Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Punkari Brothers Preview The 2017 Road To The Roar

Brett Says: Well it’s that time again where the four year cycle comes to an end and the top teams in Canada fight it out to represent their country at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.. We kick things off with the Road to the Roar where 14 men’s and women’s teams get one last shot at one of two spots in the Olympic Trials. The format for this preview will cover the Favourites, Darkhorses, Wildcards and teams that well….I guess rather be at the patch?

Lucas Says: Whoever decided that viewers only wanted to see the playoff games on TSN this weekends needs to be hit with a wet salmon. Anyways, as you will see with this field in both divisions, there’s a number of rinks that can end up anywhere in the overall standings when the event concludes Sunday.

Women’s Event

Brett’s Favourites

Kerri Einarson (Manitoba)

Widely considered to be the second best team in Manitoba, Einarson has steadily rose up the curling ranks over the last two years, as she has won two Grand Slam events and finished fourth in her first trip to the Scotties in 2016. Last year’s provincials didn’t go very well at all as she missed the playoffs, but if Einarson has consistent play this rink should be a potential lock to make her first Olympics trials. Now if only she could beat Jennifer Jones somehow.

Krista McCarville (Northern Ontario)

After being away from the national scene for a few years, Krista McCarville has brought Northern Ontario women’s curling to new heights after a second and fourth place finishes at the last two Scotties. Having finished third at the 2009 Olympic Trials, McCarville has a great chance to return to that event if the front end of Sarah Potts and Ashley Sippala can play well.

Lucas’s Favourites

Kerri Einarson (Manitoba)

Given her recent form over the past couple of years, especially on the Grand Slam scene, the Einarson rink should make it into the Trials with ease. If they get there, I wouldn’t be surprised if they sneak into the playoff discussion given how topsy-turvy the women’s scene is at the moment.

Krista McCarville (Northern Ontario)

Okay so our pick of her winning the Scotties last year didn’t go as planned, but the Thunder Bay group has been in the mix at every event they’ve been in for the last couple of years despite playing on a limited basis. Doubt them at your own peril as they might be able to get into the finals in Ottawa if they gab nab one of the two spots in Summerside this weekend.

Brett’s Darkhorses

Tracy Fleury (Northern Ontario)

Besides becoming the first team to represent Northern Ontario at the Scotties in 2015, Tracy Fleury has been a bit hot and cold over the last couple of years. Since acquiring Crystal Webster the team has gone to a five person rotation, and while they did make a Grand Slam final two years ago where they lost to Rachel Homan, they’ve had some mostly mediocre showings since then and haven’t been able to get back to the Scotties. Fleury has been in the pre-trials before and they are in the mix again here, though she might have been a potential favourite if it wasn’t for the inconsistent play.

teamharrison

Jacqueline Harrison (Ontario)

Over the last couple of years, this rink has risen through the ranks in Ontario to steadily become one of the better teams in the province. Last season, Harrison captured her first Grand Slam title by beating Krista McCarville in the Tier II Tour Challenge and was in the mix to win a provincial crown. She should be in the mix once again this week and could knock off one of the favourites.

Shannon Kleibrink (Alberta)

Last year was pretty much a revival of sorts for Shannon Kleibrink as she upset Val Sweeting to make the Scotties, although she was sidelined for most of the week with back problems and Heather Nedohin stepped in to skip the team. This year, she has brought in former Canadian Mixed Doubles champion Kalynn Park at the second postion which should help things a little. As former Olympic trials champion and a finalist on two other occasions, Kleibrink has the experience to help this rink get in the mix.

Lucas’s Darkhorses

Tracy With Gates

Tracy Fleury (Northern Ontario)

Having just missed out on qualifying for the main trials, Fleury’s Sudbury rink entered the season as one of my favourites to advance out of Summerside along with her provincial rival McCarville. Now while she’s probably been passed by Einarson given the Manitoba’s squad strong start to the year, this is a team that can be in the mix if everything goes well. Plus who doesn’t love Amanda Gates.

Jacquelin Harrison

Jacqueline Harrison (Ontario)

Given her strong season last year, which saw her make the playoffs at a few Slams and pick up a few wins over Rachel Homan, Harrison is one of those rinks that is sliding in under the radar but isn’t talked about a lot for whatever reason. A good showing this week might change that, along with a possible Scotties trip later this year.

Kelsey Rocque

Kelsey Rocque (Alberta)

This is a rink that is due for a breakout performance and it might happen this week. Given the talent they have and the experience Kelsey and her team have gained over the last couple of seasons, a playoff trip isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Brett’s Wildcards

teambirchard

Shannon Birchard (Manitoba)

A two time Canadian Junior runner-up Shannon Birchard has been giving some of the bigger teams in Manitoba fits, especially with a semifinal trip in 2016. I expect her to push a lot of the top teams here this week and make a run at the Scotties in the near future, especially as everything changes in Manitoba once Jennifer Jones moves on.

teammeilleur

Brianne Meilleur (Manitoba)

One of the young teams who have been around the WCT circuit for a while, Meilleur has been in the mix at the Manitoba Scotties recently and almost got into the tiebreaker mix last year. This team is kind of in the same situation as Shannon Birchard and Kelsey Roqcue, though their probably isn’t as much pressure on them as some of the other rinks. Plus, BJ Neufeld is their coach, so that’s cool.

teammiddaugh

Sherry Middaugh (Ontario)

For a team that has had a ton of experience at big events, including a runner-up finish at the 2013 Olympic Trials, this is probably their last gasp at making the Olympics. Their play at the Grand Slams this year hasn’t been great, as they have a 1-7 record through two events and a few blowout losses. They have a chance to be in the mix here, but it’s hard to see them going much farther.

teamrocque

Kelsey Rocque (Alberta)

Let’s be honest, the first two seasons on the World Curling Tour have been rough for the former two time Canadian and World Junior champion. Personally, I think this team is going to use this experience to start their run towards the 2022 Olympics as their is a lot of talent and potential in this squad. A playoff berth this week isn’t out of the realm of possibility either.

teamtippin

Julie Tippin (Ontario)

Julie Tippin has pretty much been, dare I say, the walking mediocrity of Ontario women’s contenders, even though she’s made the last two provincial playdowns. Granted, she’s started to play in more Grand Slam events and made it to the tiebreaker at the Tier II Tour Challenge in September where she lost to Eve Muirhead, so she might make some noise in the future. However, it’s hard to tell at this point.

Lucas’s Wildcards

Shannon Birchard

Shannon Birchard (Manitoba)

One of the skips to watch for the next Olympic cycle, Birchard has been in the mix in Manitoba for the last couple of years and could be one of those breakout rinks in the coming years. It probably won’t be this week for the mixed doubles partner of Jason Gunnlaugson, but a standout showing is coming.

Shit Balls and Shannon

Shannon Kleibrink (Alberta)

Now if Heather ‘Shitballs’ Nedohin had been a part of this rink, I’d probably pick them to win the whole thing, but alas she’s not here. Given Shannon’s success in other trial runs, it’s not that crazy to think that she could be one of the playoff teams this weekend, even if she hasn’t curled in a lot of major events besides last year’s Scotties.

Briane Meilleur

Brianne Meilleur (Manitoba)

Like Shannon Birchard, Meilleur is another one of those young Manitoba rinks that are in the mid-level of the provincial scene but will probably be a contender in the next few years. I don’t see that jump happening this week, but she will pull off a few upsets in the round-robin.

Sherry Middaugh

Sherry Middaugh (Ontario)

It feels odd to put the 2013 Trials runner-up in this spot, but it feels like Middaugh has fallen well back of the rest of the pack on the women’s scene. I mean, she’ll probably have a good week in Summerside, but I don’t think she would be in the mix in Ottawa next month against a stronger field.

Brett’s #Patch Teams

teambreen

Theresa Breen (Nova Scotia)

So how does a team who has not made the Scotties out of Nova Scotia the last three years make the pre-trials? When you look deeper Theresa Breen has been to three Scotties as a member of Anne Merklinger’s rink and she made the Nova Scotia provincial final in 2015. With that said, how did Jill Brothers not get a spot in here.

teamrobertson

Darcy Robertson (Manitoba)

Let’s be honest, the only reason Robertson is in a pre-trials spot was due to her shocking run at last year’s Manitoba Provincials, where she not only obliterated Kerri Einarson in a tie-breaker but also pulled a gigantic upset over Jennifer Jones in the semis. Like Breen, Robertson has a lot of Scotties experience in the past but with limited success, so don’t expect much.

teamscotland

Nadine Scotland (Alberta)

They have sponsorship from Audi and Rebecca Konschuh from the old Jocelyn Peterman junior championship rink is on the team. However, this Alberta team hasn’t done a lot over the lats couple of years so they might be in tough here.

teamthompsonKarla Thompson (British Columbia)

If you recall her first trip to the Scotties, Thompson got off to a bad start with lose to Nunavut in the pre-qualfying round but she bounced to keep British Columbia in the main event. She’s made a strong addition to her lineup with Shannon ‘Crooked Neck’ Jonaisse this year, and this rink could be a wildcard if everything goes right for them this week, but I wouldn’t hold my breath about it.

Lucas’s #Patch Teams

Theresae Breen

Theresa Breen (Nova Scotia)

I mean it’s an East Coast team so they’ll get supporters that way, but I’m not expecting a lot of a rink that hasn’t really done a ton over the last three years. To me, it’s just filling out the numbers and I’m still wondering how Jill Brothers missed out like Brett is.

Darcy Robertson

Darcy Robertson (Manitoba)

Given what she did in her upset-filled run to the Manitoba provincial final last year, Robertson will surprise a few rinks I’m sure this week, but I can’t see her being in the playoff mix given how strong the field is.

Nadine Scotland

Nadine Scotland (Alberta)

When you curl in a strong province like this one, it’s hard to get a chance to break through against strong fields unless everything goes right. Unless a lot of teams change lineups over the next calendar year, I feel like Scotland falls into this category.

2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Karla Thompson (British Columbia)

Given the tough spot the province is in since Kelly Scott left the competitive scene, Thompson is the best rink in British Columbia right now but might be a mid-level rink at best on this scale. I feel like this province is just waiting for either Corryn Brown and the Van Osch’s to break through nationally before becoming a true contender again.

Julie Tippin

Julie Tippin (Ontario)

A playoff run might be too much to ask for this rink, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Tippin’s squad ends up in the mix in the coming years as they play in more Grand Slam events and provincial playdowns.

Men’s Event

Brett’s Favourites

teambottcher

Brendan Bottcher (Alberta)

Brendan Bottcher was a player that a lot of people kept an eye on after winning two Canadian Junior titles earlier this decade, and he’s been getting better each yaer. He made a couple of Grand Slam playoff runs in 2016 and made it to the Brier last year after Darren Moulding replaced Pat Simmons just before the provincials at third. I think he’ll be a main threat in the Trials in the next four-year cycle, but he could surprise this year’s field if he is able to make it to Ottawa.

teamgunn

Jason Gunnlaugson (Manitoba)

#BeAGunner (Someone needs to make that a trending topic on Twitter.) Anyway, the king of bombs and smashing rocks has returned to the mix after jumping around from team to team over the last few years. He’s taken full advantage of his chances this year with a win at the Tier II Tour Challenge and a quarter-final run at the Masters. Gunner’s always been a crowd favourite with his giant hitting ability and he should make some more fans this week with a great chance to return to the Trials after his surprise run in 2009.

teammorris

John Morris (British Columbia)

Johnny Mo has been back with Jim Cotter for the last couple of years now, and while they haven’t been quite as good as they were in their Trials and Brier run in 2013 and 2014, they did win the Elite 10 event last spring on the Grand Slam circuit. This season, there’s been a lineup change with Catlin Schneider joining the rink at second and Tyrell Griffith moving down to lead. Even with those differences, this probably the best bet to make the Trials, though may not be quite as strong as they were when they lost to Brad Jacobs in the 2013 final.

Lucas’s Favourites

Brendan Bottcher

Brendan Bottcher (Alberta)

With a Brier trip under his belt, the former Canadian junior champion is on the verge of becoming a legit contender. That will probably happen in the next Olympic cycle once everyone changes rinks, but a trip to Ottawa might accelerate that process if Bottcher has a good week in Summerside.

Be A Gunner

Jason Gunnlaugson (Manitoba)

A national hero, well for me at least, the man with the biggest takeout weight in all of curling and one of my all-time favourites is having a strong campaign to start this season. As a result, he has a legit chance to be in the mix not only for an Olympic Trials spot but to maybe win the Manitoba playdowns depending on what happens in the coming months.

John MOrris

John Morris (British Columbia)

Sure the return with Cotter hasn’t been as successful as there’s first go-around together, but it’s Johnny Mo. He’s always solid when it comes to these events and I penciled him right away as one of the teams to make the Trials, where a really good field puts him as a darkhorse to contend once again.

Brett’s Darkhorses

teambalsdon

Greg Balsdon (Ontario)

After stunning Glenn Howard in the 2014 Ontario men’s provincials to make his first Brier appearance, we have not heard a whole lot from Greg Balsdon as he’s made quite a few lineup changes since then. He might be a bit more of a wildcard than a darkhorse, but he has had previous pre-trials experience including a come from behind victory over Brad Jacobs when he was down 8-3 back in 2013.

teamhoward

Glenn Howard (Ontario)

For the first time in his career, Glenn Howard will be in the situation of playing in the pre-trials in what will be his final kick at the can of making the Olympics. He has a pretty good lineup, even with Richard Hart out with an injury and Adam Spencer stepping in, and he has a good chance of making some noise. Maybe he can catch some of the old magic that led him to two Brier titles as a skip yet again.

teammenard

Jean-Michel Menard (Quebec)

So besides all of those trips to the Brier, Menard has not done a lot on the tour circuit over the years. However, we all know that he’s always a tough team to play against on the national stage. If he gets off to a strong start this week, he’s got a good shot of making it to the Olympic Trials in what might be his last run at it.

teamsimmons

Pat Simmons (Alberta)

Pat is now on his third different team in as many years, and he’s inherited a pretty good young Manitoba rink by joining up with Matt Dunstone’s old squad that made it the provincial finals in 2016 just weeks after winning the Canadian Junior title. Pat’s previous experience should help these guys out a ton, especially with a young group of curlers that can throw some big weight.

Lucas’s Darkhorses

Jean Michel Maneard

Jean-Michel Menard (Quebec)

A threat whenever he plays at the Brier, Menard might be in the mix here this week if everything goes right. A key will be a good start though, as it might be hard to make ground in the pool process.

2015, Halifax N.S. Ford Men's World Curling Championship, Canada skip Pat Simmons, Curling Canada/michael burns photo

Pat Simmons (Manitoba)

With Matt Dunstone moving on to join Steve Laycock’s rink, the former Brier champ has moved into a good situation with a young trio of talented hard throwing players. With the veteran presence, they should be in the mix this week to be in the playoffs.

Charley Thomas

Charley Thomas (Alberta)

Maybe it’s me, but I feel like Charley is super under the radar coming into this weekend. Sure, he hasn’t been in the mix for major event titles like his competitors, but Thomas is always solid and he has a good team around him. Doubt the former Junior star at your own peril.

Brett’s Wildcards

teamcasey

Adam Casey (Saskatchewan)

After leaving PEI in 2016, Casey took over skipping duties in Saskatchewan and it turned off with a beating of Steve Laycock in the provincial finals and a 5-6 finish at the Brier as he took over a Shawn Meachem rink that had been in the mix the last few years. There is a lineup change with Brock Montogomery coming in to replace Catlin Schneider at third, so it’s hard to say how things will go.

teamflasch

Colton Flasch (Saskatchewan)

Following their provincial final loss to Adam Casey, their was a switch to Steve Laycock’s squad as Colton Flasch left the rink and was replaced by Matt Dunstone. Now a skip, Flasch has done a pretty decent job so far picking up he’s won an event and played in the Tier II Tour Challenge. It’s hard to say how he’ll fair here, but I’m sure there would be lots of hype if he somehow faced his old team at the Trials.

teamlyburn

William Lyburn (Manitoba)

William Lyburn is another one of those skips that is always giving the big teams in Manitoba fits, but isn’t quite on the same level as a Reid Carruthers or a Mike McEwen. He did make it to the Tier II Tour Challenge final earlier this year where he lost to Gunner, so there’s a chance for him to surprise this week.

teammurphy

Jamie Murphy (Nova Scotia)

Besides Brad Gushue because of obvious reasons, Jamie Murphy is the top team in the Maritimes at the moment with a couple of decent Brier showings over the last couple of years. Paul Flemming has joined the squad this year to add some veteran depth, and I think this will help them to some degree.

teamthomas

Charley Thomas (Alberta)

It seemed like at the beginning of last year, Thomas was finally starting to turn the corner on the men’s circuit but he hasn’t really done a lot since then. Plus, with Craig Savill leaving the rink after last year, it feels like he’s been dealt a big blow lineup wise in addition to missing out on the playoffs at all of the event he’s been at lately.

Lucas’s Darkhorses

Greg Baldson

Greg Balsdon (Ontario)

Ever changing lineup aside, Baldson is one of the guys that will also present a tough challenge at any event. He may not make the playoffs this weekend, but he will be in the mix.

Adam Casey

Adam Casey (Saskatchewan)

With a great group of curlers on his side and some good shot making ability, Casey is one of those guys that will be in the mix for years to come out West. A good showing this week will probably help him in an always stout provincial field later this year as everyone will be trying to stop him from making a second straight Brier trip.

Glenn Howard

Glenn Howard (Ontario)

I mean, he’ll probably beat John Epping in the provincial finals again, but it’s hard for me seeing Howard being a legit threat in this event given not so great Grand Slam showings over the last couple of years. He will be at the Olympics though either way as the coach for Eve Muirhead.

William Lyburn

William Lyburn (Manitoba)

Brett said this already, but Lyburn’s a solid skip and has a good team that has yet to break through in Manitoba. Don’t be surprised if he becomes more of a threat in the coming years.

Brett’s #Patch Teams

teambice

Mark Bice (Ontario)

Bice made the Brier in 2014 with Greg Baldson and is now pretty much skipping that former Ontario championship rink after some lineup changes. We haven’t heard a lot from them recently, but they are always in the mix come playoff time.

teamderuelle

Danya Deruelle (Ontario)

Last year was technically Deruelle’s best year as he rose to 16th in the CTRS rankings. Other than that though, I can honestly say I’m not expecting much from this team.

Lucas’s #Patch Teams

Mark Bice

Mark Bice (Ontario)

Nothing against Bice, but I don’t think the depth in the Ontario’s men side is all that great at the moment and that might be tough to deal with at a strong field like this one.

Dayna Dereuelle

Danya Deruelle (Ontario)

Please see my previous statement.

Colton Flasch

Colton Flasch (Saskatchewan)

It’s odd to not see Flasch with the Laycock rink, but he’s in a good situation with the old member of Bruce Korte’s squad. It’s a young team so this will be a learning week for them, but they might be in the mix in Saskatchewan this year in the provincial playdowns.

Jamie Murphy

Jamie Murphy (Nova Scotia)

Jamie’s a solid skip and his rink will play well at the Brier, but it’s hard to see him being a legit threat at a field like this. With the said, being one of the East Coast sides should give him some support to build off of from the fans.

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