SO…ABOUT THE CANADA CUP

Let’s be perfectly honest, this year’s Canada Cup wasn’t expected to generate much buzz because it is the first year of a new cycle,there were no direct spots into the Olympic Trials on the line and, for most ofthe teams, the event was being positioned as a gauge of how they compare to the other top Canadian teams in what is typically a period of “trial and error” with so many new lineups still looking to find their groove early in the new cycle.  Little did we know when teams arrived in Estevan that “trial and error” would end up becoming one of the major talking points during the week in Estevan and it would have little to do with the teams themselves.

THE GOOD…

Team Jacobs… stepping-up to win the men’s event while showing the focus and intensity that was a trademark of the team back when they won the Brier, the Olympic Trials and an Olympic gold medal.  Their victory was especially impressive as it came but a few short weeks after Ryan Fry stepped away from the team to deal with some personal matters following an incident at an event in Red Deer.

Team Jones… wasn’t always good atthe Canada Cup as they struggled for part of the week but, true to form, Jennifer Jones and her team stepped it up when the playoffs started to defeat both Team Homan and Team Einarson on the way to a fourth Canada Cup title.

 Kevin Koe & Jennifer Jones…Speaking of Jennifer Jones, she and Kevin Koe have earned a unique place incurling vernacular at clubs throughout Canada where junior and recreational curlers alike will use the terms “a Kevin Koe shot” or  a “Jennifer Jones shot” to explain difficult/nearly impossible shots that typically involve either going through an almost non-existent port and/or moving a lot of granite.  Well, Jones and Koe lived up to their well-earned reputations in Estevan…Koe with a “barely there” re-direct off a rock at the top of the house to score a come from behind win over Team Bottcher in the men’s tiebreaker and Jones with a raise double-takeout for three in the final against Team Einarson.

Marc Kennedy… The Olympic goldmedalist and two-time Olympian had been on a self-imposed curling sabbatical this season but stepped in at 3rd for Team Jacobs with Ryan Fry taking sometime away from curling for personal matters. Most observers felt that Kennedy would be a good fit for Team Jacobs but the question was whether he’d be “rusty” after not playing in a men’s event since last Spring.  It did not take long for Kennedy to show everyone in Estevan and those watching on TV that he was still ‘ol reliable, shooting 86% for the week (3rd among thirds), saving his best for last by shooting 95% in the final.

Darcy Robertson… Her team may havefinished at 1-6 but, in her first Canada Cup since 2003, Darcy Robertson ended the week with the highest shooting percentage among skips.  The problem was that each of her teammates was either last or next to last at their positions for the week.

 THE BAD

Team Robertson…  To be fair, it’s not like the members of Team Robertson were lagging far behind the other players at their respective positions in Estevan.  However, had they performed just a bit better, the team may have been in contention for the playoffs as opposed to finishing 1-6.

Team Carruthers… It is difficult tobelieve that the only team leaving Estevan without a win includes a back-end ofMike McEwen and Reid Carruthers.  The good news for this team is that they are too good not to figure it out.  The bad news is that figuring it out is taking longer than they may have anticipated. Despite recent results, Reid Carruthers remains optimistic: 

 “We actually played really well in Penticton so it was a bit of a shocker to come out winless here in Estevan. We had a couple of games that were coin flips but unfortunately, we couldn’t close them out. Our team dynamics are great and I know we will keep working extremely hard to try and get to where we want to go.”

THE UGLY

Thinking time per end…  From the Hack will offer a more detailed lookat thinking time and the logical next steps in its evolution in the coming weeks.  Suffice it to say that the “field test” by Curling Canada of “thinking time per end” was not well received by teams in Estevan or by much of the curling community.  I exchanged texts/emails with several players that were competing in Estevan and only one of them had a positive thing to say about “thinking time per end”. 

 A reminder that “Thinking time per end” was being testedby Curling Canada in Estevan and will not be in use at the Scotties or Brier this season.  It remains to be seen if/when Curling Canada will do another field-test with the concept but It is a safe bet that a refined, more player-friendly version of the idea will reappear at some point in the future.

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I HOPE THEY HUGGED IT OUT

The Canada Cup marked the first regular men’s event since 2006 in which Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert played on opposing teams.  On Sunday evening after a strange conclusion to the 5th end that saw Team Koe run out of time, Kennedy and Hebert had a somewhat heated verbal exchange.  Asked if he and Hebert had “hugged it out”, Kennedy said:

“…no, no we didn’t but we eventually will I’m sure. It usually takes a couple of days for us to come down from the competitive high…it was a big game, intense moment and sometimes that stuff happens.  I’m sure there’ll be a day that comes around when Ben and I hug it out again”.

WHEN AN END OR TWO REALLY DO MAKE OR BREAK AN EVENT

Most curling observers agree that Team Scheidegger is on the cusp of great things and that was on display yet again at the Canada Cup.  Team Scheidegger played really well in Estevan and was within two ends of finishing 6-1 and going straight to the final.  Unfortunately for the team, they had difficult 9th ends against Team Jones and Team Einarson that turned the games in their opponent’s favour. Despite the difficult ending to the week for her team, Casey Scheidegger remains optimistic moving forward:

“We were yet again  so close to being in the playoffs- it really came down to one or two shots, which is really disappointing. We controlled the Jones and Einarson games really well and let the 9th end get away from us in both…we are already thinking about how we can be better and make those key shots at key moments in the game. We are so close, we just have to find that winning formula and I don’t think we are far off.”

PONYTAILS… YOU ASKED HER ABOUT PONYTAILS?

There are only a handful of journalists that cover the sport of curling on a regular basis these days with a dozen or so podcasters and a few bloggers.  However, when curling events such as the Canada Cup take place in a smaller city or town, local media outlets often send reporters that are perhaps familiar with the sportbut know little about the players outside of seeing them on TV.  The result is that curlers, some of themOlympic and/or world champions, are asked questions that may seem out of place.  In Estevan, Jennifer Jones was asked why she never puts her hair in a ponytail during games. In other words, a reporter got the chance to ask an Olympic gold medalist, two-time world champion and six-time Scotties champion a question and the reporter chose to ask about her hair.  Sigh…

TIME’S UP FOR TEAM BOTTCHER

You may think that the headline above refers to the fact that Team Bottcher ran out of time in two separate ends in Estevan.  However, the headline is meant to suggest that Team Bottcher’s time as a dark horse in events such as the Canada Cup and the Brier is up.  This is a quality team that will be a major factor at events throughout this cycle.  Bottcher shows a maturity beyond his years, he and 3rd Darren Moulding have developed a solid “Yin and Yang” partnership and their front-end can sweep with anyone on the planet.  His team’s growth over the past season or so is not lost on Bottcher who told FTH:

“We certainly expect to qualify every weekend as we have the confidence and experience that we should be able to be in the top of the field, regardless of the event… Forme personally, it was tough losing but that was my first Canada Cup and I was very proud of how my game held up all week. I certainly hope my guys feel the same way. I think we can take the positives out from an event like that and hopefully learn a few lessons that we can use in the next big event situation we find ourselves in.”

THE GANG WAS FINALLY ALL THERE

 Rachelle Brown of Team Carey made her season debut at theCanada Cup after giving birth in mid-October. It was the first time that the new Team Carey had its full lineup sinceforming in the off-season. In order to help Brown ease her way back into elite competition, Team Carey split the playing time at Lead between Brown and 5th Breanne Knapp who has stepped in at different times this season in Brown’s absence.  According to Carey:

“It was a learning curve in Estevan, and Rachelle and Breanne actually shared the lead role during the event so we were switching back and forth. Overall, we felt we did a lot of good things, even though the results didn’t show it.”

 VETERAN LEARNING CURVES

The Canada Cup was an important event for Team Epping who, despite being a veteran squad, are still in the process of learning each other’s tendencies.  The team started well in Estevan but also lost three straight games at one point to finish the event 3-3.  According to 2nd Brent Laing: 

“Team Epping is leaving Estevan disappointed to not be playing on the weekend but satisfied that we put ourselves into lots of meaningful games against the best teams in Canada and, as a new team, we need those games to learn how we all perform atour best and how we all react to those situations.”

THE WORK NEVER STOPS

Much was made this week of how Team Homan is working with coach Marcel Rocque to help improve their finesse game.  Early returns are good as Rachel Homan made an umber of clutch draws, especially early in the event, to help her team out of some difficult situations.

The team failed to advance to the final which, according to Emma Miskew, provides the team with added areas of focus for their next team training sessions:

“…we were able to identify some things that we can improve on going forward…we’re always nitpicky to find things that we can work on during our training sessions, so this was just another event where we could identify some areas for improvement.”

GOOD PREP FOR THES SCOTTIES AND BRIER

One of the recurring themes among athletes that FTH spoke with both during and following the Canada Cup is that the event provides a good “dry run” for provincial playdowns, the Scotties and the Brier where 10-end games and multiple games per day are the norm. Regardless of their team’s record, the majority of players spoke about the importance of playing a few 10 end games to help prepare for playdowns and nationals.  Matt Dunstone, whose team finished 1-5 in Estevan told FTH:

“…10 ends and 5rock rule is very exhausting… glad we got to experience it before provincials and hopefully the Brier. Overall- we learned a ton from this week and can only get better from it moving forward.”

GAME OF THE WEEK

There were a number of excellent games during the week but the women’s final between Team Jones and Team Einarson stood out.  The women’s final had all the earmarks of a game people will remember.  Both teams curled well, there was tension throughout, the few misses that were made were critical, both skips made clutch shots and the game had a defining moment, the raise double-takeout for three that Jones made in the 9th end.


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So…About the Canada Cup