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National Team Program squads chase CTRS points in Sweden

As the competitive season moves into Week 5, it’s suddenly not that easy to keep track of all the teams, events, and points up for grabs. Between the men and the women, there are nine bonspiels on the World Curling Tour schedule this weekend, many of which feature some high-level talent.

Team Jennifer Jones will make its 2014-15 debut at a World Curling Tour event this weekend in Sweden. (Photo, CCA/Michael Burns)

Team Jennifer Jones will make its 2014-15 debut at a World Curling Tour event this weekend in Sweden. (Photo, CCA/Michael Burns)

Two of the events, however, are clearly the big draws for the weekend.

Most of the top women’s teams travelled to Sweden this week for the Stockholm Ladies Cup. According to the WCT Order of Merit rankings, eight of the top 10 teams are in the 20-team draw, including all of the top five. They’ll be playing for portions of the 250,000 Swedish kroner purse — roughly $39,000 Cdn.

For the all-important Canadian Team Ranking System standings, it could mean big points for the three Canadian entries. Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones is finally getting her season underway and looking for her first CTRS points of the season, while Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, and Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont., also made the trip across the pond to try to build on some early-season success. All three squads are members of the Canadian Curling Association’s 2014-15 National Team Program.

Jones and Homan are currently ranked first and second in the Order of Merit standings, respectively. Following them are Scotland’s Eve Muirhead, Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson and, Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni. Russia’s Anna Sidorova, 2014 world champion Binia Feltscher (Switzerland), and Middaugh round out the top 10 teams in the event. The strength of the field should make the event worth a maximum 40 CTRS points for the winner.

Team Jones, the 2014 Olympic gold-medallist, passed on the first three weekends of the 2014-15 WCT schedule and therefore hasn’t earned any points in the CTRS race. Middaugh has played twice and currently sits third on the CTRS list. Homan’s finish last week at the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic in Brockville, Ont., got her on the board, albeit in 12th place.

The women’s teams who decided to stay in Canada are playing in the Gibson’s Cashspiel in Sackville, N.S., the KW Fall Classic in Waterloo, Ont. and Mother Club Fall Curling Classic, in Winnipeg.

The top men’s squads have all gathered in Saskatoon for the Point Optical Curling Classic. Perhaps the biggest story in the 26-team event, is that it will be the first appearance of Kevin Koe’s new-look rink.

Calgary’s Koe, along with Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert will compete for their share of $41,000, while facing off against Olympic champ Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (WCT rank #1), Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen (2) and Brad Gushue of St. John’s (4). Current CTRS leader John Epping of Toronto will hope to retain his slim lead over Jacobs, while the rest of the field tries to finish as high as possible in an event that will likely come with maximum CTRS points.

Some top international talent will also be featured, including Sweden’s Niklas Edin, and two Swiss entries — 2014 world championship bronze-medallist Benoît Schwarz and Sven Michel.

Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton will try to defend his title in this event, although his teammates have changed. His former lead, Reid Carruthers, currently sits seventh on the CTRS standings and would like to move up the list by the end of this weekend.

Like the women, other events are happening in Sackville, Waterloo, and Winnipeg, as well as a new event in Ardsley, N.Y.

Follow scores on the WCT website.

About Brian Chick

Brian Chick is a life-long curler and coach, and a frequent contributor to the Curling Canada's multimedia and development projects.