Written by Brett Punkari with cameos by Lucas Punkari
It’s hard to believe but it’s almost that time once again to crown provincial champions for the Scotties and Tim Hortons Brier. In a season that is mostly being dominated by two or three teams across both men’s and women’s play, and has also featured #broomgate and directional sweeping controversies, it could make for potentially stacked fields across both sides.
(Lucas here, if I hear one more hot-take about curling brooms I’m going off. Bring back the corn brooms I say.)
This first part of this preview coves the already completed Nunavut men’s provincials, the Ontario Scotties, the Quebec Scotties and Brier playdowns, the PEI Scotties, the Nova Scotia Scotties and Brier Playdowns, the British Columbia Scotties, the Yukon Scotties and Brier Playdowns and the Northern Ontario Scotties.
Quebec Women’s – Jan. 17-24 (Last Year’s Scotties Finish – 11th)
The Field (Skip to Lead)
Camille Lapierre, Alanna Routledge, Alison Davies, Jill Routledge
Marie-France Larouche, Brenda Nicholls, Annie Lemay, Julie Rainville
Lauren Mann, Ameile Blais, Lana Gosselin, Brittany O’Rourke
Helene Pelchat, TBD, Gail Comeau, Sylvie Goulet
Roxanne Perron, Marie-Josee Fortier, Miriam Perron, Sonia Delise
Yes you read that right. Many time Quebec champion Marie-France Larouche has returned and it looks like she has not missed a beat as she made the semi-finals at the Shorty Jenkins Classic after beating the likes of Sherry Middaugh. As such, she is among the favorites along with defending champion Lauren Mann, who is having a decent year making the semis at the OVCA Women’s fall classic.
So it will probably come down to those two in the final with a pretty small field and I think Marie-France will just squeak it out. Would she be a playoff contender at the Scotties? I doubt it, but mid pack seems more likely.
The fact there are only five teams in the provincials is a bit of a shock, considering the always-strong men’s field in Quebec. At any rate, Marie-France has been playing well after a couple of years away and she’s easily my pick to win. How she will fare at the Scotties depends on how strong the rest of the field is.
Quebec Men’s – Jan. 17-24 (Last year’s Brier finish – Tied for 5th)
Kevin Baker, Simon Hebert, Marco Fortier, Francois Boissoneault
Mathieu Beaufort, Jean Michel-Arsenault, Erik Lachance, Maxime H. Benoit
Marc-Andre Chartrand, Maxime Dufrense, Sylvain Dicaire, Joel Carbonneau
William Dion, Felix Asselin, Miguel Bernard, Jason Olsthoorn
Mike Fournier, Francois Gionest, Yannik Martel, Jean-Francois Charest
Guy Hemmings, Simon Benoit, Jean-Francois Trepanier, Martin Trepanier
Denis Laflamme, Michel Lachance, Bernard Gingras, Steve Tremblay
Jean-Michel Menard, Martin Crete, Eric Sylvain, Philippe Menard
Pierre-Luc Morissette, Robert Desjardins, Thierry Fournier, Rene Dubois
Steven Munroe, Philippe Brassard, Ghyslain Richard, Christian Bouchard
Denis Robichaud, Alexandre Ferland, Jean-David Boulanger, Maxandre Caron
Jean-Sebastian Roy, Jasim Gibeau, Dan deWarrd, Vincent Bourget
Jeffery Stewart, Ian Soth, Travis Ackroyd, Lewis South
Jon Stewart, Blake Stoughton, Jules Aumond, Francois Halle
Going on at the same time as the Women’s Scotties is the Men’s Brier playdowns and of course the clear favorite is Jean-Michel Menard. There are two teams that could knock him off his perch. One is former Quebec champion Robert Desjardins who is with Pierre-Luc Morissette, and the other is former Canadian Junior champion William Dion who has now two time Quebec Junior champion Felix Asselin as his vice. However Menard is the class of the field and he has had a good year on tour making a semi-final and a final, so he should return to the Brier and be a contender again.
Quebec is always a province that has the chance of bringing up a surprise winner as it’s a pretty decent province when it comes to it’s depth. With that said, I think Menard is a step above the rest and should again be in the playoff mix. He should be competing in the Grand Slam events, but alas.
Ontario Scotties – Jan. 18-24 (Last year’s Scotties finish – Tied for 6th)
Cathy Auld, Susan McKnight, Karen Rowsell, Casey Kidd
Allison Flaxey, Clancy Grandy, Lynn Kreviazuk, Morgan Court
Jenn Hanna, Brit O’Neill, Karen Sagle, Stephanie Hanna
Jacqueline Harrison, Janet Murphy, Stephanie Matheson, Melissa Foster
Julie Hastings, Christy Trombley, Stacey Smith, Katrina Collins
Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney, Lisa Weagle
Mallory Kean, Carly Howard, Kerilynn Mathers, Cheryl Kreviazuk
Sherry Middaugh, Jo-Ann Rizzo, Lee Merklinger, Leigh Armstrong
Erin Morrisey, Lynsey Longfield, Erica Hopson, Jen Ahde
Julie Tippin, Chantal Lalonde, Rachelle Vink, Tess Bobbie
Well apparently Rachel Homan took this whole “Revenge” thing to the limit by constantly winning and winning often. The top women’s team in the world at the moment is the obvious favorite but they cannot look too far ahead. Teams who have this type of success early in the season sometimes don’t make it through provincials and it has happened to Homan in 2012.
If this happens there are at least three teams who could pick her pocket. One is Allison Flaxey who has had a great year on tour with one win in three semi-final appearences and has made the playoffs in seven of nine events. Secondly, there’s defending champion Julie Hastings who has only made playoffs twice this year in six events. Finally, there’s Sherry Middaugh who is still looking to get over her provincial slump after losing the final last year. Those teams should provide a challenge but this should be Rachel Homan’s show and she will continue her “Rachel Homan’s Revenge Tour”
To say that Rachel Homan has had a good season is a massive understatement. Heading into this week’s Continental Cup, her rink has played in nine events, made the finals eight times, won seven event and has an overall record of 52-7. It’s insane.
She should win Ontario going away, but weird things usually happen at Provincial and this rink can lose in tire fire fashion at the worst moment. If that happens, I think Julie Hastings will be the benefactor.
Northern Ontario Scotties – Jan. 20-24 (Last year Scotties finish – Fifth)
Tracy Fleury, Jennifer Horgan, Jenna Walsh, Amanda Gates
Krista McCarville, Kendra Lilly, Ashley Sippala, Sarah Potts
Laura Payne, Stephanie Brown, Mackenzie Daly, Amanda Corkal
Gale Wiseman, Marie-Eve Mongrain, Anya Hildebrandt, Danielle Piercy
Northern Ontario is basically a two team show with defending champion Tracy Fleury and former Ontario Scotties champion Krista McCarville. This season Team Fleury has gone with a five person rotation (with Crystal Webster) and they’ve had some peaks and valleys. They made it to their first Grand Slam final at the National and almost upset Rachel Homan in the finals, but they’ve had some struggles at other events like the Canada Cup. A provincial title could depend on what lineup the team has as they will need to figure out the right combination.
McCarville has basically returned to the team that won the Ontario title in 2010 as two of her current teammates (Sippala and Potts) were on that rink. Having former Canadian junior semi-finalist Kendra Lilly (who was the provincial runner-up year) Is going to help her tremendously and provide a big challenge to team Fleury. On the tour, McCarville has had an awesome season winning three of 4fourWCT events entered with an overall record of 26-6. McCarville is going to provide a very difficult challenge but I think Fleury is going to just squeak it out and be a playoff contender at the Scotties.
Although McCarville hasn’t been at any Grand Slams this year, the events she’s been in have had some pretty stout fields, and like Brett said, Kendra Lilly is a heck of a pick-up. In the end though, the run at the Scotties last year in Moose Jaw has made the Fleury rink one to watch and they should be able to repeat. Expect this final to go to an extra end.
Prince Edward Island Scotties – Jan. 15-19 (Last year’s Scotties finish – Tied for 8th)
Suzanne Birt, Robyn Green, Meaghan Hughes, Marie Christianson
Shelly Bradley, Veronica Smith, Jane DiCarlo, Tricia MacGregoe
Tammy Dewar, Darlene MacLeod London, Robyn Macdonald, Gail Greene
Kim Dolan, Rebecca Jean Macdonald, Sinead Dolan, Michala Robinson
Sarah Fullerton, Robyn Wile, Emily Gray, Whitney Young
Lisa Jackson, Carolyn Coulson, Melissa Morrow, Jodi Murphy
To be honest, Prince Edward Island, has been pretty much fighting for survival as they’ve finished near the bottom of the pack in the last few Scotties and just avoiding the relegation round in the process. So whoever wins will probably be fighting that same scenario once again. The favorite is once again Suzanne Birt who has had a good year on tour compared to the rest of the field so this should be an easy walk to the Scotties for her.
Like Andrea Crawford before her (what the deuce happened to her by the way), Birt is in that mid level phase and is probably doomed to that spot for awhile now. With another new lineup, she should return to the Scotties but it’s hard to see her cracking the top four.
Nova Scotia Scotties – Jan. 18-24 (Last year’s Scotties finish – Tied for 6th)
Mary-Anne Arsenault, Christina Black, Jane Snyder, Jennifer Baxter
Theresa Breen, Tanya Hilliard, Jocelyn Adams, Amanda Simpson
Jill Brothers, Sarah Murphy, Blisse Joyce, Teri Udle
Emily Dwyer, Katrina Bowers, Mackenzie Proctor, Laura Kennedy
Chrisite Gamble, Brigitte MacPhail, Kaitlyn Veitch, Katarina Danbrook
Colleen Jones, Kim Kelly, Mary Sue Radford, Nancy Delahunt
Julie McEvoy, Sheena Moore, Jill Thomas, Caeleigh MacLean
Colleen Pinkney, Wendy Currie, Shelly MacNutt, Susan Creelman
Nova Scotia had a good run at the Scotties last year with Mary-Anne Arsenault almost making playoffs and performing pretty well as I mentioned at last year’s Scotties review. Arsenault has even competed in two grand slams this year and she made the quarter finals at The Masters. Arsenault is probably the favorite to win but Colleen Jones, who has returned as a skip, may provide the biggest challenge considering she and Arsenault were together a couple years ago. Another team to not count out is Jill Brothers, who does have a win on tour this year. It will probably come down to Jones and Arsenault in the final but Mary-Anne should come through once again.
I mean sure another Colleen Jones appearance would be fun, and that rink Jill Brothers has is a really good dark horse, but I think Arsenault should win this. After last year’s great run at the Scotties and some strong showings on the tour this season, she’s done a great job in leading a fairly young rink.
Nova Scotia Brier Playdowns – Jan. 18-24 (Last year’s Brier finish – 14th – Knocked out of Relegation Round)
Shawn Adams, Mark Dacey, Ian Fitzner-Leblanc*, Andrew Gibson
Jamie Danbrook, Kendal Thompson, Bryce Everist, Brendan Lavell
Paul Dexter, Lee Buott, Mark Robar, Tommy Bragnalo
Brent MacDougall, Kevin Ouellette, Kris Granchelli, Rob Moore
Peter Burgees, Glen Macleod, Tyler Gamble, Robby McLean
Jamie Murphy, Jordan Pinder, Scott Saccary, Phil Crowell
Chad Stevens, Paul Flemming, Cameron MacKenzie, Kelly Mittelstadt
Stuart Thompson, Colten Steele, Travis Colter, Alex MacNeil
*Fitzner-Leblanc is replacing Craig Savill who undergoing chemotherapy treatment for Cancer. We wish him all the best*
The province who won the very first Brier has pretty well hit rock bottom after Glenn Macleod (who upset Jamie Murphy in the provincial final) failed to qualify out of the relegation round. So they nowhere to go but up and there are potentially three teams who may just do that.
Former Nova Scotia champion Jamie Murphy, who had a decent showing in his first Brier appearance but then went winless in his second appearance, has had a good year on tour although most events are on the east coast. Of course defending champion Macleod is considered among the favorites and he has been good on tour as well.
The other favorite is former Brier runner up Shawn Adams who has teamed up with 2004 Brier champ Mark Dacey. In terms of tour performance the Adams team has played the most events and also competed in two Grand Slam events with a bit of success. It’s going to be a tough call even with Savill’s absence but I think Shawn Adams will return to the Brier. Whether or not he gets out of the relegation round is a different story.
I probably would have picked Adams to win this, but I think the absence of Savill will be a bit much to overcome, especially emotionally As such, I’ll take Jamie Murphy to win the title but I don’t think he will win the final spot in the Brier. That will go to someone we will discuss in another provincial preview. #Patch
British Columbia Scotties – Jan. 19-24 (Last year Scotties finish – 12th – Relegated)
Patti Knezevic, Kristen Pilote, Jen Rusnell, Rhonda Camozzi
Kelly Scott, Shannon Aleksic, Jenna Loder, Sarah Pyke
Lindsay Hudyma, Rebecca Turley, Michelle Dunn, Amy Gibson
Diane Gushulak, Grace Mcinnes, Jessie Sanderson, Sandra Comadina
Amanda Russett, Crista Sanbrooks, Ashley Nordin, Courtney Karwandy
Karla Thompson, Kristen Recksiedler, Tracey Lavery, Trysta Vandale
Kesa Van Osch, Kalia Van Osch, Shawna Jensen, Carley St. Blaze
Sarah Wark, Simone Brosseau, Michelle Allen, Rachelle Kallechy
Since the 2000’s BC was a Scotties contender thanks to Kelley Law and Kelly Scott. The last two years produced two different champions (Kesa Van Osch and Patti Knezevic) who had a combined record of 7-13 and after the 2015 Scotties in Moose Jaw, the province is now fighting in the relegation round.
In terms of favourites, the obvious contenders are Scott, Van Osch and Knezevic. A potential darkhorse is Diane Gushulak who in terms of tour performance has stood out among the teams in BC with two wins and a quarter final appearance in five events entered. The two wins have come in BC and she has had her way with teams in the province with a combined record of 12-1.
The eventual winner will have to fight the relegation round games, but I believe Kelly Scott will finally return and get BC out of the relegation round though she may not be a playoff contender like in the past.
While Scott’s lineup is not the same as the one that was with her for many years, getting former Kaitlyn Lawes junior teammate Jenna Loder is a nice move for her rink. Although there are some interesting teams in the field, Scott should not only win, but I think she can be a sleeper for the playoffs at the Scotties. That’s of course depending on what field is there.
Yukon Scotties – Jan. 14-17 (Last year Scotties finish – 14th – Knocked out of Relegation Round)
*Note this provincial is a best two out of three series*
Nicole Baldwin, Stephanie Jackson-Bair, Rhonda Horte, Ladene Shaw
Jenna Duncan, Patty Wallingham, Sarah Koltun, Jody Smallwood
With the relegation round entering its second year it’s obvious that getting to the Scotties/Brier is going to be extremely difficult for the Territories. In terms of the Yukon their best shot is probably the Jenna Duncan rink which is normally skipped by Sarah Koltun. However, Koltun is in school in Alberta so she was not sure if she would be competing but she is back as the second. The Duncan team is the favorite to make it out of the Yukon but depending on the Northwest Territories and BC teams, it might be hard to get out of the relegation round.
The one drawback with the relegation round is the fact that not every region is in the field, which is a major bummer for the Territories. That should hopefully change in a few years when they have everyone competing again, even if Warren Hansen seems to think that’s bad for some reason, but that’s another story for another day that would probably see me drop 400 F-Bombs.
Anyways, having Koltun come back is huge and that should allow Duncan to lead her team to a spot at the Scotties. Like Brett said though, it will be a tough task to get into the actual field.
Yukon Brier – Jan. 14-17 (Last Year Brier Finish – 13th – Lost Play-In Game)
Robert Smallwood, Jon Solberg, Clint Abel, Scott Odian
Matthew Blandford, Wade Scoffin, Verner Janz, Clinton Ireland
Pat Paslawski, Richard Weihers, Tyler Williams, Trent Derkatch
Herb Balsam, Cole Hume, Scott Boone, Wesley Huston
Walter Wallingham, Gord Zealand, Ed Kormendy, Don Duncan
Rob Smallwood came close to getting out of the relegation zone at last year’s Brier before eventually bowing out to PEI. In terms of this year’s playdowns there is a new player in former Alberta competitor Matthew Blandford who did compete in one grand slam event last year and had a decent showing going 2-3 in that span. Acquiring Wade Scoffin (the dad of top junior player Thomas Scoffin) who was with Smallwood last year has to help and will propel them to the Yukon title but it will be a hard task to get out of the relegation zone.
Blandford has been decent in the Alberta circuit and he should easily win the playdowns. I don’t think he’ll beat hero Jamie Koe, but maybe if they brought in Thomas Scoffin to make a cameo.
Nunavut Brier – Jan. 8-10 (First Brier Appearance)
*Note Provincial was best of five series*
Wade Kingdon, Dennis Masson, Aaron Fraser, Bruce Morgan
Arthur Siksik, David Kakuktinniq, Tyson Komaksiutiksak, Tyson Komaksitutiksak
For the first time ever, Nunavut will have a representative at the Tim Hortons Brier. The skip with that honour is Wade Kingdon, who won the best of five series of Arthur Siksik in four games.
So Nunavut will start in the relegation zone and it’s going a real rrough tourney but it will be a learning experience for Kingdon and crew. As long as they can keep it somewhat close, that would be considered mission accomplished.
Although this is his first Brier, Kingdon does have some national experience as he’s played at the Canadian Mixed championships in the past. I’m not sure how well Nunavut will fare but this is a great sign going forward. If they can make it into the play-in game on Saturday and get on TSN, that would be a massive deal.