Monthly Archives: January 2017

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.

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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

(Skip to Lead)

 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.