Written by Brett Punkari (With Cameos by Lucas Punkari)
Well it’s time again to crown Canada’s curling champions, and as always, we’re starting with the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts. The field is an interesting one as there’s a mix of the top teams in Canada, plus some good mid-level squads that are battling it out to make the championship pool.
This year’s predictions will be the same as before as we rank the top 15 teams and do a separate one for the two teams battling it out for the Wild Card spot. In addition to giving out each team’s Grand Slam record, I’ve also included their overall season records, which will be more of an indicator of how certain rinks have done if they’ve only been to a couple of slams or none at all.
Let’s start things off by looking at each of the Pools for the round-robin, which runs from Saturday until Wednesday.
- British Columbia
- Northern Ontario
- Nova Scotia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland & Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Prince Edward Island
- Wild Card
1) Team Canada (St. Vital Curling Club – Winnipeg)
Skip – “J.J” Jennifer Jones, Vice – Kaitlyn Lawes, Second – Jocelyn Peterman, Lead – Dawn “The Mongoose” McEwen
Overall Season Record: 39-21
Grand Slam Record: 16-10 (Semi-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, Quarter-Finalist, Semi-Finalist, DNQ)
For the first time since 2011 Jennifer Jones enters the Scotties with a lineup change as Jocelyn Peterman comes in to replace Jill Officer who has decided to step back from the competitive season. So far Jones has had some good performances but only has one win to show for it, though it was a big one as she took home the Canada Cup in Estevan.
I feel like Jones is just a bit off this season, though that might be just due to her getting used to being with Peterman after playing with Officer for so long. With that said, I think it would be foolish not to pick her at the Scotties.
1) Ontario (Rachel Homan)
Welp, I’m already disagreeing with Brett. With how strong Homan has been on the Grand Slam circuit as of late, it’s hard not to pick her to win her fourth Scotties title this decade. However, the absolute train wreck that was the Olympics is still in the back of my head, along with some tire fire showings at the Canada Cup. If Rachel can win this week, a lot of those questions will disappear. Well at least until the Worlds and Anna Hasselborg shows up.
2) Ontario (Ottawa Curling Club)
Skip – Rachel Homan “Destroyer”, Vice – “A Miscue By” Emma Miskew, Second – Joanne “Frizz” Courtney, Lead – Lisa “Da” Weagle
Overall Season Record: 50-13
Grand Slam Record: 27-6 (Semi-Finalist, Runner-Up, Champion, Champion, Champion)
After the debacle that was the 2018 Olympics, Rachel Homan is having a season that is almost similar to her dominance from the 2015-16 campaign, except for the fact that she didn’t lose to Jenn Hanna at the provincials like she did three years ago.
With that said, the threat of a tire fire performance still lingers and Homan’s draw weight has been hit or miss on a few occasions this year. However, the roll this team is on with three straight wins on the Slam circuit has to be scary for everyone in this field. I might be crazy for picking Homan to be second, but don’t be surprised if she goes on an absolute tear and stomps on everyone.
2) Team Canada (Jennifer Jones)
Sure it hasn’t been a banner year for the six-time champion, but how often have we said that and been proven wrong once the Scotties get underway. Jones has a chance to pass Colleen Jones and become the most successful skip in event history with a win this week, and I think she has a darn good shot with how well she played in the playoff round at the Canada Cup. With that said, the big x-factor for me will be how well Jocelyn Peterman fares in replacing Jill Officer in the lineup.
3) Manitoba (East St. Paul Curling Club)
Skip – Tracy Fleury, Vice – Selena Njegovan, Second – Liz Fyfe “And Her Hair”, Lead – Kristin MacCuish
Overall Season Record: 39-26
Grand Slam Record: 13-11 (DNQ, Quarter-Finalist, Runner-Up, DNQ, DNQ)
Tracy Fleury made a decision to move from Northern Ontario and leave her long-time rink in Sudbury to take over the reigns of the old Kerri Einarson squad. After getting off to a bit of a slow start, things have picked up as of late, especially after she beat Einarson in a wild Manitoba provincial final.
I personally think of the other contenders in this field, excluding the Wild Card competitors of course, this rink seems to be one of the more consistent of the bunch. After all, this is the squad who finished runner-up last year after making it out of the Wild Card game.
3) Alberta (Chelsea Carey)
Having lost the Wild Card game a year ago, which came shortly after she fell to Rachel Homan in the Olympic Trials final, I’m sure Carey is eager to have a great showing on the national stage again. With how well Homan and Jones have played this season, it’s tricky to have her in the final. However, with a pretty good team around her, I wouldn’t be shocked if she matches her 2016 showing.
4) Alberta (The Glencoe Club – Calgary)
Skip – Chelsea “The Annihilator” Carey, Vice – Sarah Wilkes “Warriors”, Second – “Fergielicious” Dana Ferguson, Lead – “Pooks” Rachelle Brown
Overall Season Record: 31-27
Grand Slam Record: 10-15 (DNQ, Semi-Finalist, DNQ, DNQ, Quarter-Finalist)
This season has been full of ups and downs for Chelsea Carey, who spent a good chunk of the year with a different lineup as lead Rachelle Brown was out of action for most of the first half after having a kid. As a result, her performances were all over the place, though she did have a win early in the campaign.
With Brown’s return, the squad has some stability with everyone back together again. Although Wilkes is a very solid player, Pooks and Fergie aren’t quite the best shooters and they are going to have to knock off one of the big guns in their group in order to give Carey a chance for a second title. Mind you, that will depend on who the Wild Card team is. At any rate, there’s a potential for some more Pooks and Fergie dance parties.
4) Manitoba (Tracy Fleury)
After winning one of the wildest provincial finals in years, it’s safe to say this rink is coming into the Scotties with a ton of momentum. Although Tracy has a heck of a squad in front of her, especially since they almost won it all last year, for me it really depends on how well she plays this week. If she’s on her game, they have a shot at winning it. If she’s off, a trip to the 3 vs. 4 game might be as far as this rink goes. Either way, I miss Amanda Gates already.
5) Northern Ontario (Fort William Curling Club – Thunder Bay)
Skip – Krista McCarville, Vice – Kendra Lilly, Second – “Jenny” Jen Gates, Lead – Sarah Potts
Overall Season Record: 23-6
Grand Slam Record: 1-3 (DNQ)
Krista McCarville returns to the Scotties for the third time in the Northern Ontario era, and she’s brought in a strong new addition to the lineup in Jen Gates as Ashley Sippala is expecting a child and is unable to take part in this year’s Scotties.
This season has been a bit of a strange one for the Thunder Bay rink, as they’ll either run the table to win a bonspiel or they end up going 1-3. If McCarville is going to make the playoffs once again, she’ll need the rest of the team to play well in front of her and not make her go full magician mode like she’s done in the past. With that said, this a team that you shouldn’t count out.
5) Northern Ontario (Krista McCarville)
Always a threat at this event, McCarville’s rink should once again be in the mix, especially with Jen Gates joining at second this year. Due to the fact that they aren’t on the tour all that often, they get overlooked when it comes to the title contenders. However, the Thunder Bay rink never has a bad week at the Scotties and it should be more of the same this year.
6) Saskatchewan (Twin Rivers Curling Club – North Battleford)
Skip – Robyn Silvernagle, Vice – Stefanie Lawton, Second – Jesse Hunkin, Lead – Kara Thevenot
Overall Season Record: 44-17
Grand Slam Record: 3-2 (Quarter-Finalist)
After two straight gut wrenching losses in the provincial finals, Robyn Silvernagle has finally broken through to make her first Scotties appearance. She’s brought in multi-time Saskatchewan champion Stefanie Lawton, who has a lot of experience at the Scotties, and she also had a strong showing at the last slam where she made the quarter-finals. Now the Scotties are a totally different beast compared to the World Curling Tour and the Grand Slams, but Silvernagle should safely be in the Championship Pool as she’s in what looks to be the weaker of the two round-robin pools.
6) Saskatchewan (Robyn Silvernagle)
The best skip yet to make it to the national stage has finally made it to the Scotties after a number of strong seasons. The additions of Lawton and Hunkin have made this rink one to watch for over the next couple of years, and they might even make some noise this week, though it’s always tough for a skip to win it all in that first trip to the nationals. In an unrelated note, is Kelsey Rocque or Laura Crocker now the best skip yet to make it to the Scotties? Discuss.
7) Nova Scotia (Mayflower Curling Club – Halifax)
Skip – Jill Brothers, Vice – Erin “68 Comeback Special” Carmody, Second – Sarah Murphy, Lead – Jenn Brine
Overall Season Record: 16-5
Grand Slam Record: N/A
Jill Brothers is back at the Scotties after going 6-5 in 2016 and this year also sees the return of a player who was part of Prince Edward Island’s insane 2010 playoff run in Erin Carmody, who has shuffled provinces and teams to try and get back to the Scotties since then.
I don’t know if Brothers will be capable of achieving the playoff performance that Mary-Anne Arsenault did last year but it is a possibility, although she’s what appears to be the tougher pool this week.
7) Nova Scotia (Jill Brothers)
After stealing two points in the final end to defeat Mary-Anne Arsenault, Brothers will get to chance to represent the Bluenosers at home. It’s hard to see her matching Arsenault’s third place finish in 2018, but she should still have a really solid week. Plus, it’s great to see Erin Carmody return for the first time in nine years. Where you at Geri-Lynn Ramsay?
8) Northwest Territories (Yellowknife Curling Centre)
Skip – Kerry Galusha, Vice – Sarah Koltun, Second – Brittany Tran, Lead – Shona Barbour
Overall Season Record: 20-12
Grand Slam Record: N/A
Kerry Galusha might have one of her best teams ever now after acquiring former Canadian Junior champion Brittany Tran and her performances speak for themselves this year as she’s won an event and has posted a winning record heading into the Scotties. Galusha is always a tricky opponent for anyone to play against and is always capable of pulling off an upset. When you combine that with being in the weaker pool this week, she’s got a really good shot of making the championship pool.
8) Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha)
After she went 5-6 at the 2017 Scotties in St. Catherines, Brett and I felt that Galusha would be a sleeper pick at last year’s event in Penticton, especially with Sarah Koltun joining the squad. Things obviously didn’t turn out that way, but I fully expect Galusha to be in the mix for a championship pool spot this week, especially with Tran joining the lineup.
9) Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown Curling Club)
Skip – Suzanne Birt, Vice – Marie Christanson, Second – Meaghan Hughes, Lead – Michelle McQuaid
Overall Season Record: 30-11
Grand Slam Record: N/A
Suzanne Birt returns for her 10th Scotties appearance and has taken over the old Robyn MacPhee in an attempt to try and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007. That’s probably a tough task, but Birt has the experience and the squad is fairly solid, so she stand a good chance of sneaking into the championship pool.
9) Prince Edward Island (Suzanne Birt)
Back in 2015, which was her second last trip to the Scotties prior this week, Birt actually played pretty well despite having a 4-7 record. If she plays like she did then and has some luck on her side, I can see her making the championship pool. Anything besides that would be a huge surprise.
10) New Brunswick (Thistle-St. Andrew’s Curling Club – Saint John)
Skip – Andrea Crawford, Vice – Jillian Babin, Second – Jennifer Armstrong, Lead – Katie Forward
Overall Season Record: 21-9
Grand Slam Record: N/A
Speaking of skips making a return to the Scotties, Andrea Crawford is back for the first time since 2014. Prior to her having a brief run with Val Sweeting and spending time in Germany with former world champion Andrea Schopp, Crawford was someone who seemed to be on the cusp of being a playoff contender. A lot has changed since then and she has a lot of experience at this event, but I can’t see her making the championship pool.
10) New Brunswick (Andrea Crawford)
This is one of those rinks that could finish anywhere from the middle of the pack to well out of the playoff pictures. As Brett said, Crawford was close to making the playoffs in her last two trips to the Scotties with back-to-back 6-5 records, but I really have no idea how she’s going to fair in 2019. Just put my Suzanne Birt write-up in here and reword it a bit.
11) British Columbia (Abbotsford Curling Club)
Skip – Sarah Wark, Vice – Kristen Pilote, Second – Carley Sandwith, Lead – Jen Rusnell
Overall Season Record: 28-12
Grand Slam Record: N/A
Sarah Wark, who has been in the Canadian Juniors and the Canadian Mixed Championship in the past, will now get her first crack at the Scotties and it could be a rough one as she is in the much tougher Pool A. She does have Carley Sandwith on the team, who has been in the Scotties before as the lead for Kesa Van Osch in 2014, but I can’t see things going too well for Wark.
11) British Columbia (Sarah Wark)
It’s nice to see Sarah finally make it to the Scotties after being in the mix out west for a number of years, and the experience of being at other national championships should be a major help this week. She might pull off an upset or two, but that’s about it.
12) Quebec (Club de Curling Victoria, Jacques-Cartier and Etchemin – Sainte-Foy, Sillery and Saint-Romuald)
Skip – Gabrielle Lavoie, Vice – Patricia Boudreaut, Second – Anna Munroe, Lead – Julia Daigle
Overall Season Record: 6-3
Grand Slam Record: N/A
For the second year in a row a team that was originally trying to make the Canadian Juniors will instead head off to the Scotties, with defending Quebec champion Emilia Gagne ending up on the outside looking in after the final. Like last year, the Lavoie rink will look to gain some experience this week towards making future trips to national events, though they will eventually have to deal with Laurie St-Georges.
12) Newfoundland & Labrador (Kelli Sharpe)
Hey I finally have a different pick than Brett again. Granted, this is nowhere near where Stacie Curtis would have been if she was still around, but I feel like this is a good spot to put Newfoundland in this field. They won’t be a contender, but I don’t think they’ll struggle that badly.
13) Newfoundland & Labrador (Re/Max Centre – St. John’s)
Skip – Kelli Sharpe, Vice – Stephanie Guzzwell, Second – Beth Hamilton, Lead(s) – Carrie Vatour and Michelle Jewer
Overall Season Record: 5-1
Grand Slam Record: N/A
So we have a brand new team representing Newfoundland this year and I think the odds are definitely against Kelli Sharpe. The only player with any experience is Carrie Vatour, who was with Stacie Curtis last year, so it appears that it’s going to be a major struggle for the region.
13) Quebec (Gabrielle Lavoie)
If Laurie St-Georges wasn’t busy competing for her province at the Canadian Juniors over the last couple of years, she probably would be at the Scotties by now and may have put together a solid week. As for everyone else? Well you get to enjoy being at the Scotties I guess.
14) Yukon (Whitehorse Curling Club)
Skip – Nicole Baldwin, Vice – Hailey Brinie, Second – Ladene Shaw, Lead – Helen Strong
Overall Season Record: N/A
Grand Slam Record: N/A
Back in 2016, Baldwin took part in the old pre-qualifying event and posted a 1-2 record, but she was unable to make it in the play-in game that featured Karla Thompson and Kerry Galusha. Now that she’s back and gets to play in the actual event, this should bode well for her as she tries to gain more experience.
14) Yukon (Nicole Baldwin)
Imagine if Sarah Koltun was still in your region. Anyways, although it’s nice to see Baldwin get the chance to experience the Scotties in full after her trip in 2016 only lasted a couple of days, I suspect it will be a long week for this team.
15) Nunavut (Iqaluit Curling Club)
Skip – Jenine Bodner, Vice – Jennifer Blaney, Second – Alison Griffin, Lead – Megan Ingram
Overall Season Record: N/A
Grand Slam Record: N/A
We have a new lineup for Nunavut as Jenine Bodner is representing the territory as they look towards developing into a respectable team at te national stage. It’s still a long road for them, but they did have three teams each in the men’s and women’s playdowns, which is progress.
15) Nunavut (Jenine Bodner)
Bodner was the lead for Nunavut when they made their first trip to the Scotties in 2016, so she has a little bit of experience at the event. With that said, it should be another long week. Hopefully they don’t lose 20-3 like the junior rink did to Nova Scotia at the Canadian Juniors.
Wild Card Game Rinks
Wild Card Team #1 – Kerri Einarson (Gimli Curling Club – Manitoba)
Skip – Kerri Einarson, Vice – Val Sweeting “Valerie”, Second – Shannon “Smoke Show” Birchard, Lead – Brianne Meilleur
Overall Season Record: 62-21
Grand Slam Record: 12-12 (DNQ, Semi-Finalist, Runner-Up, DNQ)
I don’t think anyone expected this squad to be in the Wild Card game, but I guess this is what happens when you choke away the Manitoba final after uncorking a five-ender in the second end.
Yes we all know how early on in the season they were pummeling everyone into submission, but it seemed like once the slams started the field kind of caught up to them. Should Einarson win the Wild Card game, I expect her to be a title threat and they would easily be a top-three pick for this week. If they don’t win though…oh boy.
Simply put, if the Einarson rink doesn’t make into the Scotties, they are easily the biggest disappointment of the 2018-19 campaign. With a ton of talent, they cruised the first half of the season and had a runner-up finish at the Canada Cup. Granted, their slam showings weren’t stellar except for one run to the final, but they were still the favourites heading to the provincials.
After that wild loss to Tracy Fleury, I’m not totally sure what to expect from this rink on Friday. If they are on their game, they should easily be a title contender in the main pool. If they lose, it’s going to be a long off-season of wondering what’s next.
Wild Card Team #2 – Casey Scheidegger (Lethbridge Curling Club – Alberta)
Skip – Casey “Scheidiggitydog” Scheidegger, Vice – Cary-Anne McTaggart, Second – Jessie Haughian, Lead – Kristie Moore
Overall Season Record: 27-26
Grand Slam Record: 10-15 (Quarter-Finalist, Semi-Finalist, DNQ, DNQ, Quarter-Finalist)
This season hasn’t been the best for Casey Scheidegger’s rink, though they did have a semi-final finish at the Grand Slam of Curling’s Masters’ event. The big problem seems to be how the rink closes out 10-end events, as they missed the Canada Cup playoffs after starting 3-1 and lost the A, B and C event finals at the Alberta playdowns. The squad is talented enough to make it to the Scotties and they should be a playoff threat, but I’m not sure if they are good enough to win the whole thing.
If you remember last year’s Scotties, Scheidegger was 7-1 after pool play and looked to be in good shape to make the playoffs, only to lose three of her four Championship Pool contests. That result, plus the Canada Cup and Alberta provincial finishes, have me a bit hesitant to pick them over Einarson. Granted, Shannon Birchard is on the Einarson rink so I’d probably pick them over anyone.
As for the Scheidegger rink, I’m pretty sure they could make the playoffs if they win the Wild Card game Friday, but I don’t think they are on the same level as Homan and Jones when it comes to title threats. Watch me be proven wrong in this regard in over a week’s time.