The fourth event in the 2016-17 Grand Slam of Curling is taking place in North Battleford (SK) this week where Team Epping and Team Homan will look to defend their titles at the Meridian Canadian Open.
Interview with John Epping
From the Hack recently spoke with John Epping, the skip of the defending champions at the Canadian Open, who put on a shot-making clinic during the playoffs at last season’s event in Yorkton (SK).
Five Teams to Watch at the Canadian Open
Team Homan’s biggest problem this season is that their results are being compared to the incredible first half performance they had last season which was one for the ages. They have qualified for the playoffs in each of their events, they have won two titles and made the final at the Canada Cup and the WFG Masters. It is no secret that one of the primary focuses for Team Homan this season has been the Ontario playdowns where they lost in the final last season. The Canadian Open will be the only event that Team Homan plays before the provincial playdowns where they will face several teams that are playing well this season.
Team McCormick was put together in the off-season and, so far, the experiment has gone very well as they enter the Canadian Open having won four titles while moving up from 70th to 31st in the world rankings. This will be team’s first event in a field this strong and it will be interesting to see how Team McCormick responds. They will play Team Edin and then either Team McEwen or Team Morris in their first two games, a baptism of fire in their first Grand Slam event as a team.
This has been a breakthrough season for Team Hasselborg who have won two titles, made the semi-finals of two Grand Slam of Curling events and have moved up from 22nd to 7th in the world rankings. However, the first half of the season ended with a heart-breaking loss on the final rock in the final of the European Championships followed by an uneven performance in the Boost National where they lost in a tiebreaker. It will be interesting to see how Team Hasselborg responds in the second half of the season, starting at the Canadian Open.
The Canadian Open is an important event for Team Gushue. Their skip, Brad Gushue, has only played in one event this season and would like to play in as many high-level games as possible prior to the provincial playdowns. If, as expected, Team Gushue wins their provincial playdowns and qualify for the Tim Hortons Brier in their hometown of St. John’s, they will not have played a team ranked in the Top 200 between the Canadian Open and the Brier.
Team Scheidegger had a terrific first half of the season that included three titles and saw the team move from 32nd to 21st in the world rankings while defeating some of the top-ranked teams in the world along the way. The Canadian Open will be their first Grand Slam of Curling Tier 1 event of the season and it will be interesting to see if Team Scheidegger can maintain the form they showed in the first half against some of the best teams in the world. A strong performance in North Battleford would position this team well heading into the always competitive Alberta playdowns.