Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Punkari Brothers 2016 Scotties Preview

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Written by Brett Punkari (With cameos by Lucas Punkari)

This year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Grand Prairie, Alberta is one the most wide open in quite awhile after a chaotic provincial season with upsets galore and many favorites falling by the waste side. The way the field is sorted it’s basically a two horse race for the title with a major dogfight for the final two playoff spots.

In terms of this year’s preview, it will include the Grand Slam of Curling records for the rinks that took part in those events and predictions for all 15 teams, including the battle for the final spot in the round-robin.

1) Team Canada (St. Vital Curling Club – Winnipeg)

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Skip – Jennifer Jones, Vice – Kaitlyn Lawes, Second – ‘Jilly’ Jill Officer, Lead – Dawn ‘The Mongoose’ McEwen, Alternate (not pictured) – Jennifer Clark-Rouire

Grand Slam Record – 13-10 (DNQ, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, Runner-Up)

Team Jones got off to a slow start by their standard this season but have picked up their performance in the last three WCT events. They’ve gone 16-4 in that span, which includes a runner-up finish at the Canadian Open and a win at the Dekalb Super Spiel. They have picked up their performance at the right time as they get ready to defend their crown and based on the field that is on display it could be a potentially easy road for Jones to repeat as Scotties champions.

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1) Team Canada (Jennifer Jones)

With no Rachel Homan or Val Sweeting standing in her way, the stage looks set for Jones to capture her sixth Scotties title. In a sense, this year’s event reminds me of the 2010 Scotties in the Soo where Jones stood out as the clear-cut favourite. Mind you she almost lost to Prince Edward Island when all was said and done, but the overall strength of the fields in both events are pretty similar  Like Brett said though, they are peaking at the right time once again, and that’s not a good sign for the rest of the field.

2) Alberta (The Glencoe Club – Calgary)

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Skip – Chelsea ‘The Annihilator’ Carey, Vice – ‘Pimp’ Amy Nixon, Second – Jocelyn Peterman, Lead – Laine Peters, Alternate (not pictured) – Susan O’Connor

Grand Slam Record – 7-9 (DNQ, DNQ, Semi-Finalist)

In her second year in Alberta Chelsea Carey moved on to another new rink as she took over for Heather Nedohin after the 2012 Scotties champions decided to step back from competitive curling. While her old rink brought in Kelsey Rocque, Carey’s new squad was a good fit for her with Amy Nixon at third and former Canadian junior champion Jocelyn Peterman.

This is another team that seems to be peaking at the right time, especially after dethroning two-time defending provincial champion Val Sweeting. Carey had a good showing with a third place finish in her first Scotties appearance representing Manitoba in 2014 and inheriting a former championship team should put her in good position to perhaps knock off Jones from the top of the podium.

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2) Alberta (Chelsea Carey)

On paper, this seems to be the only challenger to Jones. Carey’s already been to the Scotties, and had a strong showing in 2014 in the middle of the Rachel Homan Destruction Tour. Plus, Amy Nixon is a heck of a third and I think is a key part to any success this rink has. I’m always of the belief that a skip has to be at a national event once before they win it and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Carey wins this year’s title.

3Manitoba (East St. Paul Curling Club)

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Skip – Kerri Einarson, Vice – Selena Kaatz, Second – Liz Fyfe, Lead – Kristin MacCuish, Alternate (Not Pictured) – Brianne Meilleur

Grand Slam Record – 12-6 (Champion, Semi-Finalist, DNQ)

With Jennifer Jones returning to the Scotties as the defending champion, the door was open for arguably one of the top up and coming teams in Manitoba to make some noise, and boy did they take advantage of their opportunity. Kerri Einarson won her first Grand Slam event (the Tier 2 Challenge) and followed that up with a semi-final appearance at The Masters before ending a two-year runner-up streak at the Manitoba provincials. She might be considered one of the wildcards in the field but a playoff appearance would not be a surprise.

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3) Manitoba (Kerri Einarson)

In a field of so many question marks and unknowns besides Jones and Carey, Einarson seems like the most sure thing out of the group six or so teams fighting it out for a playoff spot. In the last few years there seems to be at least one rink that has a breakout showing at a major event (see any Switzerland team at the Worlds over the last two years) and I think Einarson is that skip this year, especially with her performances on the Tour.

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

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Skip – Krista McCarville, Vice – Kendra Lilly, Second – Ashley Sippala, Lead – Sarah Potts, Alternate – Oye-Sem Won Briand

Grand Slam Record – N/A

Not only does Krista McCarville have two players from the 2010 Ontario rink that finished in third place (Sippala, then known as Ashley Miharija, was the second that year and Potts, then known as Sarah Lang, was the alternate), but former Canadian junior bronze medalist Kendra Lilly has joined the rink to make this a darn good lineup. They showed their potential by beating defending Northern Ontario champion Tracy Fleury three times at the provincials. With their talent and national experience, they have a great chance of getting Northern Ontario into the playoffs for the first time at the Scotties.

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4) Northern Ontario (Krista McCarville)

Before Rachel Homan burst onto the Ontario women’s scene in 2011, McCarville was arguably the best skip in the entire province. She had won the provincial title four times in five years, had a bronze medal showing at the 2010 Scotties in Sault Ste. Marie and made it to the semifinals at the 2009 Olympic Trials. Since she took a couple of years off to raise her family and focus on her teaching career, I think a lot of people have forgotten how good McCarville is. She has a talented group that played well on the cash circuit this year and I think they have a solid chance to make some noise this week.

5) Saskatchewan (Highland Curling Club – Regina)

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Skip – Jolene Campbell, Vice – ‘Russette’ Ashley Howard, Second – Callan Hamon, Lead – Ashley Williamson, Alternate (not pictured) – Candace Chisholm

Grand Slam Record – N/A

Now we get to the teams that pulled off some big upsets to win their province. Jolene Campbell, who is more known for being the alternate for Amber Holland in her three straight trips to the Scotties, is a solid skip in her own right. This year, Campbell will make her first appearance as a skip after upsetting two-time defending provincial champion Stefanie Lawton. It will also mark the first time that the famous Howard name will compete at the Scotties with Russ’ daughter Ashley playing at third. With the experience Campbell has at the event, she should help the rest of the rink get used to the ice and the pressure of the Scotties.

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5) Saskatchewan (Jolene Campbell)

The one drawback to the Campbell rink being at the Scotties is that cult hero Russ Howard won’t be able to coach the rink as he’ll be in the booth for TSN, which would have been full of epicness. Like McCarville, Campbell is entering this event under the radar. She won the mixed national title in 2014 and she was actually the best second at the Scotties in 2012 when she played in six round-robin games after Tammy Schneider was injured. I’m fully expecting Campbell and McCarville to play in a tiebreaker game and I would not be surprised if she made it to the semifinals.

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

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Skip – Marie-France Larouche, Vice – Brenda Nicholls, Second – Annie Lemay, Lead – Julie Rainville, Alternate (not pictured) – Amelie Blais

Grand Slam Record – N/A

Marie-France Larouche did not get off to a good start at the Quebec provincials but she turned things around as the week went on and eventually dethroned defending champion Lauren Mann. This will mark Marie-France’s 9th Scotties appearance but I think it’s going to hard to perhaps bring back the magic that made her a podium threat for many years, which makes her a bit of a wildcard for this year’s Scotties.

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Marie France’s results at the Scotties are pretty interesting. She was fourth in 2001, the runner-up in 2004 to Colleen Jones, fourth in 2008, third in 2009, crashed out with a 4-7 record in 2011 and was fourth in 2012. You would think that would make her a lock for a playoff spot, and I probably should have picked her there, but I think not playing as much on the tour as some of the other rinks might be an issue. Like Jean-Michel Menard on the men’s side though, Larouche is always in the mix and because she’s there Quebec will easily avoid the relegation battle.

7) Nova Scotia (Mayflower Curling Club – Halifax)

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Skip – Jill Brothers, Third – Sarah Murphy, Second – Blisse Joyce, Lead – Teri Udie, Alternate – Jenn Brine

Grand Slam Record – N/A

 

Brothers, Joyce and Udle have all been to the Scotties before with Brothers skipping Nova Scotia to a 3-8 record in 2007 and being the third for Heather Smith two years ago. In fact, Joyce and Udie won the bronze medal for Smith’s rink back in 2011. This is a strong squad in a province that is seeing a lot of good young talent (shoutout to Mary Fay) and while this is another potential wildcard rink, I’ll think they’ll be around mid-pack.

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7) Nova Scotia (Jill Brothers)

Like another rink that we will get to in a little bit, the Brothers rink is one that I have no idea if I’ve ranked them too low or too high. The talent is there and the players have done well in previous trips to the Scotties, but with the number of strong mid-pack teams in this field I have no clue where they fit in. Like so many of the rinks headed to Grande Prairie, this is another squad that may be flying under the radar.

8) Ontario (Ottawa Curling Club)

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Skip – Jenn Hanna, Vice – Brit O’Neill, Second – Stephanie Hanna, Lead – Karen Sagle, Alternate (not pictured) – Pascale Letendre

Grand Slam Record – N/A

 

In terms of provincial upsets this will go down as one of the biggest in history. Jenn Hanna, comes back into the competitive curling scene after a couple of years away and shocks the top team in the world this year in clubmate Rachel Homan. Hanna has been to the Scotties before in 2005 (with Dawn McEwen, then known as Askin, at second) and made it to the finals before being on the receiving end of one of the greatest shots in Scotties history when Jennifer Jones made an in-off shot to win the title.  Hanna’s experience should help in a way but it’s almost 11 years since she has been to the Scotties so your probably looking at the biggest wildcard team coming into this year’s event.

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8) Ontario (Jenn Hanna)

How in the world do you predict where this rink is going to finish? Yes Hanna has made it to the finals before and yes she upended Rachel Homan’s juggernaut of a season but I think it’s asking a lot for a skip to make it back to the dance after an 11-year absence from the national stage. With that said, her run in 2005 was pretty wild. She started the Scotties with a 2-4 record, ended up in a four-way tie for the final playoff at 6-5, won two tiebreaker games, defeated Stefanie Lawton and Kelly Scott in the playoffs and was one Jennifer Jones circus shot away from winning it all. If she can have a magic run like that once again, it would be an amazing story.

9) New Brunswick (Curl Moncton)

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Skip – Sylvie Robichaud, Vice – Rebecca Atkinson, Second – Marie Richard, Lead – Jane Boyle, Alternate (not pictured) – Nicole Arsenault Bishop

Grand Slam Record – 2-3 (Quarter-Finalist)

Sylvie Robichaud has seen an improvement in her game with the addition of Rebecca Atkinson. as she went from a 1-10 record in her first trip as a skip in 2008 to a 4-7 record last year. With the field that is here in Grande Prairie, we might seen even more of an improvement, though it’s going to depend on how quickly she can get used to the ice. That always seems to be a big problem with most of the New Brunswick rinks at the national events.

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9) Prince Edward Island (Suzanne Birt)

Hey look, Brett and I finally disagree on something in this blog post (don’t worry though, the Brier preview will be a hot mess between the both of us). I seem to say this every year but I keep waiting for Birt to have another great showing like her 10-1 mark in the 2003 Scotties but as time passes I’m growing more and more convinced that it won’t happen again. She might get into the mid-table mix this year, but I can’t see her crashing the playoff party.

10) Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown Curling Complex)

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Skip – Suzanne Bird, Vice – Robyn Green, Second – Meaghan Hughes, Lead – Marie Christianson, Alternate (not pictured) – Sinead Dolan

Grand Slam Record – 2-3 (Quarter-Finalist)

Suzanne Birt has been stuck either in mid-pack or near the bottom of the pack in most of her Scotties appearances in recent years. Although she went 4-7 last year in  Moose Jaw, she did some of the top teams fits. With the strength of this year’s field, a mid-pack finish wouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but I’m not holding my breath.

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10) New Brunswick (Sylvie Robichaud)

As I mentioned in our provincial preview, last year saw Robichaud get off to a rough start in Moose Jaw but she got better as the week went on, especially with her Thursday night upset of Rachel Homan. She does have a somewhat favourable schedule to start off the week so I wouldn’t be surprised if Robichaud is in the playoff mix before going up against the big guns.

11) Northwest Territories (Yellowknife Curling Centre)

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Skip – Kerry Galusha, Vice – Megan Cormier, Second – Danielle Derry, Lead – Shona Barbour, Alternate (not pictured) – Sharon Cormier

Grand Slam Record – N/A

Galusha lost the pre-qualifying final to Northern Ontario last year but she did give Tracy Fleury a run for her money and we know that she is always capable of pulling off a big upset to any of the top teams. She is stuck in the pre-qualifying round again this year, but with the field not as tough as it was last year, I expect Galusha to get out of the relegation zone and give the Territories something to look forward to for next year’s Scotties.

Team NWT skip Kerry Galusha throws her last shot in the fifth end vs Team Yukon, Scotties 2015

11) Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha)

Having no Galusha or Sarah Koltun competing in the round-robin was one of my biggest bummers of last year’s tournament, though we did get a nice performance from Northern Ontario as a result and lots of epicness from cult hero Amanda Gates. With no Koltun or Kelly Scott in the pre-qualfying mix, this seems like a great opportunity for Galusha to return to the main field and she may fare even better than my current prediction given her track record of upsets over the years. 

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

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Skip – Stacie Curtis, Vice – Erin Porter, Second – Julie Devereaux, Lead – Carrie Vautour, Alternate (not pictured) – Lauren Wasylkiw

Grand Slam Record – 1-3 (DNQ)

 

This is Stacie Curtis’s third Scotties appearance, however her previous two appearances have been nothing short of a disaster after going 1-10 in 2011 and 2-9 in 2013. In all honesty, it might be another long tournament for her and she might drop into the relegation zone.

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12) Newfoundland & Labrador (Stacie Curtis)

Curtis won the Canadian Junior title in 2007 and was the runner-up to Sarah Reid’s Scottish rink (which featured some lady named Eve Muirhead at third) at the world’s that same year. That success has yet to follow her on the women’s stage as Curtis has a combined record of 3-19 in her two previous Scotties trips and has struggled mightily  It all depends on who comes out of the play-in game on Saturday, but Curtis seems to be the odds-on favourite to end up at the bottom of the round-robin standings.

13) British Columbia (Kamloops Curling Club)

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Skip – Karla Thompson, Vice – Kristen Recksiedler, Second – Tracey Lavery, Lead – Trysta Vandale, Alternate (not pictured) – Sasha ‘Good Shot Sash’ Carter

Grand Slam Record – N/A

Not only did Karla Thompson upset multi-time champion Kelly Scott but she destroyed her in the provincial final to make her first trip to the Scotties as a skip. She will be in tough to make it out of the pre-qualfying round with Kerry Galusha there, but I could see her finishing anywhere from 9th to 11th if she gets into the field.

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13) British Columbia (Karla Thompson)

Thompson (then Karla Sparks) was previously at the Scotties in 2008 as third for Allison MacInnes’ rink that went 4-7. Galusha’s the favourite to make it out of the pre-qualifing group, mainly because she’s the most known rink of the four, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Thompson gets in the main event and has a decent week. After all, it’s no easy task to rout Kelly Scott in a provincial final.

14) Yukon (Whitehorse Curling Club)

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Skip – Nicole Baldwin, Vice – Stephanie Jackson-Baier, Second – Rhonda Horte, Lead – Ladene Shaw, Alternate (not pictured) – Sandra Mikkelsen

Grand Slam Record – N/A

Nicole Baldwin will be attempting to get the Yukon back to the Scotties after defending champion Sarah Koltun just missed out on getting into the play-in game last year. She does have a bit of a secret weapon in Steph Jackson-Baier, who played with Kesa Van Osch’s British Columbia rink two years ago and did pretty well for the most part. However it will be a tough task to get out of the qualifying round and if she does get into the main event I can only see her being in 11th or 12th.

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14) Yukon (Nicole Baldwin)

No Sarah Koltun gives me all of the sads. I don’t have too much else to add after what Brett said. The Baldwin rink should be okay, but I don’t see them making into the pre-qualifying final, unless they upset Thompson or Galusha.

15) Nunavut (Iqaluit Curling Club)

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Skip – Geneva Chislett, Vice – Denise Hutchings, Second – Robyn Mackey, Lead – Jenine Bodner, Alternate (not pictured) – Sadie Pinksen

Grand Slam Record-N/A

For the first time we will have a representative from Nunavut at the Scotties, though they to start in the relegation round. Now a lot of us know the history in the Juniors for Nunavut have been, well really rough, though things are slightly better in the other levels. I’m not expecting much this week, but if they can keep their games somewhat close I would consider that mission accomplished.

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15) Nunavut (Geneva Chislett)

As Brett said, this year for Nunavut is all about gaining experience on the National stage. It would be great for them to win a game, but I think the biggest goal is to just have a decent showing. It will be cool to see Sadie Pinksen at the event though, especially after she won Nunavut’s first ever game at the Juniors earlier this year.

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2016 Curling Provincial Blowout Spectacular (Part 5)

 

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Written by Brett Punkari (with cameos by Lucas Punkari)

This week will see the conclusion of all of the provincials competitions for the Tim Hortons Brier as we take look at the men’s playdowns in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Northern Ontario

British Columbia Men’s Provincial – Feb 10-14th (Last year’s Brier finish – Tied for 7th)

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The field (Skip to Lead)

Tom Buchy, Dean Horning, Dave Toffolo, Darren Will

Wes Craig, Scott MacDonald, Tony Anslow,Victor Gamble

Jim Cotter, Ryan Kuhn, Tyrel Griffith, Rick Sawatsky

Neil Dangerfield, Dennis Sutton, Darren Boden, Glen Allen

Chris Ducharme, Josh Firman, Jim Stewart, Jim Macaulay

Sean Geall, Andrew Bilesky, Steve Kopf, Mark Olson

Will House, Kelly McQuiggan, Greg Davis, Thomas Sayer

Glen Jackson, Andrew Komlodi, Corey Chester, Joel Cave

Dean Joanisse, Paul Cseke, Jay Wakefield, John Cullen

Michael Johnson, Ty Dilello, John Zwarych, Mitch Young

Mark Longworth, Michael Longworth, Jonathan Gardner, John Slattery

Chase Martyn, Cody Johnston, Jeff Guignard , Will Sutton

Jason Montgomery, Miles Craig, Cameron Dejong, Dave McGarry

Jeff Richard, Ted Appelman, Bryan Kedziora, David Harper

Stephen Schneider, Jamie Sexton, Shawn Eklund, Brant Amos

Daniel Wenzek, Jordan Tardi, Nicholas Meister, TBA

BC has a pretty big field this year and it boils down to potentially three teams. Two of them are former champions as Sean Geall has Andrew Bilesky with him at vice while Jeff Richard has Ted Appleman joining him from Alberta. The other rink, and the major favourite, is Jim Cotter. He picked up his first Grand Slam victory this year and has made the playoffs in six of seven events this year. He’s basically doing in BC what Steve Laycock is doing in Saskatchewan. It should be a relatively easy road to the provincial title for him.

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Like Brett said, Cotter’s in a similar situation to Laycock right now. He’s dominant in his own province but seen as an after-thought on the national stage. There are some good teams in this province, but it’s hard to see Cotter not making it to the Brier once again. 

Alberta Men’s Provincial – Feb 10-14th (Last year’s Brier finish – Tied for 5th)

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Brent Bawel, Lyle Kent, Byron Wickerson, Nathan Relitz

Brendan Bottcher, Tom Appelman, Brad Thiessen, Karrick Martin

Warren Cross, Dean Darwent, Jeremy Hodges, Cody Bartlett

Jeff Erickson, Dustin Eckstrand, Shaun Planaden, Scott Cruickshank

Glen Hansen, Doug McLennan, Don Bartlett, George Parsons

Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert

Mick Lizmore, Daylan Vavrek, Brad Chyz, Carter Lautner

Kevin Park, Brock Virtue, Adam Norget, Dylan Webster

Greg Pasichnuk, James Knievel, Kevin Albrecht, Chad Krantz

Tom Sallows, Jordan Steinke, Mark Pillsworth, Kendall Warawa

Charley Thomas, Nathan Connolly, Brandon Klassen, D. J. Kidby

Kevin Yablonski, Michael Roy, Scott Garrett, Matthew McDonald

Alberta looks to be a little bit more straight forward heading into this year’s provincials thanks in large part to the great season Kevin Koe is having. After being sightly off his game last year, especially at the Brier, he’s playing well this year with wins at the Tour Challenge and the Canada Cup.  The only team that could challenge him is Brendan Bottcher. Although his Tour season hasn’t been as good as it was last year, he could give Koe a run.

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Brendan Bottcher has a good young team and Charley Thomas could play spoiler, but it would be a stunner if Kevin Koe doesn’t win this thing. After last year’s sub-par showing in Calgary, the Koe foursome is showing to everyone why many people consider them to be the favourite to represent Canada at the Olympics in 2018. 

Northern Ontario Men’s Provincial – Feb. 10-14 (Last year’s Brier finish – 2nd)

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

Colin Koivula, Kory Carr, Jordan Potts, Jamie Childs

Mike Assad, Mitch Shallow, Andrew Hackner, Dwayne Sutherland

Dylan Johnston, Mike Badiuk, Chris Briand, Travis Showalter

Tanner Horgan, Jacob Horgan, Maxime Blais, Scott Foy

Jordan Chandler, Matt Dumontelle, Sandy MacEwan, Lee Toner

Patrick Gelinas, Arty Trudel, Eric Gelinas, Luc Gelinas

Robbie Gordon, Ron Henderson, Dion Dummontelle, Doug Hong

This is a pretty balance field, until you get to the defending Olympic champions. Brad Jacobs and crew are the obvious favorites, however this is probably the most vulnerable this team has been due to the fact they have not had the best of seasons on tour. They’ve come out like gangbusters in the round-robins, fallen apart in the playoffs, and they don’t seem to have the fire lit underneath them like they’ve had in the past. Granted, they had a better showing at the Skins Game, but that’s a different format. Jacobs should win it all, but don’t be surprised if Koivula, Horgan or Johnston pull off an upset.

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Even if Jacobs hasn’t had the best of seasons, picking him to not win the Northern Ontario provincial is a lot like picking someone other than Brad Gushue to win in Newfoundland. I mean, Tanner Horgan is a rink that might do it in the next couple of years, but they are still in junior eligibility  Jacobs is the rink to beat here until someone proves they can do it. 

Manitoba Men’s Provincial – Feb. 10-14 (Last year’s Brier finish – 10th)

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(Because the field is so gigantic with 32 teams we’ve provided a link with all the skips that are in the event. Well Brett did because he’s no fun)

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Well we might as well save the biggest one for last. In this 32-rink field, it’s basically a two team slugfest between Mike McEwen and Reid Carruthers, and it’s too close to call in my opinion. With that said, there is a dark-horse in the field in the now two time Canadian junior champion Matt Dunstone. In face, Dunstone beat McEwen twice at one of the Tour events this year and he can play with the top teams in the country.

Carruthers and McEwen are pretty much even so it’s going to come down to the finer details. In terms of tour success McEwen has three wins and seven more playoff appeances in 11 events this year though most of his tourney wins have come early in the season. Carruthers on the other hand has one win and 10 playoff appeances in 11 events and has been more consistent as of late. However his lone DNQ was at the Canada Cup event that basically had all of the top guns while McEwen finished runner up. Finally in terms of head to head matchups between the two teams McEwen holds a 3-2 edge, and the three wins McEwen has had have come by three points or more.

Although McEwen does hold the edge head to head, I’m gonna out on a limb and say the runner-up streak will unfortunately continue as Carruthers will win in a thriller, although it’s going to be tough to top that Ontario final.

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This really comes down to if you believe that Mike McEwen can finally get over the hump and win the Manitoba title. Personally, even though I think McEwen has a really good shot this year since he didn’t run through the World Curling Tour schedule like a boss (see Rachel Homan), all of the history of him falling short at the last step to make it to the Brier makes it hard for me to fully believe him.

Carruthers is the other main favourite here, and he’s my pick to win it all, though Dunstone and William Lyburn (with cult hero Jason Gunnlagson at third) may also surprise. 


2016 Curling Provincial Blowout Spectacular (Part 4)

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Written by Brett Punkari (with cameos by Lucas Punkari)

Before we get to this week’s playdowns, let’s recap how we did on our Scotties picks. Brett and I picked the same curlers across the board this year, so our picks are on the left and the winners are on the right.

Alberta: Val Sweeting/Chelsea Carey

British Columbia: Kelly Scott/Karla Thompson

Manitoba: Kerri Einarson/Kerri Einarson

New Brunswick: Sylvie Robichaud/Sylvia Robichaud

Newfoundland & Labrador: Heather Strong/Stacie Curtis

Northern Ontario: Tracy Fleury/Krista McCarville

Nova Scotia: Mary-Anne Arsenault/Jill Brothers

Ontario: Rachel Homan/Jenn Hanna

Prince Edward Island: Suzanne Birt/Suzanne Birt

Quebec: Marie-France Larouche/Marie-France Larouche

Saskatchewan: Stefanie Lawton/Jolene Campbell

Northwest Territories: Kerry Galusha/Kerry Galusha

Nunavut: No Playdowns/Geneva Chislett

Yukon: Jenna Duncan/Nicole Baldwin

Oi vey, that didn’t go well for Brett and I. Let’s see how the men’s playdowns goes for us.

With the Scotties field set, it’s time to fill the remaining spots for the Tim Hortons Brier. Part 4 covers a couple of provincials that are happening this week with Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.

Ontario Men’s Provincial – Feb. 1-7 (Last year’s Brier finish – Tied for 7th)

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 The field (Skip to Lead)

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

Greg Balsdon, Don Bowser, Jonathan Beuk, Scott Chadwick

Mark Bice, Aaron Squires, Tyler Morgan, Steve Bice

Dayna Deruelle, Kevin Flewwelling, David Staples, Sean Harrison

Ian Dickie, Tyler Stewart, Evan Lilly, Robert Currie

John Epping, Matt Camm, Patrick Janssen, Tim March

Pat Ferris, Andrew Fairfull, Craig Fairfull, Nathan Small

Mike Harris, Mike Anderson, Scott Hodgson, Scott Foster

Mike Mclean, Jake Higgs, Kevin Langerquist, Nathan Crawford

Glenn Howard, Richard Hart, Adam Spencer, Scott Howard

Wayne Tuck Jr, Chad Allen, Andrew Tournay, Ian Parker

(Note: Wayne Middaugh, who is the third for Glenn Howard, suffered a leg injury in a skiing accident and is out for the remainder of the season.)

Ontario is basically a two horse race between John Epping and Glenn Howard. Howard is making a bit of a resurgence. He’s had a decent year thus far on tour by making the playoffs in four of seven events, including two runner up finishes. Epping, meanwhile, got off to a bit of a rough start but has caught fire with a third place finish at the Canada Cup and is now riding a 13 game winning streak to with two event wins. It will be a close one but Epping should breakthrough and get his first Brier appearance as a skip.

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If it wasn’t for Mike McEwen’s annual struggles in the Manitoba provincials, Epping would easily hold the title of the best skip who’s yet to make it to the Brier. He finally made it to the provincial final last year but was upset by Mark Kean. With former Kean vice Mathew Camm joining the lineup, and a Howard rink that has been shaken up due to an injury, this seems like Epping’s title to lose. 

Saskatchewan Men’s Provincial – Feb. 3-7 (Last Year’s Brier finish – 3rd)

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Jason Ackerman, Curtis Horwath, Brent Goeres, Mike Armstrong

Brad Heidt, Drew Heidt, Mitch Heidt, Regis Neumeier

Scott Bitz, Jeff Sharp, Aryn Schmidt, Derek Ryan

Randy Bryden, Troy Robinson, Trent Knapp, Kelly Knapp

Darren Camm, Dean Grindheim, Mark Steckler, Anthony Sepke

William Coutts, Stuart Coutts, Dean Clark, Todd Bakken

Ryan Deis, Scott Manners, Jason McPhee, Kalin Deis

Brent Gedak, Clint Deino, Derek Owens, Shawn Meyer

Kody Hartung, Tyler Hartung, Jeff Hartung, Claire Decock

Joshua Heidt, Brock Montgomery, Matt Ryback, Dustin Kidby

Jason Jacobson, Dustin Kalthoff, Carl deConinck Smith, Rory Golanowski

Shawn Joyce, Michael Carss, Jason Barnhart, Tyler Matheson

Dean Kleiter, Warren Jackson, Quinn Hersikorn, Jayden Shwaga

Bruce Korte, Kevin Marsh, Daniel Marsh, Matthew Lang

Steve Laycock, Kirk Muyers, Colton Flasch, Dallan Muyers

Shawn Meachem, Catlin Schneider, Brady Scharback, Aaron Shutra

It’s a pretty big field for Saskatchewan this year and of course the favourite is last year’s third place finisher at the Brier as Steve Laycock is putting together another solid season. One team to perhaps keep an eye on is Josh Heidt, who does have former Brier competitor Dustin Kidby playing at the lead spot. Although nothing is certain in provincial play, especially with what we saw in the Scotties, it should be Steve Laycock’s to lose.

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As we saw with Jolene Campbell’s win last week, anything can happen in the Saskatchewan provincials. However, it’s hard to see Laycock not repeating as champion. Like Pat Simmons before him, he’s the one guy in the province that is succeeding on the World Curling Tour and I think that makes a major difference. 

New Brunswick Men’s Provincial – Feb. 3-7 (Last year’s Brier finish – 11th)

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Rene Comeau, Andrew Burgess, Trevor Crouse, Ryan Freeze

Mike Kennedy, Scott Jones, Marc Lecocq, Jamie Brannen

Terry Odishaw, Grant Odishaw, Mark Kehoe, Robert Daley

Jason Roach, Andy McCann, Darren Roach, Brian King

James Grattan, Tom Sullivan, Steve Burgess, Jamie Korab

Jeremy Mallais, Zach Eldridge, Chris Jeffery, Jaren Bezansen

Rick Perron, Marcel Robichaud, Marc Belliveau, Scott Nelais

Wayne Tallon, Spencer Watts, Chris Wagner, Alex Kyle

If it weren’t for Jamie Koe going winless at last year’s Brier we’d be perhaps talking about New Brunswick fighting in the relegation round, but Jeremy Mallais did just enough to squeak in for his province.

This year’s provincial boils down to two perhaps three teams. James Grattan is one of the favorites especially with the addition of Jamie Korab at the lead spot and has been to the Brier many times. Of course the defending champion Mallais has to be in the conversation as well even though he has had just an okay year thus far. The other team that could be a sleeper is former Canadian Junior runner up Rene Comeau who failed to qualify for the Canadian Juniors this year so expect him to come in with a chip on his shoulder. I do expect Grattan with his experience to come through and get New Brunswick above the relegation zone.

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New Brunswick has okay depth but the addition of Korab should be enough to win the event. Whether or not they survive the round-robin and avoid the relegation pool remains to be seen, however if it’s someone else that wins the title, it could get ugly. 


2016 Curling Provincial Blowout Spectacular (Part 3)

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Written by Brett Punkari (with cameos by Lucas Punkari)

Well the theme thus far in terms of provincial championship is that if you are the favorite you are most likely going lose the final. Just ask Val Sweeting, Rachel Homan and Kelly Scott. This time around, we will wrap up our Scotties provincial previews and throw in a couple of Brier previews as well.

Of note, there is going to be a Nunavut team at the Scotties skipped by Geneva Chislett with vice Denise Hutchings, second Robyn Mackey and lead Jenine Bodner. They will be part of the relegation round.

(Yeah no comment on Rachel Homan losing the Ontario final. Ugh)

Saskatchewan Scotties – Jan. 27-31 (Last year’s Scotties finish – 4th)

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Michelle Englot, Candace Chisholm, Stephanie Schmidt, Brooklyn Lemon

Sherry Anderson, Jessica Hanson, Elyse Lafrance, Brie Spilchen

Jolene Campbell, Ashley Howard, Callan Hamon, Ashley Williamson

Kristie Moore (Chantelle Eberle injured), Cindy Ricci, Larissa Murray, Debbie Lozinski

Robyn Silvernagle, Dayna Demers, Cristina Goertzen, Kara Kilden

Penny Barker, Deanna Doig, Melissa Hoffman, Danielle Sicinski

Stefanie Lawton, Trish Paulsen, Sherri Singler and Marliese Kasner

Nancy Martin, Taryn Schachtel, Sherry Just, Jinaya Yanota

Mandy Selzer, Erin Selzer, Kristen Sauter, Megan Selzer

Kelsey Dutton, Kaitlyn Bowman, Chelsey Peterson, Ashley Resler

Nancy Inglis, Carla Anaka, Jade Ivan, Brandi Clarke

In the land of the Green Riders, Stefanie Lawton is the favorite once again especially now with the addition of Trish Paulsen and things have gone pretty well this season with one win and three additional playoff appearances.  The other teams that could challenge Lawton are Michelle Englot, who has Lawton’s fifth from last year Stephanie Schmidt, Jolene Campbell and Sherry Anderson. However it looks like an easy walk to the Scotties for Lawton. I just jinxed her didn’t I.

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While I think Englot can give Lawton a good challenge and although I’m rooting for Jolene Campbell, this does seem like Lawton’s title to lose. She has had some strange losses in the past, but that seems to be a thing of the past. With how this year’s field is looking, this might be Lawton’s best chance yet to win a medal. 

Newfoundland & Labrador Scotties – Jan. 26-31 (Last year Scotties finish – Tied for 8th) 

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Heather Strong, Stephanie Guzzwell, Sarah Paul, Kathryn Cooper

Stacie Curtis, Erin Porter, Julie Devereaux, Carrie Vautour

Shelley Hardy, Michelle Jewer, Kelli Turpin, Rhonda Whalen

Unfortunately the Newfoundland provincial only has three teams this year and it’s basically down to two former provincial champions in Heather Strong and Stacie Curtis. Both rinks have competed in two tour events this year.  They each went 1-3 at the Tier II Tour Challenge but Strong won the Bally Haly Cashspiel while Curtis went 1-3. Strong is a longtime veteran and a pretty good shooter as well. She should win the provincials again and might be a mid-pack team at the Scotties.

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No Shelley Nichols in the playdowns is a bit of a bummer, but like Brett said, Strong should have a good showing and be a good mid-level team at the Scotties if she gets there once again. 

New Brunswick Scotties – Jan. 27-31 (Last year’s Scotties finish – Tied for 8th)

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 Melissa Adams, Jennifer Armstrong, Cathlia Ward, Kendra Lister

Shelly Graham, Anna Brinson, Connie Nichol, Jane McGinn

Sarah Mallais, Stacey McCormack-Lacey, Carol Whitaker, Leah Thompson

Sylvie Robichaud, Rebecca Atkinson, Marie Richard, Jane Boyle

Shannon Tatlock, Abby Burgess, Emily MacRae, Shelby Wilson

Over in New Brunswick, it’s basically a two horse race between last year’s finalists Melissa Adams and Sylvie Robichaud. In terms of tour success Adams has had a better year overall and is also 1-0 against Robichaud head to head. Although those stats are in her favour I think the past Scotties experience for Robichaud will help her in the end.

Team New Bruswick, skip Sylvie Robichaud waits for the shot to develope at the Scotties 2015

If you remember last year’s Scotties, Robichaud had a slow start but bounced back over the last final days, including an upset of Rachel Homan that put Team Canada on the brink. With that run, and the strong play of third Rebecca Atkinson, I expect the provincials to be easy for her before a possible better showing at the Scotties. 

Prince Edward Island Men’s Provincial – Jan. 29-Feb. 2 (Last year’s Brier finish – Tied for 7th)

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Robert Campbell, Tyler MacKenzie, Matt Nabuurs, Sean Ledgerwood

Adam Casey, David Mathers, Anson Carmody, Robert Doherty

Tyler Harris, Sam Ramsay, Cody Dixon, Sean Clarey

Eddie MacKenzie, Blair Weeks, Phillip Gorveatt, Mike Dillon

Jamie Newson , John Likely, Mark O’Rourke, Mark Butler

Tyler Smith, Brooks Roche, Dylan Lowery, Ryan Lowery

Last year Prince Edward Island had to fight through the relegation round, but thanks to Adam Casey, he got through that event and had a decent debut as a skip in the Brier. This year, we have not seen Casey as much on the Grand Slam circuit, although he has played in 10 events this year with one playoff appearance. He still is the big favorite to win PEI this year though don’t count out former champ Eddie Mackenzie.

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Thank goodness for Casey if your a PEI curling supporter, otherwise this province would be a similar situation as Nova Scotia is at the moment. I think the addition of David Mathers has only made this rink stronger and they should run through the provincials without any trouble.

Newfoundland and Labrador Men’s Provincial – Jan. 26-31 (Last year’s Brier finish -4th)

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Andrew Symonds, Mark Healy, Cory Ewart, Keith Jewer

Adam Boland, Ross Young, Zach Young, Andrew Taylor

Matthew Hunt, Mark Fajertag, Evan Kearley, Andrew Taylor

Rick Rosewell, David Noftall, Craig Dowden, Ken Peddigrew

Brad Gushue, Mark Nicholls, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker

Colin Thomas, Cory Schuh, Chris Ford, Spencer Wicks

This year the Newfoundland provincial has six teams which is a big improvement after only two were in it last year. Of course the favorite by a landslide is Brad Gushue who is arguably the top team in the world on the men’s side. He should win this one easily and the question now will be if he can finally get that elusive Brier win considering the year he has been enjoying.

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As long as Gushue doesn’t smash his head into the ice again he should be fine. As Brett said, the bigger question is if he can finally win the title, especially since the Brier will be in Newfoundland in 2017. 

NWT Scotties- Jan. 28-31 (Last year’s Scotties finish – 13th – Lost Play-In Game)

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Kerry Galusha, Megan Cormier, Danielle Derry, Shona Barbour

Lora Browne, Brittany Brasser, Patty Hartlen, Courtney Kaeser

Judy Goucher, Candis Carleton, Kandis Jameson, Kelsey Gill

Deborah Stanley, Betti Delorey, Katrina Delorey, Rayna Hunt

This year’s Northwest Territories provincial has four teams and the obvious favorite is Kerry Galusha who came close to getting out of the relegation round last year. Galusha should win this easily and she has got a real good shot at getting into the main show.

NWT skip Kerry Galusha and teammate Shona Barbour in pre-qualifying action against Team Northern Ontario at the Scotties 2015

It was a bummer that Galusha wasn’t in the field in Moose Jaw but it was going to be tough come out of a group that included Sarah Koltun and Tracy Fleury. This year, with no Koltun and no Kelly Scott, this looks to be Galusha’s best chance yet to get in the main field, provided she wins the playdowns of course.

NWT Men’s Championship – Jan. 28-31 (Last year’s Brier finish – 12th)

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Jamie Koe, Chris Schille, Brad Chorostkowski, Robert Borden

Glen Hudy, Brian Kelln, Ben McDonald, Rich Klakowich

Stephen Moss, Michael Moss, Brett Zubot, Chris Kelln

Greg Skauge, Tom Naugler, Brad Patzer, Jim Sosiak

Darcy Delorey, Darcy Moschenko, Bruce Powder, Glenn Smith

Paul Delorey, Jack MacKinnon, Gary Stoby, Dallas Weaver

Bruce McArthur, Nick Kaeser, Craig Browne, Robert Mills

Jamie Koe is again the favourite on the men’s side to make the Brier and perhaps the best challenger could be many time Canadian Mixed competitor Stephen Moss. Koe should win this easily and is among the favourites to get out of the relegation zone as he will probably be battling Nova Scotia men’s champion Jamie Murphy.

Saskatoon Sk.Tim Hortons BrierN.W.T./Yukon skip Jamie Koe CCA/michael burns photo

Our cult hero needs to be back at the Brier, especially with Newfoundland being the hosts in 2017. He’ll be the king of the Patch. As for this year, he’ll be in tough against Nova Scotia, but the addition of Chris Schille should help out quite a bit, especially in these playdowns.