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.

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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.


2017 Curling Provincial Preview Blowout Spectacular (Part 1)

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Written by Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)

Yes it is that wonderful time once again where provincial champions are crowned for the Scotties and Tim Hortons Brier. With this season being the last before the Olympic Trials, some provincials could take on extra importance.

Of course with directional sweeping pretty much a thing of the past, things for the most part should be on standard ground again, however there is always a chance of crazy upsets like we saw last season.

In this first part we are taking a look at the Quebec Scotties and Tankard playdowns where it’s mostly a two horse race on both sides.

Before Brett gets rolling, we do have a few titles already clinched. Both Sarah Koltun and Kerry Galusha will be representing the Yukon and Northwest Territories respectively at the Scotties, while the Nunavut provincial champions were Geneva Chislett and Jim Nix. Of course, we already know who Team Canada will be as Chelsea Carey and Kevin Koe will defend their titles.

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Quebec Scotties & Tankard (January 8-15)

Last Year’s Scotties Finish – 8th (5-6)

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

Scotties Field

(Skip to Lead)

Sophie Morissette, Dominique Ricard, Emille Desjardins, Veronique Bouchard

Helene Pelchat, Gaetane Tremblay, Laurie Lavoie, Sylvie Goulet

Camille Lapierre, Alanna Routledge, Vicky Tremblay, Jill Routledge

Isabelle Neron, Noemie Verreault, Marie-Pier Cote, Laurie Verreault

Roxanne Perron, Lisa Davies, Miriam Perron, Anik Brascoup

Eve Belisle, Lauren Mann, Trish Hill, Brittany O’Rourke

Marie-France Larouche, Brenda Nicholls, Annie Lemay, Julie Rainville

For this year’s Scotties it’s basically a two horse fight between Marie France-Larouche and Eve Belisle, who has former provincial champion Lauren Mann at vice.

In terms of play on tour this season Marie-France has made the Shorty Jenkins Classic semifinals and had a 3-3 Record at the OVCA Women’s Fall Classic, which included a 5-4 loss to Belisle. Along with that win, Eve’s made at the quarter-finals at two of the three events she’s played at.

It’s going to be real close, but as long as she can avoid a slow start like what happened to her last year, I see Marie-France Larouche returning to the Scotties once again.

2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Unlike the men’s field, which Brett will touch on shortly, Larouche stands out from the pack when it comes to the best teams in Quebec. I don’t think she’ll have much trouble at the provincials, but it remains to be seen where she fits in on the national scene as we wait for the field to sort itself out.

Tankard Field

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 Dale Ness, Shane McCrae, Shawn Blair, Scott McClintock

 Fred Lawton, Derek Lockwood, Matt Greene, Charles Gagnon

Yannick Martel, Francois Gionest, Jean-Francois Charest, Alexandre Ferland

Simon Benoit, Jean-Francois Trepanier, Martin Trepanier, Pier-Luc Trepanier

Jean-Sebastian Roy, Jasim Gibeau, Dan deWaard, Vincent Bourget

Pierre-Luc Morissette, Robert Desjardins, Thierry Fournier, Rene Dubois

Jean Michel-Menard, Marin Crete, Eric Sylvain, Philippe Menard

Marc-Andre Chartrand, Pierre Blanchard, Maxime Mailloux, Jonathan Martel

Mathieu Drapeau, Yanick Lefebvre, Hugo Chapdelaine, David Bergeron

Matt Kennerchat, Ben Vezeau, Cameron Maclean, Jon Spring

Jean-Michel Arsenault, Mathieu Beaufort, Erik Lachance, Maxime Benoit

Steven Munroe, Francois Gagne, Phillipe Brassard, Christian Bouchard

Martin Ferland, Francois Roberge, Maxime Elmaleh, Jean Gagnon

Mike Fournier, Felix Asselin, William Dion, Miguel Bernard

Over on the men’s side we of course have to mention Jean-Michel Menard and Robert Desjardins, who are both previous champions and might face each other three times this week.

Both teams have had pretty meh seasons, even though Menard did get an event win and he competed in the Tier 2 Tour Challenge Grand Slam of Curling event, where he had with a 1-3 record.

If either team falters there is one team that could surprise, which is Mike Hournier’s rink includes former Quebec Junior champion Felix Asselin and former Canadian Junior champion William Dion.

With all that said aside I think Jean-Michel Menard will once again represent Quebec at the Brier, however the question is how much longer he can keep up his winning ways in Quebec?

Kamloops B.C.Mar7_2014.Tim Hortons Brier.Quebec skip Jean-Michel Menard,lead Phillipe Menard.CCA/michael burns photo

Menard’s dominance isn’t on the same level as say Brad Gushue’s or Brad Jacobs’s at the moment, but it’s pretty similar to what Steve Laycock is doing at the moment in Saskatchewan. The depth in Quebec is a lot better than people give it credit for on the men’s side, but all the years of brier experience gives Menard an extra edge.


Lucas’s 2016-17 SJHL Pre-Season Power Rankings

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For the last decade, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has had a run of repeat winners.

Other than a Humboldt Broncos championship in 2012, those that capture the league crown tend to hold on to it for awhile.

The Melfort Mustangs have won the last two years, with the Yorkton Terriers winning back-to-back crowns before that. Prior to the Broncos triumph four years ago, the La Ronge Ice Wolves had won consecutive titles.

The Ice Wolves had ended a three-year run by the Broncos, with the Terriers winning back-to-back crowns before that in 2005 and 2006.

Even with all of that, the league itself seems to be pretty competive from the outside looking in, with a number of different sides having a legit shot at the crown.

So, with the season starting today, I’ve decided to share my pre-season rankings heading into opening. They might be way off base given that I just arrived in SJHL country in July, but this will be good for a laugh come the end of the year.

Oh and I’ve also left you a forward, a defenceman and a goalie you should keep your eyes on as the year goes along, especially if any of these teams are coming to your town.

rylee-zimmer

1. Flin Flon Bombers

After making it to the finals last year for the first time since they won it all in 1993, the Bombers have quite a lot coming back from their surpirsing playoff run. Despite losing SJHL player of the year Alex Smith to Michigan Tech, they return a number of forwards, almost their entire defence and both netminder in Brendan Newton and Zac Robidoux. That’s enough for me to put them at the top of my list.

Players to Watch – Brandon Lesko, Joseph Leonidas and Brendan Newton

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2. Battlefords North Stars

Both Taryn Kotchorek and Ryan Rewarts return in goal and almost the entire defence is back, which is builds an awesome base to build around. However, the North Stars did lose a ton of fire power up front, especially with Igor Leonenko graduating and Coby Downs heading to the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. Rookie of the Year Layne Young is back and the Stars have made some nice moves to add veteran forwards, so that might answer the forward depth concerns as the year goes on.

Players to Watch – Layne Young, Connor Sych and Taryn Kotchorek

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3. Melfort Mustangs

The winner’s of the last two SJHL titles have lost a number of key components from their squad, with the most notable graduate being two-time league scoring champion Travis Mayan. However, there are still a number of good returning players around that will keep the Mustangs in the mix. Doubt the current provincial kingpins at your own peril.

Players to Watch – Dakota Boutin, Eric Sinclair and Evan Plotnik

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4. Weyburn Red Wings

After being upset in the quarter-finals last year by Flin Flon, the Red Wings are eager for a long playoff run this season. They have a solid group of forwards and blueliners that are coming back, but they do lose defending SJHL goalie of the year Jack Burgart to Bemidji State. Nathan Hargrave has brought in from Kindersley to lead the way between the pipes.

Players to Watch – Braden Mellon, Mike Eskra and Nathan Hargrave

regan-sieferling

5. Yorkton Terriers

Despite being a young team that’s still in a rebuild from their run to the 2014 RBC Cup title, the Terriers return quite a lot from last year’s squad. I may be a year early on this group, but I’m a sucker for teams with lots of good young talent.

Players to Watch – Carson and McKenzie Welke, Regan Seiferling and Jakob Severson

logan-schatz

6. Humboldt Broncos

After missing the playoffs for the first time since 1980, the Broncos should bounce back this season. Although the defence has a number of fresh faces, they have a really solid veteran group of forwards to lead the way. The Broncos also made a great pickup in the off-season by acquiring netminder Garrett Mason from the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines.

Players to Watch – Logan Schatz, Connor Swystun and Garrett Mason

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7. Notre Dame Hounds

As I post this, the Hounds roster has yet to be put up on the SJHL website but it sounds like they have a nice mix of veteran players and new faces. They have a number of players coming up from last year’s Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League champions, including talented forward Adam Dawe who is committed to Maine.

Players to Watch – Adam Dawe, Tyler Podgorenko and Payton Porter

dakota-kenyon

8. La Ronge Ice Wolves

The Ice Wolves made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 last year and their fans were rewarded for their patience with a wild card round win over Yorkton. There’s a solid group that is back on both offence and defence, though the key to their success might be if they can overcome the loss of graduating netminder Kris Joyce.

Players to Watch – Jared Blaquiere, Bryce Fiske and Joshua Dechaine

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9. Estevan Bruins

Last year’s Western Canada Cup hosts had a bit of a disappointing season as they were knocked out in the quarter-finals and then went winless against the best teams from the West. It’ll be a transition year for the Bruins, but some interesting newcomers might help to overcome the holes left by the veterans who have moved on.

Players to Watch – Lynnden Pastachak, Johnny Witzke and Nathan Alalouf

carson-pickett

10. Kindersley Klippers

There has been quite a lot of turnover from last year’s Klippers squad with players either graduating or moving to other junior leagues. With a ton of new faces coming in, there might be a few rough nights early on before things turn the corner later in the winter.

Players to Watch – Carson Pickett, Holden Daley and Justen Close

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11. Nipawin Hawks

Speaking of roster turnover, there is a massive amount of change in store for the Hawks after their run to the semifinal a year ago. Kristian Stead is back in goal, which is a huge help, but he might have to stand on his head to help his team have another long playoff run.

Players to Watch – Keegan Kjargaard, Carter Doerksen and Kristian Stead

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12. Melville Millionaires

Like the last few teams I’ve mentioned, Melville also has quite a lot of new faces so it may be though for them to get back to the playoffs after missing a year ago. However, given that many of the new faces have done well in other places, this pick might look foolish once the season ends in March.

Players to Watch – Teal Sobkowicz, Austin Johnston and Brandon Wells