WEEK 24 RESULTS
Canadian Junior Championships
At the start of the week, much of the talk at the Canadian Junior Championships centered around the many players participating at this year’s event who come from strong curling bloodlines. Once the players hit the ice however it was all about which teams could make the most shots. In the women’s championship, Ontario qualified directly into the final by finishing the week undefeated. Northern Ontario, who had to win a tie-breaker simply to qualify for the Championship Pool, qualified for the semi-final where they faced Alberta. The two teams blanked the first two ends then exchanged single points in the 3rd and 4th. Alberta took control of the game by stealing two points in both the 5th and 6th ends and a single point in the 7th to take a 6-1 lead. Northern Ontario narrowed the gap to 6-3 before Alberta ran them out of rocks in the 10th for a 7 to 3 victory and a trip to the final against Ontario.
In the final, Ontario took a 2-0 lead in the 3rd and Alberta responded with a deuce of their own in the 6th to tie the game. After exchanging single points in the 8th and 9th ends, Alberta played a near perfect 10th end to steal two points and defeat Ontario 5-3 to win the Canadian Junior Curling Championship. Kristen Streifel, Chantele Broderson, Kate Goodhelpsen and Brenna Bilassy will now represent Canada at the World Junior Championships in Korea.
In the men’s championship, it was British Columbia that finished atop the Championship Pool standings to earn a spot in the final. Northern Ontario secured a spot in the semi-final where they would meet Ontario who defeated Manitoba 8 to 7 in a tiebreaker for the final playoff spot. In the semi-final, Northern Ontario was up 3-1 after three ends followed by three blanks. In the 7th end, Ontario scored four points to take a 5-3 lead followed by an exchange of single points in the 8th and 9th ends. Northern Ontario tied the game in the 10th end but Ontario scored one in the extra-end for a 7-6 win. In the final, BC was up 4-1 after five ends when Ontario scored two points in the 6th end and then stole two points in the 7th to take a 5-4 lead. BC responded by scoring four points in the 8th end to recapture the lead at 8-5 and held on for a 9-7 win. The team of Tyler Tardi, Sterling Middleton, Jordan Tardi and Nicholas Meister win their first Canadian Junior Championship and will represent Canada at next month’s World Junior Curling Championships.
With Team Carey already qualified as Team Canada and with Team Rocque not competing in this year’s playdowns, the depth of Alberta curling was on display at the Jiffy Lube Alberta Scotties. Veteran Shannon Kleibrink won the top seed in the playoffs where they were joined by 2014 and 2015 champions Team Sweeting in the 1 vs 2 Page Playoff game that Team Klebrink won by a score of 7-6 by stealing a point in an extra-end. Meanwhile, in the 3 vs 4 game, the clock turned to midnight for the Cinderella team at this year’s Alberta Scotties when Team Scheidegger of Lethbridge defeated Team Ramsay of Calgary 8 to 5. In the semi-final, Team Sweeting took a 3-1 lead in the 6th end only to see Team Scheidegger tie the game with a steal of their own in the 9th. Valerie Sweeting made a great draw behind cover in the 10th that led to a 4-3 victory and a trip to the final against Team Kleibrink. In the final, Team Kleibrink took an early 2-0 lead with Team Sweeting tying the game in the 4th end. Team Kelibrink broke the game open by scoring a point in the 4th then stealing a point in the 6th and two more in the 7th to take a 6-2 lead. Team Sweeting then scored a single point in the 8th and stole one in the 9th to make the score 6-4 but Shannon Klebrink and her team ran Team Sweeting out of rocks in the 10th end for a 6-4 victory and Klebrink’s first appearance at the Scotties since 2011.
At the Manitoba Scotties, few people were surprised when Team Jennifer Jones went 7-0 in the round-robin to earn a place in the 1 vs 2 Page Playoff game where they were joined by Team Englot. The biggest surprise in the round-robin was that the defending Manitoba champions, Team Einarson, failed to advance to the playoffs after losing a tie-breaker to Team Robertson of Winnipeg who moved on to play Team Birchard, also of Winnipeg, in the 3 vs 4 game.
Team Englot caused a mild surprise in the 1 vs 2 game when they stole points in three consecutive ends on their way to a 9 to 5 defeat of Team Jones. In the 3 vs 4 game, Team Robertson took early control of the game by stealing points in three consecutive ends including a three-point steal in the 4th. Team Robertson then held off a late charge by Team Birchard to win the game 7-6. In the semi-final, Team Robertson upset 2010 Olympic gold medalists Team Jones by a score of 8-6. Team Jones came back from an early 6-3 deficit to tie the game but Team Robertson responded with two points in the 9th and ran Team Jones out of rocks in the 10th end for the victory. In the final, Team Englot took an early 2-0 lead but Team Robertson fought back to pull ahead 5-4 when they stole two points in the 6th end. Team Englot scored one in the 7th and stole one in the 8th to pull ahead by one only to see Team Robertson tie the game 6-6 in the 9th. A timely run-back by 3rd Kate Cameron helped Team Englot score two points in the 10th end for an 8-6 victory. Michelle Englot is headed to her 8th Scotties as a skip but her first Scotties representing Manitoba.
Team Silvernagle of North Battleford earned the top seed in the playoffs at the Vittera Saskatchewan Scotties by finishing 7-1 in the round-robin where they played Team Lawton in the 1 vs 2 Page Playoff game which Team Silvernagle won by a score of 9-7 in an extra end. In the 3 vs 4 game, Team Barker of Moose Jaw set-up a semi final game against Team Lawton by defeating Team Martin of Saskatoon 8-6. In the semi-final, Team Lawton was ahead 6-5 with hammer in the 10th end only to see Team Barker steal three points for an 8-6 victory. In the final, Team Barker took an early 4-0 lead by stealing two points in the 2nd and another point in the 3rd end. Team Barker was up 6-4 after eight ends when Team Silvernagle scored three points in the 9th to take 7-6 lead. Penny Barker made a key hit in the 10th end that helped her team score four points for a 10-7 victory and earn Team Barker its first trip to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
In Nova Scotia, both the men’s and women’s playdowns were held in Halifax this weekend. In the Nova Scotia Scotties, Team Mattatall earned a place in the final finishing first overall in the round-robin with a record of 6-1. The defending champions, Team Brothers, finished 2nd in the round-robin to earn a spot in the semi-final where they played Team Breen who won a tie-breaker over Team McEvoy by a score of 8-4. In the semi-final, Team Brothers won 7-5 over Team McEvoy in a game where the turning point was a deuce in the 8th end that gave Brothers a 6-3 lead . In the final, Team Mattatall scored two points in the 6th to take a 5-3 lead then stole five points in the 7th end on their way to a 10-4 win. Mary Mattatall will be skipping in her first Brier since 1998.
In the Nova Scotia Tankard, defending champions Team Murphy of Halifax finished first in the round-robin with a record of 6-1 and earned a spot in the final. The semi-final saw Team Stuart Thompson of Dartmouth take advantage of steals in the 3rd and 4th ends to take a 4-1 lead and then hold on for a 5-4 victory over Team MacDougall of Halifax. In the final, Team Murphy and Team Thompson exchanged deuces early in the game with Team Murphy taking a 5-3 lead after five ends. Team Thompson tied the game with two points in the 6th end followed by an exchange of single points from the 7th through 10th ends. Team Murphy scored two points in the extra-end for a 9-7 victory and will return to the “Pre-Qualifier” at the Tim Hortons Brier to compete with Yukon, Nunavut and Prince Edward Island for a spot in the main draw.
Team Maltais of Saint John, ranked 182nd in the world, cause a mild surprise by finishing atop the standings at the New Brunswick Scotties, earning a spot in the final. Meanwhile, Team Adams won a tie-breaker against defending champions Team Robichaud to earn a spot in the semi-final against Team Comeau of Fredericton. Team Adams followed up their victory in the tiebreaker by defeating Team Comeau by a score of 6-5 in a semi-final where they took a 6-3 lead in the 7th and then held on for the victory. In the final, Team Adams was ahead 4-3 after 5 ends when they scored four points in the 6th to take control of the game. Team Maltais made a late charge by scoring 2 in the 8th and stealing one point in the 9th but Team Adams won the game 9-6 and will represent New Brunswick at the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Team Adams will compete in the “pre-qualifying” event at the Scotties against teams from Nunavut, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories with the winner advancing to the main draw.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Brad Gushue earned the right to represent the province for the 14th time as his team went undefeated throughout the provincial playdowns including a 6-2 victory over Team Boland of St. John’s in the championship final. Team Gushue will now be the home team when the Tim Hortons Brier is hosted in St. John’s in early March. In the provincial Scotties, defending champions Team Curtis took an early 4-0 lead and never looked back as they defeated Team Hardy by a score of 8-4 to repeat as provincial champions.
Americas Zone Challenge Round
Teams from the United States and Brazil were in Duluth, Minnesota on the weekend to compete in a best-of-five challenge round to decide which country would receive the second spot in the World Championships allocated to the Americas zone. In men’s action, Team Shuster of the United States defeated Team Mello of Brazil by scores of 8-6, 9-4 and 9-3 to sweep their series. In women’s action, Team Roth of the United States beat Team Goncalves of Brazil by scores of 16-2, 12-2 and 8-7, including a rare eight-ender in the first game, to sweep the best-of-five series 3-0.
Team Shuster and Team Roth were selected to represent the United States because a scheduling conflict force the Americas Zone Challenge Round to take place prior to the U.S. Nationals where the United States will crown their men’s and women’s champions for 2017.
U.S. Mixed Doubles Qualifier
A qualifier for the U.S. Mixed Doubles Championships was held in Eveleth, Minnesota on the weekend. Jamie Sinclair and Korey Dropkin, members of Team North America at the recent Continental Cup, qualified for Nationals by winning the A Event as did the team of Alexandra Carlson and Derrick McLean. Monica Walker and her partner Jason Smith qualified through the B Event along with the team of Maureen and Peter Stolt. Meanwhile, in the C Event, the qualifiers included the team of Vicky Persinger and Jared Zezel along with the team of Cristin Clark and Matt Birklid. In an interesting side-note, each member of Team Sinclair, who represented the United States at the Continental Cup, qualified for the Mixed Doubles Nationals.
Red Square Classic
The Red Square Classic was held outdoors in Moscow this weekend with top Russian teams competing against teams from the United States, Switzerland, Italy and China. The final saw Team Pfister of Switzerland, ranked 24th in the world, go up against Team Orlov of St. Petersburg, Russia. Team Pfister took a 2-1 lead in the 3rd end then the teams exchanged single points until Team Pfister ran their opponents out of rocks in the 8th end for a 4-3 victory and their first title of the season.
WEEK 24 PREVIEW
The SaskTel Tankard will take place at the RECplex Arena in Tisdale, Saskatchewan this week. Team Laycock of Saskatoon, ranked #8 in the world are the favourites to win their 4th consecutive provincial championship. Their main challengers are expected to be Team Korte of Saskatoon and Team Casey of Regina who are ranked 27th and 28th in the world respectively. The remainder of the field is fairly even which should generate some compelling action on the march to the playoffs.
The Ontario provincial playdowns for both men and women will take place at the West Northcumberland Curling Club in Cobourg this week. The field in the Ontario Tankard includes many experienced players and teams. Team Epping ranked 7th in the world, Team Howard ranked 16th and Team Baldson ranked 22nd should all be in the playoff mix by the end of the week.
The Ontario Scotties will involve five of the top twenty-five teams in the world. Team Homan, ranked #1 in the world, will be looking to atone for last year’s disappointment and a return to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Team Homan will be challenged by a strong field including 6th ranked Team Flaxey who have won a Grand Slam this season and #21 Team Harrison who won Tour Challenge Tier 2 Grand Slam in November. Team Middaugh, ranked 18th in the world, is always a threat and Team Tippin, ranked 22nd in the world, is having a solid season and could cause some surprises in Cobourg.
(Photo credits: Team Streifel and Team Tardi – Curling Canada, Team Englot – GSOC/Anil Mungal)