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This is where it gets fun

by Margo Weber
EDMONTON – Okay, so with one round robin game left, this is how it shakes down today on the women’s side.

Cheryl Bernard has a bye to the final by virtue of her 6-0 record. Shannon Kleibrink has a bye to the semi.

This is where it gets fun. Amber Holland, Krista McCarville and Stephanie Lawton are all at 3-3. They all play different teams and if they all LOSE – they bring in Crystal Webster and possibly Jennifer Jones, both at 2-4… Webster in this scenario would win her game, and Jones would then have to win hers as well in order to be included in the mix. 

Let me paint the picture for you. This is very unlikely.

You see with all three of the 3-3 teams needing to lose in order for this scenario to work, Lawton needs to beat the wrecking ball that is Cheryl Bernard. Then Holland has to lose to Kelly Scott, and McCarville has to lose to Webster. Then we are looking at tiebreakers. 

And if Jones beats Kleibrink that then brings them into the mix too. So Jennifer Jones has to hope for every single sheet to go her way in order to have a chance at some tiebreakers and the Olympic Winter Games.

So we will watch here at 1:00pm and see what happens. The Bernard and Kleibrink squads likely have no interest in showing any mercy, so it should be fun to see the other teams scramble for what is still technically possible. The only team out of contention at this point is Kelly Scott.

I would like to take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief at not making predictions this week. And I shall point out that on this here TCN blog,  Mary Anne Arsenault picked Kelly Scott to win… and Cheryl Bernard to come in last. 

This is how close this field is.
[CCA photo of Jennifer Jones by Michael Burns]
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Playah: Cheryl Bernard

 by Margo Weber
Okay Cheryl Bernard, the day isn’t even over and you know you’re my girl.
You are the leading lady of the story that is unfolding before our eyes. You are having a great week, and just seem to be in the zone. You know how to squeak out these wins, and now you just need one more to guarantee a bye into Saturday’s final.
Now, the whole Playah of the Day concept allows me to only pick people who are easy on the eyes, and Ms. Bernard, you’ve got it covered.  You make me want to drop that last 30 pounds that have been nagging me, whiten my teeth and run to the nearest tanning salon. I also have to give a shout out to the ponytail you rocked this morning… super cute.

So… you’ve gone from perennial contender to now, possibly, a favourite to qualify for the Olympic Winter Games and wear the red and white. You made two awesome shots in your first game against Krista McCarville, won a very iffy measure against Amber Holland, had a solid win over Crystal Webster, wowed us against Kelly Scott and made a great little run back to beat Shannon Kleibrink in a wild game this morning. Now you’re all alone at the top of the standings at 5-0. Everyone else has at least two losses.

Girl, you go have a glass of red. You deserve it.
[Edmonton Journal photo by Chris Schwarz]
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Margo’s pre-Trials picks

[She’s baaaaaack! Margo Weber, guest blogger during last February’s STOH (controversially) and also the Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary (archive here) has been watching the Road to the Roar in Prince George, courtesy of TSN. What’s on her mind?]
by Margo Weber
CALGARY – So, I entered a curling pool.
And this morning I had a looksee at the draw for the men’s side of the Road to the Roar, and I realized three of my qualifying picks fall to each other in the C-side.
On the women’s side, it’s not looking much better.  I did not have Crystal Webster qualifying, although I must say I’m thrilled all these Alberta teams are doing so well. I, for the record, with many others… had Kelly Scott (cue downer music).
It seems I will not win this pool. But overall, I’ve had a pretty good history of predicting who is going to do well at these things – in other sports, mind you – with a few minor blips.
However, just being in a pool raises some questions. There are curling pools? Who knew? I think it’s the first one I’ve been involved in. Maybe I’ve seen a Brier pool once or twice. The person who organized the pool itself is a well-known competitor who has already made it to the Roar of the Rings in Edmonton. Whom did she pick? Did anyone actually curling in this event enter the pool? Is that okay… or is that really, really bad?
It was only $25.00 but… let’s say someone bet on themselves, or bet against themselves… let’s say someone bet against his wife? Or his/her sister? Teams have a long history of buying themselves in calcuttas at cashspiels, so I suppose it’s all been done before.
Sigh. I believe I’m just bitter because, at best, only five of my eight picks have an opportunity to qualify. Not that any of my picks are out… they just fall to each other in the draw.

Can I get on another tangent here? Speaking of the draw…
Since when is it okay that teams which lose their first two games all get bundled up to play each other in the C-side? These teams arguably are the bottom four of twelve… yet because of the draw, one of these teams will make it to a C-final just by beating each other out. Horrible.
The only saving grace is that the loser of the B-side qualifier drops into that spot. Perhaps this is to make is easier for that team. Except it’s not easier if they are coming off a loss, and the C-side team just rattled off two wins.
So… will  I enter a Roar of the Rings pool? Of course. I’m assuming my friend – the competitor – will not have time to organize that one. Nor would she want to know who would or wouldn’t bet on her!
Maybe I will organize the pool myself. But I will inevitably struggle between whom I want to win… whom I think should win… and who I actually picked in the pool.
Maybe if I bet on who I don’t want to win… I’ll be happy either way.

Oh, and for the curious? Here were my picks:

A – Wayne Middaugh
B – Bob Ursel (CCA photo by Michael Burns)
C – Jeff Stoughton
C – Brad Gushue

A – Kelly Scott
B – Cathy King
C – Marie-France Larouche
C – Krista McCarville

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Two in, six to go

And then there were 10.

The field for December’s Roar of the Rings grew by two teams yesterday as Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton and Calgary’s Crystal Webster (CCA photo above by Michael Burns) qualified for the Canadian Olympic Trials.

One more will be added by about 7:30pm ET tonight, when Kelowna’s Kelly Scott finishes her battle with Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville in the women’s B-final. That game starts at 4:00pm ET (live on TSN).

Another will be added later tonight, when the men’s B-final takes place (starting at 9:30pm ET, again on TSN). That one will feature the winner of Edmonton’s Ted Appelman versus Mike McEwen of Winnipeg facing off against the winner of Pat Simmons (Davidson, SK) and Wayne Middaugh (Toronto).

What else is happening?

Well, the TCN Twitterfeed is humming again, click here (and click on Follow) to see nine Tweets from earlier this morning…

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Curling fans: got Twitter?

Another reminder for you today, curling fans: if you aren’t following the The Curling News Twitter feed, you’re missing out.

Here’s what we’ve posted today:

• Is Nunavut curling on the upswing?

• SoCal curling on Nov. 7

• A look at the scorching Kelly Scott and Bob Ursel teams

• Edmonton now hosts a CCA national training centre

• DEKALB Super League is underway

David Murdoch up for major award

• Five – count ’em, FIVE – exclusive pics from Wednesday’s NBC Olympic festival at Rockefeller Plaza: curling, the wheelchairs, Deb McCormick in a bobsleigh and even Jimmy Fallon!

Visit the TCN Twitter page and click on “Follow” at top left…

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Brewster, Ulsrud score gold

Scotland’s Tom Brewster went to Prague and came away from Saturday’s outdoor podium ceremony with the European Mixed Championship crown, plus trophy (Brewster photo above by Mr. Volfik). His squad defeated Denmark 5-1 in the final, while England grabbed the bronze. It is the second such trophy in three years for the oft-runner-up Scottish men’s finalist.
Moments ago at the Swiss Cup in Basel, Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud stopped his own recent run of silver and bronze by beating Sweden’s Niklas Edin 8-7 in the final. It was a wild affair which saw Usrud hold leads of 2-0 and 4-2 before Edin grabbed a deuce in the fifth and a big three-count in the seventh to tie the score 7-7. Ulsrud managed to end it in the eighth.

The Swedes had upset world champ David Murdoch in the quarterfinals, while the two Swiss Olympic contenders, Ralph Stoeckli and Stefan Karnusian, lost the semis. Danish Olympic squad leader Ulrik Schmidt and German veteran Andy Kapp both lost in the quarters. All in all, that’s an awful lot of Vancouver 2010 Olympic teams that qualified for the playoffs.

In Canada, Japan’s Moe Meguro – another squad headed to Vancouver – came from behind to beat 2007 world champion Kelly Scott 5-4 in a semi and then whomped Cheryl Bernard 6-1 in the final of the Twin Harbours Invitational in Vernon. On the men’s side, Kelowna’s Bob Ursel almost scored the threepeat but lost the final 7-5 on an extra-end steal of two to Edmonton’s Kevin Koe. Legends Kerry Burtnyk and Rick Folk lost in the semis, and Glenn Howard made it to the quarters before losing to Burtnyk.

In Regina, Pat Simmons won his first tourney of the season with a 7-1 shellacking of Brennan Jones in the final.

Of course, those of you who follow The Curling News on Twitter knew about most of these results yesterday.

Come, and follow

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Holland takes Schmirler; Oslo measure

Barely five months after being named Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Curing Association, Regina’s Amber Holland scored a big on-ice win at the Sandra Schmirler Charity Classic.
Holland beat out 2007 world champion Kelly Scott of Kelowna 6-3 in the finale, claiming she kept things “simple” during an 8-0 undefeated run.

As for the pic above… what’s that all about?

Sunday we told you of Oskar Eriksson’s upset victory at the Oslo Cup, and predicted a team blog update on Monday. Team Eriksson did not disappoint, and posted a huge dissertation of their playoff run along with a headline we suggested – perhaps they read The Curling News Blog?

The screen capture shows the very end of the game: a thrilling, last-stone measurement for the championship win. It could have gone either way, but hometown hero Thomas Ulsrud got another silver and the young guns came away with the big prize.

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Jones, Gushue rolling early

This busy weekend of curling continues with Monday’s finals of the Sandra Schmirler Charity Classic in Regina.
Among the quarterfinalists are Calgary’s Heather Rankin (photo above) who takes on 2007 world champion Kelly Scott on Monday morning.

Our friend Pal Trulsen kept his time warp going all the way to the semifinals in Oslo, where he finally lost to heir apparent Thomas Ulsrud. In the final, Sweden’s youthful Oskar Eriksson – second and fourth at the last two world junior championships – upset Ulsrud for the men’s victory.

We’re expecting the Swedes to update their team blog sometime on Monday… probably with a headline like Vi vann! or perhaps Helige Gud! Vi slog dem alla!

The women’s crown went to Canada’s Jennifer Jones, who took out a variety of strong teams including defending Olympic champion Anette Norberg in the final. Both Oslo Cup finales ended in 5-4 scorelines.

Elsewhere in Canada, the big story is that Brad Gushue won his third tournament in a row, beating Ian Fitzner-Leblanc in the final of the Appleton Cashspiel in Halifax. The Gushues took out Canada’s 2009 world junior rep Brett Gallant in one semi, while Fitzner-Leblanc defeated 2004 Brier champ Mark Dacey in the other.

KW Fall Classic in Kitchener saw Toronto’s Julie Hastings defeat Stoney Creek’s Karen Bell 4-2 while Bradford’s Dale Matchett beat Jake Higgs of Harriston 8-7 to win the men’s crown.

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Curling Camps: the Glenn Howard Fantasy

In today’s post: the first in a camp series, Kelly Scott’s new lead, Kevin Martin writes his own press and the weirdest curling music video EVER.

So… here’s a first in a series of posts on some of the various “curling camps” available in the off-season. Today, we spotlight the last such camp on the calendar before the “start” of the 2010 Olympic season: the Team Glenn Howard Fantasy Camp.

The second-annual camp takes place in Guelph, Ontario from September 11-13. By all reports, last year’s inaugural camp was a smash hit, complete with a special appearance from 2007 world champion women’s skip Jennifer Jones. The camp even attracted the attention of Team Brazil (photo above), who of course went on to challenge the United States for a spot in April’s Ford Worlds in Moncton.

The 2009 edition promises more for curlers of every skill level. The registration form is available from this page and there’s a special offer available from team sponsor BalancePlus.

Register by June 15 and your name will be entered in a draw to win a new pair of BP 500 Series curling shoes!

Still with the Howards, front-enders Brent Laing and Craig Savill will be teaming up with former teammates Heath McCormick and Andy Ormsby for a four-man charity hike from July 24-26.

Here’s the catch (there are two). First, the entire distance must be covered on foot and all four team members must reach the checkpoints and the finish line together, and within 48 hours.

The second challenge, and the most important part, is for each team to raise a minimum of $2,500 for designated charity Oxfam Canada. But this team, named The Hacks, wants to raise double that amount.

To contribute, head to the Oxfam Trailwalker page and click on “sponsor a hiker”, type in The Hacks, and then choose on of the four team member names to make your donation.

In other news…

• Kelly Scott has announced the name of her new lead player. If you missed the news of the dismissal of former teammate Renee Simons, here’s two links to catch up on: the first and the second. Note the 22 comments posted from readers …

• DID YOU KNOW: that Brooks may lose the Pheasant Classic, the two-year-old Tour event that has been declared the best event on said Tour?

• The final pieces of the 2009-2010 Season of Champions calendar have fallen into place, with the news that the Canadian Seniors will be in Ottawa; the CIS/CCA University Championships, presented by The Dominion, will take place at the Saville Sports Centre in Edmonton; and that the 2010 TSX Canadian Wheelchairs will be hosted by Kelowna …

• Did you catch the final CBC Sports curling blogpost of the season from Grand Slam host Scott Russell? Well, there you go …

• DID YOU KNOW II: that Winnipeg heat-thrower Jason Gunnlaugson has found a player for next season? The young team is into the Road to the Roar, aka the Olympic Pre-Trials qualifying spiel in Prince George, but contrary to public expectations, the Gunner did not pick up an experienced skip

• Who loves curling? Alfaj0r loves curling

• And so does new fan Hannah, a grade eight student in Moncton …

• And so does Jamie Jay Singh, who asks, “Say do you like curling?” And we ask: “Uh, say what?”

Have you voted for the Curling emoticon yet?

• And finally, DID YOU KNOW III: that Kevin Martin is now a journalist? It’s true. He wrote a story about himself in the Mississauga News, check out the byline

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Scotties blog is on the air

And another guest blogger has arrived. Hey… we told you it was an Insane Curling Week!

Elaine Dagg-Jackson has been coaching curling since 1989, starting with Team Julie Sutton. She went on to coach the Japanese national teams and is now deeply entwined in the Canadian national coaching program.

She also lives in Victoria, host city of the 2009 STOH women’s nationals… and she’s now a TCN Blogger!

Behind the Scotties scenes
by Elaine Dagg-Jackson

VICTORIA – The 2009 Scotties Tournament of Hearts got off to its usual spectacular start here in Victoria with the Opening Banquet at the Victoria Conference Centre. Former Scottie champion and TSN commentator Cathy Gauthier was the emcee, and the evening was filled with memories as past champions from the host province of British Columbia were honoured.

They were all there… members of the Lindsay Sparkes team (Lindsay and Robin Wilson), the Linda Moore squad (Linda, Lindsay, Debbie Jones-Walker and Laurie Carney), Team Pat Sanders (Georgina Wheatcroft, Louise Herlinveaux and Deb Massullo), Team Julie (Sutton) Skinner (Julie, Jodie Sutton Green and Melissa Soligo), the Kelley Law team (Julie, Georgina, and Diane Nelson Dezura) and, of course, the Kelly Scott team (Kelly, Jeanna Schraeder, Sasha Carter, Renee Simons).

Julie Skinner represented the champions with a tell-all speech and some photos which provided a glimpse into the various hair fashions through the decades, including a few of my own past hair trends I would just as soon forget.

The best sponsor in the history of women’s sport continued to please the competitors with Kruger and Robin Wilson handing out 43 diamonds to those who have participated at multiple Scotties. For each repeat win, the curler is awarded a new diamond to her necklace or bracelet. The professionalism and class that Kruger brings to this tournament is truly amazing, and creates an incredible allegiance from the curling masses.

Another special presentation occurred with the long-overdue World Championship rings presented to the Kelly Scott team. When the Worlds are held in Canada, the event is sponsored by Ford of Canada and the winners receive World rings supplied by the sponsor. However, when the event is hosted outside Canada the winners went ringless.

A recent agreement by the Canadian Curling Association and the World Curling Federation has now provided Team Scott with rings from their 2006 victory in Aomori, Japan.

The Hot Shots was won by Alberta skip Cheryl Bernard with Saskatchewan’s Sherri Singler the runner-up and Quebec’s Nancy Belanger third. Organizers were surprised when Team British Columbia – skipped by Marla Mallett – elected to sit this one out, the first time in the history of the Hot Shots a team has elected not to participate.

When you arrive at an STOH event it sometimes seems like it takes forever to get started. The teams often arrive on Wednesday, and some don’t play until Saturday night. But now the round robin is underway (Kruger Products photo by Andrew Klaver, above) and the first games have been played – some with predictable results, and some surprises.

Team Canada, Quebec, Ontario and host province BC have come out swinging, and others predicted to be leaders have not fared as well. But the thing about the Scotties – like the Brier – is that it is a long, long week, and you never know what is going to happen. You have to literally take it one game at a time and hope you’re still alive at the end of the week.

We’ll see how the rocks roll in the coming days!