Monthly Archives: February 2018

The Punkari Brothers Preview the 2018 Winter Olympic Games Men’s and Women’s Curling Events

Written by Brett Punkari (With cameos by Lucas Punkari)

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Every four years the top men’s and women’s athletes from around the world compete in the biggest sporting event in the world, The Olympic Games. While there is tons of events like Skiing, Hockey and Bobsled, our main focus is the men’s and women’s curling events.

In terms of this preview, were going to have a similar format to our Roar of the Rings predictions with the men’s and women’s events both having separate countdowns on how we think things will end up, along with how they’ve faired in the Grand Slam of Curling events this year and what they’ve done during the last four years at major curling events. Of note, the playoff format is slightly different with a straight semifinal matchup between the 1st and 4th seeds and the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams before the medal rounds.

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We didn’t have time to do a mixed doubles preview, as we probably would have been wondering who half the field was along the way, but a huge congrats to Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris for winning the gold for Canada. Not bad for a team that came together in the last couple months. While it’s a bit of a train wreck to watch at times with so many changes in momentum, it was still a pretty fun way to get things going at the Olympics. 

Women’s Event

1) Canada (Rachel Homan)

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Skip – Rachel Homan “Destroyer”, Vice – “A Miscue By” Emma Miskew, Second – Joanne “Frizz” Courtney, Lead – Lisa “Da” Weagle

Grand Slam Record: 8-9 (DNQ, DNQ, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist)

Notable Accomplishments: 2015 Canada Cup Champions, 2015 Scotties Tournament Of Hearts Bronze Medalist, 2017 Scotties Tournament Of Hearts Champions, 2017 Women’s World Curling Champions, 2017 Roar Of The Rings Champions

Currently considered by most to be the top team in the world at the moment, Rachel Homan is looking to carry the momentum from winning the Worlds last year in China and the Roar of the Rings two months ago in Ottawa. We’ve gone over this rink quite a lot over the last couple of years, and judging by their play on the Slams as of late, it seems that everyone is at there best when the big events come around.

While Homan is probably the favourite in many people’s eyes to win the gold in South Korea, there is one thing to keep in mind. Her rink usually always does well in their first trip to a new event, but they end up coming up short and win the second time they go. We shall see if they can change that story this time around. Also, have we discussed how ripped Joanne Courtney is!

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1) Canada (Rachel Homan)

Sup Amanda Gates! As Brett and I have talked about over the last couple of seasons, Homan can be all over the map but when she’s on her game, she’s untouchable. She enters as the favourite to win Canada’s second straight gold medal in women’s curling and she should be in the mix. However, any tire fires might be a problem as this is a very good field with some solid depth, especially compared to the men’s side.

2) Great Britain (Eve Muirhead)

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Skip – “Scottish Curling Heroine” Eve Muirhead, Vice – “Sloan Dog” Anna Sloan, Second – Vicki Adams, Lead – Lauren Gray

Grand Slam Record: 8-5 (Semi-Finalist, Semi-Finalist – Only competed in two events)

Notable Accomplishments: 2015 European Championship Silver Medalist, 2016 European Championship Bronze Medalist, 2017 European Champions, 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship Bronze Medalists

This will be Eve Muirhead’s third trip to the Olympics and she appears to be close to finding the form that took her to a World Championship in 2013. The team has had a few lineup changes over the last couple of years and Eve herself has had some up and down results, but the last few months have seen her turn in some solid performances.

The key player has to be Anna Sloan, as more often than not she misses some shots (though sometimes they are shots that are tough to make) and it’s often up to Eve to bail her out. Muirhead is one of the best shotmakers out there and she should be a major threat to Canada’s chances of a repeat. Plus, don’t forget about the addition of Glenn Howard as coach, which should help her out a lot.

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2) Great Britain (Eve Muirhead)

Although I feel like Rachel’s the pick to win it all, I’m probably rooting more for Eve to do well out of my two favourite curlers. Naturally though, I want a tie in the gold medal game and a power outage. With all that said, Eve’s been playing the best she’s had in quite some time and her previous trips to the Olympics should be huge in making her a threat to contend for a title. Like Brett said though, the play of Anna Sloan will be the key to any success.

3) Sweden (Anna Hasselborg)

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Skip – Anna Hasselborg “Potatoes”, Vice – Sara McManus, Second – Agnes Knochenhauer, Lead – Sofia Mabergs

Grand Slam Record: 11-7 (Runner-Up, Semi-Finalist, DNQ – Only competed in three slams)

Notable Accomplishments: 2016 & 2017 European Championship Silver Medalist, Finished fourth at the 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship

A former World Junior champion, Hasselborg has essentially taken the reigns at the top team in Sweden over the last year and has shot up the world rankings as well. Last season was her breakout year, as her rink is a really strong group and they nearly won a few Grand Slams. An emotional player in the style of a Brad Jacobs, the only drawback to their success so far is that they have yet to win a major event. If everything clicks, they can win the gold in their first trip to the Olympics, but she’s going to be a contender for years to come no matter what happens here.

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3) Sweden (Anna Hasselborg)

Having won the 2010 World Junior title over Rachel Homan, it’s taken a bit for Hasselborg to make an impact on the women’s scene, but she has certainly done so in a short amount of time. Although her losses in the finals of Grand Slam events and the European Championships are slightly concerning, there’s no doubt that this team has the talent to contend this week. A gold medal run isn’t that shocking of an expectation.

4) Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni)

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Skip – Silvana Tirinzoni, Vice – Esther Neuenschwander, Second – Manuela Siegrist, Lead-Marlene Albrecht

Grand Slam Record: 8-8 (Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist – Only competed in three slams)

Notable Accomplishments: Finished fourth at the 2017 European Championships, (Last trip to the World Championships was in 2015, where they finished in fifth)

During this Olympic cycle, both Alina Paetz and Binia Feltscher came away with world championships for Switzerland, but it was Silvana Tirinzoni who got the last laugh over them as she ran the table to win their Olympic Trials. Over the last couple of years, Tirinzoni has done well on the Grand Slam circuit, including a win back in 2015 over Rachel Homan in a fog bowl, and they performed well last year when Neuenschwander was sidelined with an injury and Cathy Overton-Clapham filled in as a super sub. As a former world junior champion with a solid team, this might be the one skip that’s a wild card out of the four favourites, but it’s one you should doubt at your own peril.

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4) Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni)

It’s kind of funny that a team that hasn’t been to the Worlds in awhile ended up being the Olympic rep, but that’s how good the depth is in that country at the moment. Given how well Tirinzoni has done on the Grand Slam scene in recent years, a chance at a medal isn’t that far-fetched as she’s a solid skip and her rink doesn’t make many mistakes.

5) Japan (Satsuki Fujisawa)

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Skip – Satsuki Fujisawa, Vice – Chinami Yoshia, Second – Yumi Suzuki, Lead – Yurika Yoshida

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Notable Accomplishments: 2015 Pacific-Asia Curling Champions, 2016 World Women’s Curling Championship Silver Medalist, 2016 Pacific-Asia Curling Championship Bronze Medalist, 2017 Pacific-Asia Curling Championship Silver Medalist.

In 2016 Satsuki Fujisawa nearly shocked the world as she brought Japan to their first ever final at the Worlds, where they lost to Switzerland in a close game. 2017 was a bit of a down year as they failed to qualify for the Worlds, but they’ve bounced back with a WCT win this year and a trip to finals at the Pacific-Asia Championships. A team that is always laughing no matter what happens and a fun team to get behind as a fan, they have a shot at making the playoffs but will need to pull off a couple of upsets along the way.

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5) Japan (Satsuki Fujisawa)

In between laughing up a storm on the ice, this is a pretty darn solid team that proved how good they can be with a silver medal performance at the 2016 Worlds in Swift Current. Perhaps making them a medal favourite is a bit bold, but I would easily make this young squad my sleeper pick for this week. 

6) United States (Nina Roth)

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Skip – Nina Roth, Vice – Tabitha Peterson, Second – Aileen Geving, Lead – Rebecca Hamilton

Grand Slam Record: 3-6 (DNQ, DNQ – Only Competed in two slams)

Notable Accomplishments: 2016 & 2017 USA National Silver Medalist, 2017 USA Olympic Curling Trials Champion, Finished 5th at 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship

With the Erika Brown era essentially over, it’s time for someone new to lead the charge for the Red White and Blue. Nina Roth is arguably the top women’s skip in the United States right and she’s done okay at best over the last couple of years, though her fifth at last year’s Worlds was a good showing. They will have a slight advantage when it comes to knowing the ice and the stones when the round-robin gets underway as Rebecca Hamilton already played this week with her brother Matt in the Mixed Doubles event. This is another wild card for me this week, but they might make the playoffs if things go right.

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6) United States (Nina Roth)

While I would like to see Jamie Sinclair get a shot at a major event soon (I’ll save my rant on how USA Curling picks their World Rep for another day), Roth has had some decent results over the last couple of years. I’m not sure I’d pick them for a medal, but a tiebreaker wouldn’t shock me.

7) Russia – or as everyone calls them – Olympic Athletes From Russia (Victoria Moiseeva)

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Skip – Victoria Moiseeva, Vice – Uliana Vasileva, Second – Galina Arsenkina, Lead – Julia Guzieva

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Notable Accomplishment: 2016 European Curling Champions

So where do I begin with this one. Back in 2016 Moiseeva upset Anna Sidorova to qualify for the Euros and then on Russia’s first title at the event. Sidorova bounced back with a runner-up result at the Worlds in 2017, which was her best showing there after a number of bronze medal results, but a poor showing at at Euros in 2017 set up a seven-game series between the twos ides that Moiseeva won in five games.

Now that all of the chaos is over, it’s going to be really interesting to see how this rink will do as we haven’t seen them much since that European run. In fact, this squad won the fan vote to play in the Everest Curling Challenge this year, but an illness kept them from competing and Val Sweeting took their place. For me, this is the major wildcard in the field as they could finish anywhere.

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7) Russia (Victoria Moiseeva)

Had Anna Sidorova been competing at this event, she easily would have been a medal threat and I would of probably put her in either third or fourth spot in a close battle with Sweden. But since the Russian Curling Federation gonna Russia Curling Federation, I haven’t a clue where to put Moiseeva. Yes, she’s won a European title, but is a totally different animal. 

8) South Korea (Eun-Jung Kim)

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Skip – Eun-Jung Kim, Vice – Kyeong-Ae Kim, Second – Seon-Yeong Kim, Lead – Yeong-Mi Kim

Grand Slam Record: 6-6 (DNQ, Semi-Finalist)

Notable Accomplishments: 2016 and 2017 Pacific-Asia Curling Champions, Finished 6th at the 2017 Women’s World Curling Championship

We’ve known for a long time that this was going to be the team that would represent their home country in curling and this team has played in a lot of Grand Slam events over the last prepare for it. They’ve made the playoffs a few times on the tour, but they haven’t done great at the Worlds yet and I think the pressure of being the home country might be too much for them to overcome. Also, they have to face Rachel Homan in their first game. Yikes!

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8) China (Bingyu Wang)

Eight years since she entered the Vancouver Olympics as the favourite to win a gold medal, Bingyu’s probably not in the mix as a clear-cut medal threat here in South Korea, but she can probably be in the battle for a playoff spot with a good week. She’s been in this event before, and that should help out a younger squad get used to the big stage. 

9) China (Bingyu Wang)

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Skip – “Master Betty” Bingyu Wang, Vice – Yan Zhou, Second – Jinli Liu, Lead – Jingyi Ma

Grand Slam Record: 2-6 (DNQ, DNQ – Only competed in two slams)

Notable Accomplishments: 2016 Pacific Asia Championship Silver Medalist

This is Bingyu Wang’s third Olympic appearance and this year she does have a new lineup with a different front end instead of the one we saw last season. Ever since she won the world title in 2009, Wang’s had a lot of ups and downs with her results. She might pull an upset or two, but don’t expect a whole lot.

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9) South Korea (Eun-Jung Kim)

Having the home crowd on her side should help, and there’s a chance she could surprise given her decent runs on the World Curling Tour in the past, however I just can’t see Kim getting into the playoff mix. I wouldn’t be surprised though if she ends up being a threat in a few years time. 

10) Denmark (Madeleine Dupont)

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Skip – Madeleine Dupont, Vice – Denise Dupont, Second – Julie Hogh, Lead – Mathilde Halse

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Notable Accomplishments: N/A

The Dupont sisters have been around the game for quite awhile now and were at the Olympics together in 2010 in Vancouver. Madeline is back in a skip role after playing with Lene Neilsen for a few years, but I’m not expecting much from them in South Korea, though they will probably be in a few close games.

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10) Denmark (Madeline Dupont)

Well I wasn’t expecting to see the Dupont sisters back on the Olympic stage, but here we are! Given that they haven’t done much lately, I’m assuming they’ll be at the bottom of the pack, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this experience helps them being a better team on the European scene in a few years. 

Men’s Event

1) Sweden – Niklas Edin

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Skip – “The Swedish Pimp” Niklas Edin, Vice – “The Cleaner” Oskar Eriksson, Second – “The Machine Gun” Rasmus Wrana, Lead – “The Underboss” Christoffer Sundgren

Grand Slam Record: 13-8 (Semi-Finalist, Runner-Up, Runner-Up – Only competed in three events)

Notable Accomplishments: 2015-2017 European Men’s Curling Champions, 2015 World Men’s Curling Champions, 2017 World Men’s Curling Championship Silver Medalist,

Don’t ask me how I turned this team into the Bullet Club. Anyways, it’s a coin flip for the race for who wins gold in South Korea, but I ended up putting Edin as my pick in his third run at the Olympic title. He’s gotten better and better over the last few years with a couple of world titles, multiple European championships and also becoming the first European men’s rink to win a Grand Slam event.

As for the team itself, their hitting ability is off the charts, especially with Oskar Eriksson being one of the hardest throwing players in the game. Although their soft game has gotten better, their one weakness is if Wrana or Eriksson make mistakes on their peels, that can lead to big problems. With that said, this a terrific squad and with Edin missing out on a chance at the gold with a loss to David Murdoch in the semi-final in 2014, anything other than a trip to the finals would have to be a disappointment.

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1) Sweden (Niklas Edin)

You can make a case either way for Sweden or Canada to be the champion, but given his body of work over the last couple of years, I ended up giving Edin the nod for a gold medal. He’ll be hungry to redeem himself after losing in the semis four years ago when he was arguably the best team there, and if everyone’s on their game, they’ll be hard to top. 

2) Canada (Kevin Koe)

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Skip – Kevin Koe, Vice – Marc Kennedy, Second – Brent Laing “Lainger”, Lead – “Benny Heebz” Ben Hebert

Grand Slam Record: 13-9 (DNQ, Semi-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, Semi-Finalist)

Notable Accomplishments: 2016 Tim Hortons Brier Champions, 2016 World Men’s Curling Champions, 2017 Tim Hortons Brier Silver Medalist, 2017 Tim Hortons Roar Of The Rings Champions

We have already gone over a good chunk about this team in our Roar Of The Rings preview and review, so there’s not much left to say about that.  Ben Hebert and Marc Kennedy have been to the Olympics before winning gold in 2010, so their experience is going to help Kevin Koe and Brent Laing out tremendously. Like I mentioned before, the top two is pretty much a coin flip but I would say the difference between Edin and Koe could be their draw games, especially with Kennedy and Hebert’s sweeping ability. Either way, it should be a great battle.

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2) Canada (Kevin Koe)

This is one of those battles that will probably come down to an extra-end in the race for gold. We’ve talked before how if Koe’s off, things could get tough, but he’s played so well at major events it’s hard to see that happening. I think Edin’s Olympic experience has me leaning more towards him, but Koe’s going to be right there. If someone other than these two wins the gold medal, it would be a major surprise.

3) United States (John Shuster)

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Skip – John Shuster, Vice – Tyler George, Second – Matt Hamilton, Lead – John Landsteiner

Grand Slam Record: 6-8 (Quarter-Finalist, DNQ, DNQ – Only competed in three slams)

Notable Accomplishments: 2015 United States Men’s Curling Champions, 2016 United States Men’s Curling Championship Silver Medalist, 2016 World Men’s Curling Championship Bronze Medalist, 2017 United States Men’s Olympic Trials Champions

This is a player and team that has gotten better and better over the few years, and especially Shuster lost skipping duties in 2010 after losing three of his first four games. Shuster almost in the upper level of men’s curling on the world stage, especially after two straight trips to the playoffs at the Worlds. He might need the week of his life to get in teh medal round, but Shuster’s play as of late and his Olympic experience should help him be in the playoff discussion at the very least. Plus, don’t forget that Matt Hamilton will be coming off the mixed doubles event so he might give the team a leg up when it comes to knowledge of the ice and rocks.

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3) United States (John Shuster)

If you had told me a few years ago that I would John Shuster as a legit medal threat at the Olympics, I’d have thought you were nuts. However, given how good these guys have been at the Worlds in recent years, it’s not that crazy of an outcome. The race for the final two playoff spots are going to be crazy, but these guys have done well enough in recent years to be in the hunt for a medal.

4) Switzerland (Peter de Cruz)

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Skip – Peter de Cruz (Throws Second Stones), Vice – Benoit Schwartz (Throws Skip Stones), Second – Claudio Paetz (Throws Third Stones), Lead – Valetine Tanner

Grand Slam Record: 9-7 (DNQ, Quarter-Finalist, Champion – Only competed in three events)

Notable Accomplishments: 2015 European Men’s Curling Championship Silver Medalist, 2016 & 2017 European Men’s Curling Championship Bronze Medalist, 2017 World Men’s Curling Championship Bronze Medalist

Here is another one of those skips that has pretty taken the mantle as the top team for their country. For the last year and a half, de Cruz has become a force on the men’s scene with a bronze medal at last year’s Worlds and a win at the most recent Grand Slam of Curling event over Niklas Edin in January. This is another real solid squad in this field and they have a good chance of being on the podium.

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4) Norway (Thomas Ulsrud’s Magical Pants)

It’s the last stand for the 2010 Olympic silver medalists and I expect to have a good run all week. Granted, they might not be on the same level as the other top rinks now on the men’s stage, but they have enough experience to have a shot at the playoffs. Plus, who doesn’t love the pants. 

5) Norway’s Magical Pants (Thomas Ulsrud)

 

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Skip – Thomas Ulsrud, Vice – Torger Neergard, Second – Christoffer Svae, Lead – Haavard Vad Peterson

Grand Slam Record: 3-6 (DNQ, DNQ)

Notable Accomplishments: 2015 European Men’s Curling Championship Bronze Medalist, 2015 World Men’s Curling Championship Silver Medalist, 2016 European Men’s Curling Championship Silver Medalist

Ah yes the team with the pants. Thomas Ulsrud is back for his third straight Olympics as the skip, but to be honest I think his best performances might be behind him, especially with young Steffen Walstad hot on his heels. We all know how good Ulsrud is on soft shots and the hitting ability of Christoffer Svae is still pretty good, plus they have lots of experience so it would be foolish to not have them in the playoff mix. They might need some luck for a medal, but they’ll be a team to watch with 14 different pairs of pants apparently coming to the Olympics. I do wonder if anyone else will be wearing “The Pants” when this team retires though.

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5) Great Britain (Kyle Smith)

Although Bruce Mouat’s rink beat him to the punch of winning a Grand Slam event, Smith is the next strong men’s rink over in Scotland after the runs of Tom Brewster and David Murdoch. Thanks to a strong showing at the Europeans, I’d consider them the best threat to break into the top four in South Korea.

6) Great Britain (Kyle Smith)

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Skip – Kyle Smith, Vice – Thomas Muirhead, Second – Kyle Waddell, Lead – Cameron Smith

Grand Slam Record: 1-7 (DNQ, DNQ)

Notable Accomplishment: 2017 European Men’s Curling Championship Silver Medalist

Even though he had a breakout season on the Grand Slam circuit, I was a little surprised that Kyle Smith was selected as the rep for Great Britain over someone like David Murdoch or Tom Brewster. With that said, this is a solid and young squad, but being in the Olympics before making a World Championship might put a bit of pressure on him. Then again, Eve Muirhead was kind of in a similar spot back in 2010 as she was still playing in the junior ranks and we’ve seen what she’s done over the years. Keep a close eye on Smith going forward though, as he’ll be in the mix in four years time and will be no pushover in South Korea.

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6) Switzerland (Peter de Cruz)

Brett’s probably a little higher on de Cruz’s chances than I am. Granted, they’ve picked things up as of late and seem to be on the verge of being the best European rink that’s not Niklas Edin on a regular basis, but I’m not sure they will be in the medal picture this time around. Call it a hunch more than anything.

7) Japan (Yusuke Morozumi)

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Skip – Yusuke Morozumi, Vice – Tetsuro Shimizu, Second – Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Lead – Kosuke Morozumi
Grand Slam Record: N/A
Notable Accomplishments: 2015 Pacific Asia Curling Championship Silver Medalist, 2016 Pacific Asia Curling Championship Bronze Medalist, Finished fourth at 2016 World Men’s Curling Championship
Yusuke Morozumi gets the call for Japan and he might be capable of a few upsets this week. This team is known for really good hitting ability and has been a playoff contender at the last two world men’s curling championships, but they are probably more of a wild card here this week.
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7) Japan (Yusuke Morozumi)
If anyone is capable of a shock run to the playoffs like Riu Liu at the last Olympics, this is the team to do it. They’ve been in the mix at the worlds in their last couple of trips there and I fully expect to pull a few upsets in South Korea. A strong start is the difference between a playoff spot and a mid-pack finish though. 

8) Denmark (Rasmus Stjerne)

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Skip – Rasmus Stjerne, Vice – Johnny Frederiksen, Second – Mikkel Poulsen, Lead – Oliver Dupont

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Notable Accomplishments: 2016 World Men’s Curling Championships Silver Medalist

For someone who has been to a world men’s final in 2016 and made the playoffs in 2013, there has not been a ton of talk about this former World Junior Champion. Although he went 4-5 at his first trip to the Olympics four years ago, Stjerne has had a lot of ups and downs over the last few years, so it’s really tough to tell where he will end up.

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8) South Korea (Chang-Min Kim)

This might be a slightly biased point of view having seen them all week at the Boost National event in Sault Ste. Marie in November, but Kim’s hitting game makes them a team to watch for all week. I’m not sure they’ll be in the mix to contend, but being the hosts for the men’s field should give them a ton of momentum in the years to come.

9) South Korea (Chang-Min Kim)

 

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Skip – Chang-Min Kim, Vice – Se-Hyeon Kim, Second – Eun-Su Oh, Lead – Ki-Bok Lee

Grand Slam Record: 6-5 (Runner-Up, DNQ – Only competed in two slams)

Notable Accomplishments: 2017 Pacific-Asia Champions

The Men’s team representing South Korea hadn’t done much at all over this cycle, until this year. Not only did Kim capture the Pacific-Asia title, but they made a shocking run to the finals at the Boost National where they lost to Bruce Mouat in the final. From what I’ve seen of them, this is a solid team and Kim is a pretty good hitter, but in all honesty I don’t see them doing well on home soil. However, I think they will pull off a couple of upset wins.

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9) Denmark (Rasmus Stjerne)

Like Brett said earlier, Stjerne probably should be higher in the mix given how he’s had strong showings at the Worlds. However, he’s been all over the map at the other events and it’s harder to see him higher than the bottom half of the standings. Perhaps he’ll appear more often at events over in Canada in the next cycle, but we will have to wait and see.

10) Italy (Joel Retornaz)

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Skip – Joel Retornaz, Vice – Amos Mosaner, Second – Andrea Pilzer, Lead – Simone Gonin

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Notable Accomplishments: Finished ninth at the 2017 World Championships

For the first time since 2006 when they were the host country, Joel Retornaz has brought Italy back to the Olympics upsetting the likes of Germany, China and the Czech Republic to qualify. Now there has not been much said about Joel compared to some of the other rinks, even though he had a fairly respectable showing at last year’s world championships. With that said, don’t expect much in his second Olympic Games.

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10) Italy (Joel Rentoraz)

What a great beard! Brett’s gone over the main thoughts on this squad, but I think they can surprise a few teams as they’ve gotten better over the last couple of years. They might not have a great week in South Korea, but Rentoraz and Jaap Van Dorp of the Netherlands might be rinks to watch for in the coming years as they getter better on the European and World stage. 

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The Punkari Brothers Review The 2017 Roar Of The Rings

Written by Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari – Yes this is two months delayed but hey, better late than never right)

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After eight days of intense competition, we have crowned our men’s and women’s teams that will represent Team Canada at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. For the winners it’s a culmination of four years of very hard work and a lot of sacrifices. For the others, it will be a question of whether or not to get a chance like this again. One thing that is for sure is that when the curling season ends, there will be a ton of lineup reshuffling.

Let’s start things off with the women’s event where the top team in the world is starting to revert back to their 2014 form.

Champions – Team Rachel Homan

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I think we can officially stop questioning this team from now on as Rachel Homan is pretty much almost back to her 2014 form. After getting off to an okay start in the round-robin and having a very close call against Casey Scheidegger, Rachel turned up the wick in the playoffs with an impressive showing over Jennifer Jones in the semifinal and was in control of the final against Chelsea Carey, even though the final end was almost like watching this year’s Scotties final with Michelle Englot.

Something that surprised me during the week while watching the rink, especially during the playoffs, was that Rachel went back to using the tick shot on almost every end with Lisa Weagle when they had the hammer and it was tough for the like of Jones and Carey to respond to that.

In terms of the Olympics, it will be a tightly contested affair as Homan will have to deal with a couple of strong European sides that will talk more about in our Olympic preview. The one big question heading into February though is if Homan will have her usual trend where she loses a big event in her first attempt before winning it all, or will she change that narrative and bring back the gold medal.

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My two favourite skips in Rachel Homan and Eve Muirhead are going to be at the Olympics! You have no idea how happy I am about this turn of events.

As Brett said, Homan and crew stepped up their game when it mattered the most and it was their best performance of the season to date after some interesting showings at the Grand Slam. She should be the favourite for the gold medal in South Korea, though Muirhead and Anna Hasselborg will be right there as her toughest foes.

Round-Robin Stats

Skip – Rachel Homan – 85% – 1st

Vice – Emma Miskew – 84% – 1st

Second – Joanne Courtney – 85% – 1st

Lead – Lisa Weagle – 81% – 8th

Team Percentage – 85% – 1st

Runner-Up/Biggest Surprise – Chelsea Carey

Chelsea Carey

Boy this one has got to sting. After becoming the first women’s team to go unbeaten in the round-robin, they just weren’t at their best when it mattered most in the final against the hometown favourites. Carey got off to a great start by beating Homan and she only trailed in one game during the round-robin as she came from behind to beat Julie Tippin. However, a missed blank attempt in the first end and then a steal in the second end made it a tough hill to climb against Homan in the final.

With all that said, having Cathy Overton-Clapham has really helped this team out in my opinion and it makes Carey one of the favourites to get out of Alberta for the playdowns. While I’m sure this loss will be a tough one to get over for Carey, she should have a great chance of contending for a Scotties crown if they make it there.

Heading into this week, Brett and I both felt like Carey usually does well in 10-end Curling Canada sanctioned events compared to the eight-end games on the World Curling Tour, so there was a chance that she could be a good pick to surprise. I certainly didn’t expect her to run the table though and she was darn close to beating Homan in the finals if it wasn’t for a sluggish start.

Getting out of Alberta will be tough, but Carey will be among the favourites to do so in the always tough province. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this squad after this year though, as I suspect Overton-Clapham and Peters probably aren’t going to be around for another four-year run.

Round-Robin Stats

Skip – Chelsea Carey – 80% – Tied for 3rd

Vice – Cathy Overton-Clapham – 77% – Tied for 5th

Second – Jocelyn Peterman – 82% – Tied for 2nd

Lead – Laine Peters – 89% – 2nd

Team Percentage – 82% – Tied for 3rd

Third Place/Biggest Disappointment – Team Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Rachel Homan

For the defending Olympics champions and the top team based on their performance to date ahead of the trials, this was more of a case of a team that went in the opposite direction at end of the week. After starting things off with a 5-0 record, which included a come from behind win over Casey Schiedegger, the losses began.

Following a close game against Chelsea Carey, the Jones rink suffered a lopsided defeat to Krista McCarville and then lost both their last round-robin game and the semifinal to Rachel Homan. Jennifer’s shooting percentages really fell off during that stretch as she was shooting in the mid 60’s to the low 70’s, which is something you don’t expect to happen.

Now that the Olympic run is over, Jones is again the favourite to get out of Manitoba and return to the Scotties. However, will this prove to be her last run at making it to the Olympics? We’ll have to wait and see.

Round-Robin Stats

Skip – Jennifer Jones – 74% – Tied for 7th

Vice – Kaitlyn Lawes – 82% – Tied for 2nd

Second – Jill Office – 79% – 6th

Lead – Dawn McEwen – 92% – 1st

Team Percentage – 81% – 5th

Having won her last 14 games before the Trials, Jones was to me the easy favourite and looked to be on track with a 5-0 start. However, as Brett already mentioned, things went pear-shaped and it felt like things we’re off a little bit and it reminded me of some of the strange losses Jones had over the last couple of years.

Obviously it’s a tough way to finish off the quest for an Olympic gold medal repeat, but this rink should easily be the favourites to win the Scotties if they make it that far. The future is super interesting though as I have no idea if Jones or Officer will be back for another run. If there’s any changes, Kaitlyn Lawes might be the most interesting player to keep an eye on when all of the shuffling takes place.

Kanata ON.December 6, 2017.Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Curling Trials.Team Sweeting, skip Val Sweeting, lead Rachel Brown.Curling Canada/ michael burns photo

While I agree with Brett that the shocking slide Jones had would make her rink the disappointment of the week, the other rink that didn’t end up finishing anywhere near our expectations was the one skipped by Val Sweeting. 

Going into the event, we expected Sweeting to be right up there with Homan and Jones in the mix for the playoffs, but an 0-3 start seemed to squash any chance of that. She finished the week with a 4-4 record and ended Krista McCarville’s playoff hopes with an extra-end win in her last game, but I’m starting to wonder if the back-to-back trips to the Scotties finals in 2014 and 2015 might be the peak of this rink’s run.

Round-Robin Stats

Skip – Val Sweeting – 77% – 5th

Vice – Lori Olson-Johns – 76% – 7th

Second – Dana Ferguson – 82% – Tied for 2nd

Lead – Rachelle Brown – 87% – 4th

Team Percentage – 80% – 6th

Now we move on to the men’s portion of the Olympic Trials, where a team that was pretty much built for this event showed everyone what it was made of.

Champions – Team Kevin Koe

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When this team was formed four years ago, many people figured that with this lineup they were going to be the favorites to win the trials. Though there were some ups and downs along the way, this proved why many expected them to be in South Korea.

Now granted, there was a little bit of luck along the way as their early games came to down to one shot. Then in the finals, which is the best game of the season so far, everyone was playing their best and Kevin Koe continued his great shot making and return to the form we saw a couple of years ago. I almost seems like the bigger the stage, the better he plays.

When it comes to the Olympics, it’s basically a coin flip between Koe and one other team for the gold at this point. I think it’s going to help Koe and Laing quite a lot though that both Kennedy and Hebert have been at the Olympics so they will help them with what to expect at the event. Also, you have to Benny Heebz chucking his broom all the way across the sheet after the final shot.

In addition to an 80-grade broom chuck from Hebert, the Koe rink was the most consistent all week long and really stepped up their game as the competition continued after a few narrow wins early on. The stage is set for Koe and Niklas Edin to fight it out for the Olympic title, and it should be a great battle if they are both at the top of their game.

Round-Robin Stats

Skip – Kevin Koe – 88% – 1st

Vice – Marc Kennedy – 86% – Tied for 2nd

Second – Brent Laing – 90% – 2nd

Lead – Ben Hebert – 92% – Tied for 1st

Team Percentage – 89% – Tied for 1st

Runner-Up – Mike McEwen

Mike McEwen

Although it was another tough loss for Mike McEwen, this was probably his coming out party on the national stage as he played two of the best games of his life in the playoffs. Even though he had a shaky end to the round-robin, I think McEwen’s showing in Ottawa could be a launching to perhaps getting his first Brier in the next couple of years. That says a lot considering this rink almost split up after losing the Manitoba provincial final in 2015.

If everyone stays with this team, they might end up being the favourites for the 2022 Olympic run. We’ve been waiting for Mike to have a great showing at a Curling Canada event and he did just that in Ottawa. With how great he played in the playoffs, it’s kind of a bummer that he missed out on the win, but that big event title is coming.

Round-Robin Stats

Skip – Mike McEwen – 85% – 5th

Vice – B.J. Neufeld – 85% – Tied for 6th

Second – Matt Wozniak – 88% – Tied for 3rd

Lead – Denni Neufeld – 90% – 3rd

Team Percentage – 87% – Tied for 3rd

 

 

Third Place – Brad Gushue

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For the defending Brier and World Champion, it was almost a similar story to their run to that elusive Brier title in St. John’s where he got off to a slow start but turned things up as the week went on. If it wasn’t for one bad shot in the semifinal, Gushue would have probably been in the running for another chance at going to the Olympics. Next up is a return to the Brier as Team Canada and possibly another four year run, so Newfoundland should still be in good hands in the years ahead.

Obviously one bad end doesn’t make the week a full disappointment, but given how well Gushue and his rink have played over the last calendar year, not making the finals of the Olympic Trials has to be quite a let-down. Although we’re not sure if any changes are in store for this rink going forward, you’d have to think an intact Gushue foursome would be the odds-on favourite to contend for Olympic honours in 2022.

Round-Robin Stats

Skip – Brad Gushue – 87% – 2nd

Vice – Mark Nichols – 86% -Tied for 2nd

Second – Brett Gallant – 87% – Tied for 5th

Lead – Geoff Walker – 88% – 6th

Team Percentage – 87% – Tied for 3rd

 

Biggest Surprise – Brendan Bottcher

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Speaking of guys who had a coming out party on the national stage, Brendan Bottcher has put a real good case for himself as a potential contender for the 2022 Olympics. After getting off to an 2-1 start, Bottcher had a bad showing against John Morris, but he bounced back by being in every game he played as he almost defeated Kevin Koe in the zound-robin and was in the playoff hunt before a late loss to Mike McEwen.  I think Bottcher is someone that can be a really good all-around player going forward, especially with his soft game. We shall how things how things go for him down the road.

Given his successful junior career, Brett and I expected Bottcher to be one of the future stars on the men’s scene. Now that he’s been to a Brier and an Olympic Trials, the sky’s the limit for this talented skip going forward. Nothing seems to faze him and I suspect he’ll be in the playoff mix at the Brier soon, especially with another chance to back this year with Koe at the Olympics.

Round-Robin Stats

Skip – Brendan Bottcher – 82% – 7th

Vice – Darren Moulding – 85% – Tied for 6th

Second – Brad Thiessen – 87% – Tied for 5th

Lead – Karrick Martin – 86% – Tied for 7th

Team Percentage – 85% – Tied for 5th

Biggest Disappointment – Brad Jacobs

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Talk about falling off the face of the earth. Brad Jacobs could have easily been 4-0 early on in the week, but he threw his final draw through the house and lost to Kevin Koe before blowing a big lead and losing to Steve Laycock. After that, it seemed that his confidence took a major nose dive, as he shot 65% or worse in three of his last four games.

For a team that is built on raw emotion, this has to be one of the most frustrating events they’s ever been in, and it will be interesting to see if the guys can bounce back for the Brier if they get there. There is a silver lining, however, as all four guys are back on the team for another four year run so I expect to see more intensity in the years to come.

The draw through the house in an extra-end against Koe summed up a rough week for the defending Olympic champions, as they couldn’t seem to get out of their own way after that. It’s good that they are staying together though, as it should help Northern Ontario stay at the top of the mix and give them a leg-up on any men’s teams that plan to change things up.

Round-Robin Stats

Skip – Brad Jacobs – 79% – Tied for 8th

Vice – Ryan Fry – 85% – Tied for 6th

Second – E.J. Harnden – 88% – Tied for 3rd

Lead – Ryan Harnden – 89% – Tied for 4th

Team Percentage – 85% – Tied for 5th

Punkari Brothers Shots of the Week

Women’s – Rachel Homan’s game winning double takeout against Casey Scheidegger

Men’s – Kevin Koe’s draw in the eighth end against Mike McEwen in the final

 

 

 

 


The Punkari Brothers Preview the 2018 Scotties

A quick note here from Lucas. Brett and I have done an Olympic Trials recap and we also did a provincial preview for the Scotties and the Brier, but I haven’t had a chance to post those yet. Keep an eye for those in the coming weeks, which will be comical in hindsight, as is this late to the party Scotties preview.

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The time has come once again to preview the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts, though this year’s event in Penticton comes with a major change. With the field expanding to 16 teams and no more relegation, the Scotties now have a pool system like the Canadian Juniors.

In a similar format to the Canadian Juniors, eight teams will be in two pools with the top four in each group moving to a championship pool. From there, the four best records will then advance into the playoffs.

Also, there’s a 16th team in the field this year, which is the Wildcard Team that will be determined by a play-in game between the two highest ranked team in the CTRS rankings that failed to win their provincials.

(A quick comment on this. While I don’t mind the pool play, the concept of adding a team to the field that didn’t even win the provincials is baffling. Granted, you probably could have gotten around this and stayed at 14 teams by getting rid of Team Canada, but heaven forbid we force the defending champions to play through provincial playdowns.)

Before we go over our rankings for this year’s field, which will start off with the 15 teams in the event already and then the two wildcard teams, here’s how each of the pools look for this week in Penticton.

Pool A

  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Northern Ontario
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Saskatchewan
  • Wildcard Team
  • Yukon

Pool B

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
  • Nunavut
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Team Canada

1) Manitoba (St. Vital Curling Club – Winnipeg)

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Skip – Jennifer Jones, Vice – Kaitlyn Lawes, Second – “Jilly” Jill Officer, Lead – Dawn “The Mongoose” McEwen

Grand Slam Record: 22-4 (Semifinalist, Champion, Champion, Semifinalist)

(Due to Kaitlyn Lawes competing in the Mixed Doubles event at the Olympics with John Morris, Shannon Birchard will be playing in her place at the Vice position)

Although the Olympic Trials ended on a sour not with four straight losses, it would be foolish to make anyone else but Jennifer Jones the favourite for the Scotties, even though she did get quite a scare in the provincial final against Darcy Robertson.

It’s been a phenomenal season for the Jones rink as a whole, but it will be interesting to see if they can pull it all together in the playoffs as there’s been a slight downturn in performance at the Olympics Trials and the provincials. Losing Kaitlyn Lawes is going to hurt a bit, but this is a glorious chance for Shannon Birchard to stand out on the national scene with a great performance.

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1) Manitoba (Jennifer Jones)

Even with Lawes heading to South Korea, Jones’ rink is easily the favourite for this event. They’ve played well all year, other than a slightly disappointing finish at the Olympic Trials, and the addition of Birchard is a great one. I’ve been a fan of her for awhile now, mainly because she plays mixed doubles with Jason Gunnlaugson, and she’s going to be one of the players to watch on the women’s scene over the next few years.

2) Alberta (Grande Prairie Curling Club)

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Skip – Casey “Scheidiggitydog” Scheidegger, Vice – Cary-Anne McTaggart, Second – Jessie Scheidegger, Lead – Kristie Moore

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

In her eight attempt, Casey Scheidegger finally broke through to make it to the Scotties and given how she preformed at the Olympic Trials, she has a pretty good chance of not only making the playoffs but perhaps winning it all.

Her play has gotten better over the course of the last year since she broke through to win her first Grand Slam title in 2017, and having veteran players like McTaggart and Moore should help her quite a lot. With her continued improvement, it’s possible for her to become a national champion in her first attempt.

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2) Alberta (Casey Scheidegger)

With her breakout performances over the last year, including a dandy of a shot to win the Alberta title, I fully expect Casey to have another strong week at her first Scotties. Granted, it’s hard to win a national title in your first try, but she has a pretty good shot with the way this field shakes out. Granted, she’ll probably have to beat Jones to do that, and that’s always a tough task.

3) Northern Ontario (Idylwylde Golf & Country Club – Sudbury)

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Skip – Tracy Fleury, Vice – Crystal Webster, Second – Jennifer Wylie, Lead – “Pimp” Amanda Gates, Alternate – Jenna Walsh (Northern Ontario uses a five-player rotation)

Grand Slam Record: 5-5 (DNQ, Semi-Finalist – Only competed in two slams)

 

Tracy Fleury returns to the Scotties for the third time and is representing Northern Ontario for the first time since 2015 after winning on home ice over Krista McCarville at the provincials. Despite a disappointing showing at the Pre-Trials, this season has been better than the last couple of years, which included a strong showing at the Boost National. If they play like they did there, they should have a shot at the playoffs, though we are guaranteed to see Amanda Gates cause all sorts of hilarity.

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3) Team Canada (Michelle Englot)

Although this season hasn’t been great since their surprise run to the Scotties final last February, Rachel Homan’s Olympic Trials success gave the Englot another chance at a national title. Personally, I think they’ll go as far as Kate Cameron takes them, but they should be a playoff team at worst.

4) Team Canada (Granite Curling Club – Winnipeg)

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Skip – Michelle Englot, Vice – Kate “Straight Edge” Cameron, Second – Leslie Wilson, Lead – Raunora Westcott

Grand Slam Record: 9-12 (Quarter-Finalist, DNQ, DNQ, Runner-Up)

 

*Due to Rachel Homan winning the Roar Of The Rings, the runner-up from last year’s Scotties gets the Team Canada spot for this year*

Boy does Michelle Englot feel fortunate that Rachel Homan is heading to the Olympics, because I don’t think she would have gotten out of Manitoba given how the season has gone. However, they may have turned things around a little bit with a runner-up finish at the Canadian Open. With that said, if Englot is to be in the mix for a title once again, there has to be a lot more consistency and Kate Cameron will need to continue her outstanding play from last year.

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4) Northern Ontario (Tracy Fleury)

Not only does everyone’s favourite lead Amanda Gates return to the national stage, but Crystal Webster will be competing in her first Scotties and has shed the title of being the best curler yet to play at the event. Although they’ve been up and down when it comes to consistency, the talent is there in this team to make the playoffs if all goes well.

5) Northwest Territories (Yellowknife Curling Centre)

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Skip – Kerry Galusha, Vice – Sarah Koltun, Second – Megan Koehler, Lead – Shona Barbour

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Coming off of her best ever showing last year at the Scotties, Galusha received a major shot in the arm as Sarah Koltun moves from the Yukon to join the other top women’s team in the Territories. With Galusha’s experience at this event, she’s always a tough skip to go up against no matter who is playing here. It might be a bit of a stretch to pick her in the top five, but if she can keep her momentum from last year, watch out.

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5) Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha)

Given how well she played last year after winning the pre-qualifying round, Galusha should have another good week in Penticton. Although they don’t play much on the World Curling Tour, they are always competitive, and Koltun is one of the better young curlers in the country. Her addition should make this team even better.

6) British Columbia (Nanaimo Curling Centre)

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Skip – Kesa Van Osch, Vice – Marika Van Osch, Second – Kalia Van Osch, Lead – Amy Gibson

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Kesa Van Osch will be making her second trip to the Scotties and she’s hoping at the very least that the flu bug stays away from her team. In her last trip in 2014, the flu decimated them to the point where they were playing with three players at certain points, though they did post a 6-5 record.

This year, Kesa’s sisters will be joining up with them again after being at the Canadian Juniors together. Their national experience should help this fairly solid squad, though the midfield is so hard to predict so it could be wrong in that regard.

Team Nova Scotia skip Mary-Anne Arsenault calls on the sweepers to stop in draw thirteen action at the Scotties 2015

6) Nova Scotia (Mary-Anne Arsenault)

In her last trip to the event in 2015, Arsenault beat Rachel Homan and Jennifer Jones and was in the mix for a playoff spot. If this rink has another strong round-robin, a spot in the playoffs isn’t that far fetched given the depth of this year’s field.

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

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Skip – Stacie Curtis, Vice – Erin Porter, Second – Julie Devereaux, Lead – Erica Trickett

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Another skip that had her best ever showing at last year’s Scotties was Stacie Curtis, as she rose up the standings after spending three tournaments in the basement. She might have a shot of getting out of her round-robin pool and giving other teams fits, but I can’t see too much else happening. However, if she keeps improving, she could be in the same boat as Andrea Crawford was for New Brunswick a few years ago when they were on the fringes of playoff contention.

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7) British Columbia (Kesa Van Osch)

After an impressive debut in Montreal four years ago, it’s a little surprising to see Van Osch have to wait this long to return to the Scotties. Now that she’s back as the home skip, along with having her sisters alongside here, I expect her to have a pretty solid sophomore appearance on the national stage.

8) Nova Scotia (Dartmouth Curling Club)

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Skip – Mary-Anne Arsenault, Vice – Christina Black, Second – Jennifer Baxter, Lead – Jennifer Crouse

Grand Slam Record: N/A

In what will be her 13th trip to the event, Arsenault is back at the Scotties for the first time since 2015, where she went 5-6 and could have had a better record with a bit more luck. The lineup has a slight change with Baxter going up to second and Crouse now at lead, and they will be a tough squad to go up against all week, especially with Arsenault’s experience. However, they might need some luck to get out of their group.

 

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8) Saskatchewan (Sherry Anderson)

This is one of those rinks that you could really put anywhere in the standings. Anderson’s a good veteran player and the youngsters have all done well on the junior circuit, but they haven’t played a ton on the tour and the Scotties are a totally different beast. They might sneak into the championship round, but would need to have a couple of upsets along the way.

9) Ontario (Royal Canadian Curling Club – Toronto)

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Skip – Hollie Duncan, Vice – Stephanie LeDrew, Second – Cheryl Kreviazuk, Lead – Karen Sagle

Grand Slam Record: N/A

So about the Ontario women’s curling scene at the moment. With Rachel Homan at the Olympics, Lucas and I had four possible teams in the mix to win the title, but none of them did. Instead, it was a lineup with two former Team Homan alternates in LeDrew and Kreviazuk, that came away with the title. Although Duncan has been in the Ontario provincials a few times and LeDrew went to the Scotties with Shelley Nichols a few years back, this is another team that’s a complete wild card for this week.

 

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9) Ontario (Hollie Duncan)

Brett already went over the state of Ontario curling and I have to agree with him that I have no clue where this rink is going to end up. Having LeDrew and Kreviazuk there is great though, even though Cheryl really should be with Team Homan in South Korea, but that’s another story for another day.

10) Saskatchewan (Nutana Curling Club – Saskatoon)

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Skip – Sherry Anderson, Vice – Kourtney Fesser, Second – Krista Fesser, Lead – Karlee Korchinski

Grand Slam Record: N/A

It’s the fourth different champion in as many years in Saskatchewan, with this year’s team featuring the return of a wily veteran with a young lineup alongside her as Sherry Anderson is back at the Scotties for the first time since 2015 and her first trip as a skip since 2004. For the young core, this will be a huge week for them to gain experience for the near future, but it’s hard to see them getting out of their pool. I mean, they could pull a few upsets along the way, but it’s hard to see that happening.

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10) Prince Edward Island (Robyn MacPhee)

Now we get into the group of teams from the East Coast that don’t play a lot on the circuit. You could draw many names out of a hat here, but I’d probably take the MacPhee rink based upon their overall experience.

11) New Brunswick (Curl Moncton)

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Skip – Sylvie Robichaud, Vice – Melissa Adams, Second – Nicole Bishop, Lead – Kendra Lister

Grand Slam Record: N/A

After losing in last year’s provincial final, Robichaud went out and brought in the skip that beat her in Adams to play at vice, which to me feels like Adams kind of left her team out to dry after missing out in the pre-qualifying round last year but that’s another story. The new addition has to given Robichaud some extra confidence and perhaps some better results, but that seems tough with a very experienced pool. At least Adams will be playing in more than four games this time.

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11) Newfoundland & Labrador (Stacie Curtis)

Brett’s higher on the chances of the former Canadian Junior champion than I am, though she might finish higher than I’m expecting her to be based upon an improved showing last year in London. Coming back to the Scotties multiple times has made her a good sleeper pick for the future, but I don’t think it will be this year.

12) Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown Curling Complex)

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Skip – Robyn MacPhee, Vice – Sarah Fullerton, Second – Meaghan Hughes, Lead – Michelle McQuad

Grand Slam Record: N/A

Robyn MacPhee returns for the third consecutive year to represent PEI. Not a lot has changed lineup wise and their record the last couple of years hasn’t been that great. In all honesty, I can’t see much happening for them this week in Penticton, even though they are in a slightly easier pool.

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

12) New Brunswick (Sylvie Robichaud)

In the last couple of years, Robichaud has had a couple of upset wins, with her biggest coming against Rachel Homan in 2015. Although the rink is a solid one, I’m not sure she can break into the championship pool unless she has a couple of upsets.

13) Quebec (Club de Curling Riverbend – Alma)

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Skip – Emilia Gagne, Vice – Melina Perron, Second – Marie-Pier Harvey, Lead – Chloe Arnaud

Grand Slam Record: N/A

This team’s main goal was to represent Quebec at the Canadian Juniors, but they ended up losing their provincial semi-final. They bounced back in a huge way at the Scotties, as they knocked off Eve Belisle to go to the Scotties. I’m wondering how this year’s Canadian Junior runner-up Laurie St. Georges feels about this.

Anyways, this experience at the Scotties is really going to help this young rink going forward, especially when it comes to the junior circuit, as they might have a chance of getting Quebec their first women’s junior title since 1999.

 

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13) Quebec (Emilia Gagne)

It’s always great to see junior rinks mixing it up on the national stage and this reminds me quite a bit of when Sarah Koltun went to the Scotties in 2014. I’m not expecting a shocking playoff run, but this week will be huge for the Quebec rink going forward.

14) Yukon (Whitehorse Curling Club)

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Skip – Chelsea Duncan, Vice – Jenna Duncan, Second – Kara Price, Lead – Jody Smallwood

Grand Slam Record: N/A

With Sarah Koltun heading out East to join Team Galusha, there’s a major hole that needs to be filled in the Yukon. While Chelsea Duncan has previous experience at the event with Koltun, it might be tough to win any games this year. However, if she stays the course and plays at multiple events like Galusha, that experience will help them get close in the future.

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14) Yukon (Chelsea Duncan)

This is going to be another rink that will use this experience of playing at the Scotties to get better going forward. That’s a good thing about the pool format now, as the Yukon and Nunavut will get to play a full slate of games instead of being gone after a couple of days. If Koltun comes back though, watch out for this group going forward.

15) Nunavut (Iqaluit Curling Club)

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Skip – Amie Shackelton, Vice – Geneva Chislett, Second – Denise Hutchings, Lead – Robyn Mackey

Grand Slam Record: N/A

 

This is where the road is going to get really for Nunavut at these events as they enter a full round-robin. We’ve seen some lopsided scores in the Canadian Juniors for the territory and I think we might see that here. There will be a point when a group of curlers come through to give Nunavut a chance at a decent record, but I don’t think that will be happening for a long time.

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15) Nunavut (Amie Shackleton)

Brett’s already said everything when it comes to how this team will fare. I think it’s going to take a Sarah Koltun or a Thomas Scoffin type to come from the junior ranks to help Nunavut contend in the future, but we shall see how things go.

The Wildcard Teams

Team Chelsea Carey (The Glencoe Club – Calgary)

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Skip – Chelsea “The Annihilator” Carey, Vice – Cathy Overton-Clapham, Second – Jocelyn Peterman, Lead – Laine Peters

Grand Slam Record: 15-6 (Runner-Up, Semi-Finalist, Champion)

As we mentioned in the Roar of the Rings preview, the addition of Cathy O has made a huge difference with a runner-up showing at the Olympic Trials being the highlight of their season. Although they had a disappointing finish at the Alberta Scotties, this will probably be the biggest threat to Jennifer Jones, but that’s only if they qualify for the main draw. If Carey wins the wildcard game, I expect her to be a title contender and make the playoff for sure.

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It’s been a bit of a weird season for Carey as she’s had some great showings but a second place result at the Olympic Trials and not making the Alberta provincial final is sure to be a big disappointment. If she can win the wildcard game, Carey is easily the toughest opponent that Jones would have to deal with and I’d probably have her in second in the standings.

Team Kerri Einarson (East St. Paul Curling Club)

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Skip – Kerri Einarson, Vice – Selena Kaatz, Second – Liz Fyfe “And Her Hair”, Lead – Kristin MacCuish

Grand Slam Record: 15-8 (Champion, Runner-Up, DNQ, DNQ)

For a team that looked to have a lot of promise early on in the season, things didn’t go well at the Road to the Roar as she they lost their last round-robin game to Krista McCarville and were on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Then they ran the table at the Manitoba Scotties but ended up crashing and burning in the playoffs.

When they are on their game, this rink can matchup with the best in the world, but they haven’t had much luck since the pre-trials and they’ve had a few rough showings along the way. If they can beat Carey and make it in the field, I see them as a playoff contender if things go right.

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Brett and I were obviously shocked when Einarson was unable to get a spot in the Olympic Trials, but this is a great chance for them to salvage their campaign if they can get the 16th slot. A trip to the finals wouldn’t surprise me, but I think they can get to the semis for sure and I would have them ranked in the fourth slot coming into this week.