playing. She may battle for the best of the rest category with Julie Hastings, but there’s no way she works into the big four.

New Brunswick Men’s – Jan. 28-Feb. 1 (Last Year’s Brier Finish Tied for 5th)

The Field (skip to lead)

James Grattan, Jason Roach, Darren Roach, Peter Case

Mike Kennedy, Brody Hanson, David Easter, Chris Smith

Jeremy Mallais, Zach Eldrige, Chris Jeffrey, Jared Bezanson

Andy McCain, Marc Lecocq, Scott Jones, Jamie Branen

Grant Odishaw, Rick Perron, Adam Firth, Robert Daley

Terry Odishaw, Paul Dobson, Mark Dobson, Spencer Mawhinney

Wayne Tallon, Mike Flannery, Chris McCann, Mike Flannery Jr.

Jason Vaughn, Charlie Sullivan, Brian King, Paul Nason

Unlike the women’s field, the New Brunswick men’s side has remained the same with Grattan returning with the same team. In terms of this field I see him winning once again, though I can see his toughest competition being Terry Odishaw and perhaps Jason Vaughn.

1297378514345_ORIGINALLike Brett I also have Grattan winning this but he may end being in the battle for relegation at the Brier. That’s not to say this is a bad team, but the field could be the most stacked in a long time.


A Check-In On My Mental State

“Well, once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.”

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Boy look at that smiling fool standing with The Rachel Homan Killing Machine. What do you mean he has a mental illness?

For those of you that may be aware or  may not be aware, I’ve been dealing with depression for a little over a decade now. In fact, few people knew about it other than some very close friends and family members until I wrote a column about it for the Airdrie City View back in February.

So how are things now you may ask? Well much to my surprise, I’m the happiest that I’ve been in quite a long time.

It’s strange in a sense for me to be like this. As my closest confidants will tell you, I’ve had times where I’m feeling good for quite awhile and then I end up fighting off the demons in my head once again for a long period of time.

I think there’s a couple of reasons for the recent uptick in my head. One is a motto I’ve had as of late of  to accentuate the positives and hide the negatives. Okay I stole that from what Paul Heyman said on The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD but it fits in to what I’m doing. Whether that’s not  reading articles that just tick me off or following negative people that bring me down on social media, it helps out quite a lot.

Plus, I’ve have the chance to do a ton of cool stuff in the last 12 months. I got to cover the CHL Top Prospects game, met Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe by pure dumb luck (plus Team Homan), went to a bevy of concerts, and achieved my goal of working for a daily paper in a major junior hockey market in Moose Jaw. The highs have certainly surpassed any lows.

Sure everything mentally could change and I may end up in a funk at some point. But I have way too much too look forward (such as the Scotties here in two weeks in Moose Jaw and going back home in the summer) to be worried about that.

Now while my mental state is in a good space, that’s not to say that my approach is the clear-cut answer to everyone’s issues.

Those who are dealing with any mental illness are battling different issues in different ways, and harming themselves sadly becomes the case more often than not.

As ever, all I can say to people is to reach out, be it to a friend, family member, or just a random passerby. Someone out there cares.


2015 Curling Provincial Preview Blowout Spectacular (Part 2)

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Written by Brett Punkari (with cameos by his brother Lucas)

So what have we learned so far? Well the provincials to date have pretty much gone to according to plan. Unless you count Glenn Howard failing to make the Ontario men’s playdowns, but that’s another story.

All but New Brunswick will have their Scotties representative decided as of Sunday, so let’s get this show on the road. 

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Ontario Women’s – Jan 19-25 (Last Year’s Scotties Finish Tied for 9th)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Megan Balsdon, Jessica Corrado, Stephanie Corrado, Laura Hickey

Allison Flaxey, Katie Cottrill, Kristen Foster, Morgan Court

Clancy Grandy, Janet Murphy, Melissa Foster, Nicole Westlund

Jacqueline Harrison, Susan Froud, Katelyn Wasylkiw, Jordan Ariss

Julie Hastings, Christy Trombley, Stacey Smith, Katrina Collins

Danielle Inglis, Shannon Harrington, Cassandra de Groot, Kiri Campbell

Shannon Kee, Pam Feldkamp, Margot Flemming, Halyna Tepylo

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

Caitlin Romain, Kendall Haymes, Kerilyn Mathers, Cheryl Kreviazuk

Rhonda Varnes, Melissa Gannon, Melissa McAuley, Rebecca Wichers Schreur

Last year Allison Flaxey pulled a shocker by upsetting teams like Sherry Middaugh and Tracy Horgan to secure her first Scotties Birth. Although she struggled, this year has been a lot better as she’s played more on arena ice (including her appearance at the Canada Cup) and games against Middaugh have been very close.

I expect these two teams to play in the finals and I see Flaxey making her second trip to the Scotties. However, don’t count out last year’s provincial runner-up Julie Hastings, as she has played in a couple of grand slams this year as well.

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I’ll probably end up being proved wrong but I think this year will finally see Sherry Middaugh win the Ontario title. Sure she usually struggles as the provincial but I think the law of averages will finally turn in her favour. That and no Rachel Homan in the field will help with that. 

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Nova Scotia Women’s – Jan 20-25 (Last Year’s Scotties Finish Tied for 7th)  

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Mary-Anne Arsenault, Christina Black, Jane Snyder, Jennifer Baxter

Theresa Breen, Tanya Hilliard, Jocelyn Adams, Amanda Simpson

Margaret Cutcliffe, Sara Jane Arason, Courtney Smith, Virginia Jackson

Kelly MacIntosh, Kristen MacDiarmid, Jennifer Crouse, Karlee Jones

Nancy McConnery, Sara Spafford, Mackenzie Proctor, Julia Williams

Jocelyn Nix, Julie McEvoy, Sheena Moore, Shelley Barker

Danielle Parsons, Amanda Colter, Katrina MacKinnon, Laura Kennedy

Sarah Rhyno, Mary Mattatall, Elizabeth Woodworth, Jennifer Brine

Without defending champion Heather Smith, the Nova Scotia field is fairly wide open with former Scotties participants Arsenault and McConnery in the mix along with Danielle Parsons. So it’s a bit of a tough call but I think Arsenault will come through again and perhaps fight for a playoff spot. However it depends on the field in Moose Jaw.

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I think this is Arsenault’s to lose but I really don’t see here as a playoff threat. That’s not to say their a bad team, but given the field that may be in Moose Jaw, I doubt she will be anything better than mid-pack. 

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Alberta Women’s – Jan 21-25 (Last Year’s Scotties Finish 2nd)

The Field (Skip to lead)

Chelsea Carey, Laura Crocker, Taylor McDonald, Jen Gates

Delia DeJong, Amy Janko, Brittany Zelmer, Janais DeJong

Karynn Flory, Richelle Baer, Amanda Moizis, Katie Roskewich

Tiffany Game, Vanessa Pouliot, Jennifer Van Wieren, Melissa Pierce

Teryn Hamilton, Kalynn Park, Sandi Weber, Alanna Blackwell

Nicky Kaufman, Holly Whyte, Deena Benoit, Pam Appleman

Shannon Kleibrink, Lisa Eyamie, Nikki Smith, Darah Blandford

Heather Nedohin, Amy Nixon, Jessica Mair, Laine Peters

Deanne Nicol, Dawn Corbeil, Sandra Sharp, Michelle Pashniak

Casey Scheidegger, Cary-Anne McTaggart, Jessie Sheidegger, Brittany Tran

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

Crystal Webster, Jessie Kaufman, Geri-Lynn Ramsay, Rebecca Konschuh

This is the toughest province to get out of as many as four teams (Webster, Carey, Nedohin and Sweeting) have a legit case of winning Alberta. Although Webster has not done a lot this year, the other three teams have been on the Grand Slam circuit. Since Carey has struggled a bit with a new team and switching provinces from Manitoba to Alberta, that leaves Nedohin and Sweeting.

Thus far Val has had a better season as she won her first grand slam and also won the Canada Cup. I expect them to win once again at the provincials, but it’s going to be very close.

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Like Brett said, there’s four teams who you can seriously see winning the Alberta crown, and you have a fifth squad if you include Shannon Kleibrink. Val’s probably the favourite given her season but I’m going with Nedohin, mainly because of the fact that Amy Nixon is on the team.

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Saskatchewan Women’s – Jan 21-25 (Last Year Scotties Finish 4th)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Brett Barber, Samamtha Yachiw, Meaghan Frerichs, Kaetlyn Bowman

Penny Barker, Deanna Doig, Amanda Craigie, Danielle Sicinski

Chantelle Eberle, Cindy Ricci, Larisa Murray, Debbie Lozinski

Michelle Englot, Candace Chisholm, Ashley Howard, Kristy Johnson

Shalon Fleming, Ashley Green, Marsha Munro, Ashley Desjardins

Brenda Goertzen, Robyn Silvernagle, Cristina Goertzen, Anita Silvernagle

Jessica Hanson, Kourtney Fesser, Krista Fesser, Brie Spilchen

Stefanie Lawton, Sherry Anderson, Sherri Singler, Marliese Kasner

Trish Paulsen, Jenna Loder, Kari Johanson, Kari Paulsen

Mandy Selzer, Erin Selzer, Kristen Sauter, Sarah Slywka

Wendy Thienes, Shelley Rhodes, Della Moffat, Sandra McKellar

Lana Vey, Alexandra Williamson, Natalie Bloomfield, Ashley Williamson

Last year Stefanie Lawton got the monkey off her back and made it back to the Scotties for the first time since 2008. Although Sherry Anderson has been skipping the team for the first half of the season due to Lawton having a child, that should not affect their performance that much and they should be primed for another Scotties run. Other contenders that could win Saskatchewan are Michelle Englot and Trish Paulsen, if Lawton happens to struggle.

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Barring a shock run-in by Amber Holland, this is Lawton’s to lose. With that said, she did lose the provincial final in surprising fashion for a number of years so I wouldn’t be surprised if a new face (hello Trish Paulsen) steals the title. Since the Scotties will be in Moose Jaw, I think you will see everyone on their game this week to be the home team.

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British Columbia Women’s – Jan 21-25 (Last Year Scotties Finish Tied for Fifth T-5th)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Diane Gushulak, Grace MacInnes, Lorelle Weiss, Sandra Comadina

Patti Knezevic, Kristen Fewster, Jen Rusnell, Rhonda Camozzi

Kristy Lewis, Jody Maskiewich, Barb Zbeetnoff, Jenn Howard

Amanda Russett, Crista Sanbrooks, Ashley Nordin, Courtney Karwandy

Kelly Scott, Shannon Aleksic, Karla Thompson, Sarah Pyke

Dailene Sivertson, Stephanie Baier, Jessie Sanderson, Carley St. Blaze

Kesa Van Osch, Kalia Van Osch, Trysta Vandale, Kelsey Steiger

Sarah Wark, Simone Brosseau, Michelle Allen, Rachelle Kallechy

British Columbia is a bit of an interesting province this year, especially after Kelly Scott’s shocking loss last year to Kesa Van Osch. This year, Scott has had a bit of a lineup change while Van Osch brings up her sister Kalia who won a silver medal at last year’s Canadian Juniors.  It’s going to be a tough call but I don’t think lightning will strike twice as I see Kelly Scott making a return to the Scotties and being a podium threat.

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Other than then Glenn Howard’s loss to Greg Balsdon last winter or Rachel Homan’s collapse against Tracy Horgan in 2012, Scott’s loss at last year’s provincials is easily the biggest stunner in the last five years. Her lineup isn’t quite as strong this time around, and Van Osch did pick up her sister for this year’s squad, but I expect Scott to get a measure of revenge in the provincial finals. Whether she’s a legit threat for a medal though remains to be seen.

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Prince Edward Island Women’s – Jan 23-27 (Last Year’s Scotties Finish Tied for Ninth)

 The Field (Skip to Lead)

Kathy O’Rourke, Robyn Green, Meaghan Hughes, Tricia Affleck

Kim Dolan, Michala Robinson, Jackie Reid, Sinead Dolan

Lisa Jackson, Jodi Murphy, Melissa Morrow, Carolyn Coulson

Suzanne Birt, Shelly Bradley, Michelle McQuaid, Susan McInnis

Five years ago Kathy O’Rourke nearly pulled off the Cinderella run of the century and almost won PEI’s first ever Scotties crown. Times have changed since then and things have not gone well for the province. This year, the winner will have to probably fight off relegation, but I can see O’Roruke breaking through and giving the province a chance of doing just that. Could the same magical run happen again? It’s hard to tell.

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Seeing that both Erin Carmody and Geri-Lynn Ramsey aren’t walking through the door, I’m expecting Birt to make a return to the Scotties. Maybe she will one day return to the form that saw her nearly go perfect in her first trip to the event in 2003, but I’m not holding my breath.

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Manitoba Women’s – Jan 21-25 (Last Year’s Scotties Finish Third)

The Field (Skip to Lead)

Kelly Wiwcharuk, Jenna Wiwcharuk-Roy, Janelle Grant, Toni Butt

Tiffany McLean, Heather Bruederlin, Blaire Rempel, Cassandra Lesiuk

Tina Kozak, Janelle Schwindt, Quinn Roberts, Caryn Edwards

Stacey Fordyce, Kelsey Russill, Kristy Howard, Roz Ripleu

Kaileigh Strath, Sabrina Neufeld, Calleen Friesen, D’Arcy Maywood

Colleen Kilgallen, Susan Baleja, Janice Blair, Kendra Georges

Kerri Einarson, Selena Kaatz, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish

Darcy Robertson, Tracey Lavery, Vanessa Foster, Michelle Kruk

Joelle Brown, Alyssa Vandepoele, Heather Maxted, Kelsey Hinds

Michelle Montford, Lisa Deriviere, Sara Van Walleghem, Sarah Neufeld

Barb Spencer, Katie Spencer, Holly Spencer, Sydney Arnal

Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer, Dawn McEwen

Jill Thurston, Brette Richards, Briane Meilleur, Krysten Karwacki

Kristy McDonald, Kate Cameron, Leslie Wilson, Raunora Westcott

Janet Harvey, Cherie-Ann Sheppard, Kristin Napier, Carey Kirby

Terry Ursel, Wanda Rainka, Lisa Davie, Darla Hanke

Now that you’ve digested this big field, it’s pretty much clear that the favourite is Jennifer Jones. It will be an  easier road for her this year without Chelsea Carey in the province. If there were to be any challengers it would either be Jill Thurston, Barb Spencer or McDonald. However Team Jones is a league about everyone else so expect an easy win for as they try to give Kaitlyn Lawes her first Scotties crown.

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Can I just talk about Eve Muirhead instead? Yeah this is pretty much Jones’ to lose and barring a bird flu epidemic that’s not going to happen. Unless Jones’ rink pulls off a Mike McEwen and implodes in the playoffs, she seems on a collision course to play Rachel Homan in the Scotties final in Moose Jaw at the end of February.


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