“Oh boy is this great!” – Fred “Flounder” Dorfman, Animal House
That about sums up how I feel about the next two months when it comes to curling. From now until mid-April there isn’t more than a week or so where there isn’t a major curling competition taking place. Both the Scotties and the US Nationals start this weekend, the Brier follows soon after, then Women’s Worlds, then Men’s Worlds, and then The Players Championship! Are you as excited as I am?
Ok, you probably have no clue what I’m talking about. So, let’s start with what comes first: The Scotties.
The Scotties Tournament Of Hearts (known as simply “The Scotties” for short) is the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship. There are 12 teams overall, comprised of the winners of the provincial curling championships and the winning team from the previous year. Provincial champions play as representatives of their respective province, while the reigning champions play as Team Canada. The format is a basic round robin, which is followed by the playoffs to determine the winner. The winner of The Scotties will then represent Canada at The World Women’s Curling Championship.
So, hopefully that should give you a pretty good idea of the basics. Now, let’s take a look at some of the teams you should watch out for this year.
Team Canada – Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney, Lisa Weagle
Reigning two-time Scotties Champions, they’re looking to make history with a three-peat. They only lost one game in 2013, and went undefeated in 2014. Not having to play provincials means they’re rested, but this could also work against them as the other teams have the momentum of a provincial victory on their side.
Team Alberta – Val Sweeting, Lori Olson-Johns, Dana Ferguson, Rachelle Brown
Last year they lost to Homan in the final, so they have experience playing under pressure. Furthermore, they’ve been having a great season on tour and only seem to be getting better as time goes by.
Team Saskatchewan – Stefanie Lawton, Sherry Anderson, Sherri Singler, Marliese Kasner
They’ve been in the playoffs four times previously, and bring a lot of experience to the table. They’re also playing on home ice, which would make a win even more meaningful.
Team Ontario – Julie Hastings, Christy Trombley, Stacey Smith, Katrina Collins
This is their first trip to the big dance. However, they’ve been playing together as a team for twenty years, so you never know what that combination of team chemistry and desire to win may produce.
Team Manitoba – Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer, Dawn McEwen
Four-time Scotties Champions, they’ve also won their provincial championship ten times. They missed it last year, but had a good excuse as they were busy winning an Olympic Gold Medal in Sochi.
Round-robin play begins this Saturday the 14th and runs through Thursday the 19th. Playoffs start on Friday the 20th with the final taking place at night on Sunday the 22nd. TSN is televising the whole event, with a featured game for each round-robin draw and full coverage of all the playoff matches. Thanks to a partnership between TSN and ESPN, if you have access to ESPN3 you’ll be able to watch all of this online in the US.
At the same time The Scotties are occurring in Canada, the 2015 USA Curling Nationals are taking place in Kalamazoo, Michigan. While following a similar format as The Scotties, there are several differences. First and foremost, USA Curling Nationals includes both men’s and women’s teams, ten of each. Furthermore, teams qualify for the event in a variety of ways and do not represent a specific state: two teams gain entry based on their order-of-merit standings, two teams are selected via the high-performance program, the winners of junior nationals gain entry, and the remaining five teams qualify from challenge round events.
One of the biggest differences is that the winning teams are not automatically selected to represent the USA at women’s and men’s worlds. The USCA determines who will go to worlds based on a points system. Teams earn points at eligible events leading up to Nationals, but to earn enough points to win a berth to Worlds a team will need to place at Nationals. This may sound a bit confusing, so I’ll provide an example looking at the men’s field this year. First, second, and third place Nationals finishes are worth 45, 35, and 30 points respectively. The top three teams in the field come into the event with 40.4, 38.6, and 30.2 points. So, if either of the top two teams win they will go to worlds, but if the number three team faces and defeats the number one team in the final the number one team will still go to Worlds…by .2 points.
Ok, enough math. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I am not nearly as familiar with American Teams as I am with Canadian and European Teams. That being said, I’m making an effort to follow US curling more closely. Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the teams to watch for in Kalamazoo.
Team Roth: Nina Roth, Jamie Sinclair, Becca Hamilton, Tabitha Peterson
They’re coming into Nationals leading in points with 34.66 points. If they finish in the top two they’ll guarantee themselves a berth to Worlds. A third place finish would still qualify them provided that Team Sormunen doesn’t win.
Team Sormunen: Aileen Sormunen, Tara Peterson, Vicky Persinger, Monica Walker
They currently have 27.35 points. If they win they’ll go to Worlds. A second or third place finish could get them into Worlds provided that Team Roth finishes lower than third.
Team Erika Brown: Erika Brown, Alex Carlson, Becca Funk, Kendall Behm
Coming into Nationals with 9.2 points, two-time Olympian Erika Brown is skipping a new team. The math is against them to earn a berth to Worlds, but it’s not impossible. Curling is such a mental game, especially at this level, and there is something to be said for experience.
Team Debbie McCormick: Debbie McCormick, Courtney George, Emilia Juocys, Stephanie Senneker
Right on the heels of Brown, they currently have 9.1 points. A four-time Olympian, McCormick is also skipping a new team, and also has a lot of experience under her belt. Points-wise they’re facing essentially the same situation as Brown…difficult, but not impossible to get to Worlds.
Team John Shuster: John Shuster, Tyler George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner.
Three-time Olympian John Shuster currently is leading the field with 40.4 points. A win guarantees them a trip to Worlds next month, as does a second-place finish if Craig Brown wins. They could qualify with a third place finish as well, as long as they finish ahead of McCormick and Brown.
Team Heath McCormick: Heath McCormick, Chris Plys, Joe Polo, Colin Hufman
Right behind Shuster with 38.6 points, McCormick will also secure a berth to Worlds with a win. They could get there with a second or third place finish as well, provided Shuster and Brown finish behind them.
Team Craig Brown: Craig Brown, Kroy Nernberger, Sean Beighton, Jared Zezel
Rounding out the top 3, Brown has 30.2 points. If they win and McCormick takes second they’ll go to Worlds, but if they beat Shuster in the final his rink will earn the spot by a mere .2 points. Second or third place finishes could get them there as well, depending upon where other teams finish.
Team Korey Dropkin: Korey Dropkin, Tom Howell, Mark Fenner, Andrew Stopera
A juniors team, they only have 12 points at the moment. That being said, they’ve been playing well this year, and it’s a long week. It’s a longshot, but if things go the right way they could win a trip to Worlds with a win.
Round-robin play also begins on Saturday the 14th, lasting through Thursday the 19th. Playoffs begin the same day, and end with the finals occurring on Saturday the 21st. While not technically televised, there is live streaming coverage of Nationals. Twelfth-End Sports Network is handling the coverage, thanks to the generous gifts of donors. Like the Scotties, there are featured games for each round-robin draw and coverage of the playoffs.
So, there you have it. For more information, or for access to webstreaming you can check out these links:
2015 Scotties: http://www.curling.ca/2015scotties-en/
2015 USA Nationals: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Curling/Events/Championships/National-Events/National-Championships
Nationals Webstreaming: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Curling/Events/Championships/National-Events/National-Championships/Live-Webstream
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