We are well into the bonspiel season, with the first Grand Slams just around the corner, the first being the Trail Appliances Curling Classic in Calgary next weekend. Although play in September/October does not dictate play in November and December it must undoubtedly help with confidence levels….and padding the wallet!!
Two of the hottest teams in curling right now are Brad Gushue and Rachel Homan. Rachel’s team ending up winning the women’s event at the Shorty Jenkins Classic in Brockville a few weeks back, and had won their first two events prior to that – although smaller local ones – a win is a win!! Not to be outdone, Brad and his team of Mark Nichols, Ryan Fry and Jamie Korab (congrats on the engagement Jamie!), won their first event over in Europe, then came and beat Kevin Martin in the final in Brockville and followed that up with a win at a smaller event in Nova Scotia. They are currently sitting 1st in the CTRS standings with 79 points!
Another team to keep an eye on next weekend here in Calgary will be Amber Holland’s Saskatchewan rink. They went undefeated in winning last weekend’s Schmirler Curling Classic (presented by Bank of America), beating Kelly Scott in the final. Scott is following that up with another great showing this weekend (http://www.worldcurlingtour.com/events.php?task=Event&view=Main&eventid=2267) as she is currently playing Moe Meguro of Japan in the semi-final of the Twin Anchors Invitational in Vernon, B.C.
Vernon is an interesting event on the women’s side with four international teams and four Canadian teams qualifying for playoffs. Interestingly enough the quarterfinals had each Canadian team playing one of the international squads with only the aforementioned Meguro pulling through to the semi’s. As mentioned, Scott is playing Meguro, and Cheryl Bernard of Calgary (Top 4 team in Roar to the Rings) plays Crystal Webster of Calgary in the other (7th ranked team in the Road to the Roar).
On the men’s side in Vernon it was almost entirely made up of Olympic qualification teams except for the veteran laden squad of Rick Folk. Team Folk beat a young Team McEwen of Winnipeg (Road to the Roar) 7-2 in the quarters and is currently squaring off against Kevin Koe’s Edmonton based team in the semi-final. The winner will meet either Team Burtnyk or Team Ursel, both Road to the Roar squads. Glenn Howard’s Ontario based foursome lost out in the quarters to Burtnyk.
* Interesting note: This is the first year Russia has travelled with an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ squad on the women’s side. Both teams qualified in Vernon and you will no doubt see them around Canada this year. There seems to be a renewed investment of funds from the Russian government in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Russia Olympics!! There is even a men’s team practicing almost full time at the Calgary Curling Club these days! Good luck to the host country in 2014.
Yours in curling,