Scottish rinks Team Smith and Team Muirhead had great runs at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard and HDF Insurance Shoot-Out respectively, only to be denied glory at the last.
Smith had their magnificent winning run in Canada ended at 12 games by Team Edin at the semi-final stage in Oakville, the Swedes going on to win the competition.
The new-look Muirhead rink, meanwhile, were beaten in the Shoot-Out final in Edmonton by Team Scheidegger, who pulled off a remarkable comeback win.
Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) had won the Oakville OCT Fall Classic last weekend, so had form going into the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, one of 20 teams in the men’s tier 1 event (triple knockout format).
Smith began with a 7-0 win over Team Kean, scoring three in end one and stealing their way to victory in just four ends, before beating Team Epping 5-2, with two in end six and a pair of steals in ends seven and eight.
That set up an all-Scottish clash with Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), who’d scored threes in ends two and four to beat Team Shuster of the USA 7-1 – but here it was Smith who triumphed, a two in end four crucial in their 4-2 win.
So now Smith faced Team Edin of Sweden for a place in the quarter-finals – and they got off to a brilliant start, scoring four in end one, winning the game 5-2 in five ends.
As for Brewster, they were beaten 5-4 by Team Carruthers to drop to the C-Road, where they defeated Epping 5-2 but then lost 8-3 to recent Baden Masters winners Team De Cruz, the damage done in the first end as the Swiss scored five.
Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) were undone 6-1 by De Cruz in their first match, but won on the B-Road against Team Retchless 6-3, with a three in end one.
But further defeats to Team Balsdon (6-5, having given up four in end two) and Team Dunstone (7-3, after going 5-1 down after three ends) saw them exit the competition.
As for the women’s competition, Team Fleming’s (Hannah Fleming, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Alice Spence) first competition of the season saw them start against Team Sinclair of the USA – who won 5-2.
On the B-Road, a four in end three (after having given up a four in end two!) helped them on their way to a 7-6 victory over Team Perron, following that with a 5-3 win over Team Auld.
But a four in end two propelled Team Tirinzoni to an 8-5 victory over the Scots, who were then knocked out by Team Harrison 7-6, Fleming hauling themselves from 6-2 down to level but being denied another steal in end eight thanks to Jacqueline Harrison’s superbly-judged tap.
And in men’s tier 2 of the Tankard, Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon) went out in the pool stage on a W1 L3 record.
They lost 7-2 to Team Brunner of Switzerland and 6-5 to Team Maus, before overcoming Team Duhaime 6-3, only to be beaten 8-2 by Team Sakrete to have their fate sealed.
That left Smith as the last Scottish team standing in Oakville. They faced De Cruz in the quarter-finals, the Swiss looking for a hat-trick of wins against Scottish teams in Oakville.
It wasn’t to be this time, though – Smith scored two in end two and stole ones in ends five and six to triumph 5-1 and move into the last four.
There they had a rematch with Edin, but this time there was a different outcome. Smith started with two, and after the Swedes replied with three, they notched another two to lead 4-3.
But Edin posted two in end four (video above), Smith was forced to one in five, and Edin blanked the next two ends to take their one in end eight and win the match 6-5 and end Smith’s brilliant run.
The Swedes went on to win the Tankard title, defeating Team Morris 6-3 in the final.
Team Tirinzoni won the women’s title (defeating Team Flaxey 8-5 in the final), while Team Van Dorp of the Netherlands beat Team Horgan 4-2 to triumph in men’s tier 2.
Teams Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) were placed in the same pool at the HDF Insurance Classic in Edmonton, Alberta.
Aitken – in their first competition since their new line-up came together – struggled, losing to Team Schmiemann 5-4 after an extra end, Team Fujisawa of Japan 8-1, Team Eberle 11-2 (7-0 down after just three ends) and Team Driendl of Germany 6-3.
But Muirhead, with Gray in at lead and Schafer covering for Anna Sloan, rolled off the wins – 5-4 against Fujisawa, 8-3 against Eberle (a textbook game – two with hammer, force to one without), 7-3 over Driendl (threes in ends six and seven) and 7-1 against Schmiemann.
Their final pool match pitted them against each other, with Aitken stealing their way to a 5-2 lead after six ends. Muirhead, though, scored two in end seven and stole singles in end eight and the extra to snatch it 6-5.
Muirhead’s quarter-final match against last season’s Scotties winners Team Carey was more routine, as they stole two in end two on their way to a 4-1 lead at halfway, before a two in end seven finished the Canadians off at 7-2.
Team Rocque were their opponents in the last four – twos in ends two, six and seven ensured Muirhead’s progress against the hometown rink by a score of 6-3.
The final saw Muirhead face Team Scheidegger – who had surprisingly knocked out Team Sweeting in the quarter-finals – and things started well for the Scots as they scored two in end one and three in end three, leading 5-2 after four ends.
But from there the Canadians reeled off four successive steals of one to win the match 6-5 – an opportunity missed for Muirhead, as the plucky Scheidegger rink won the day, but a fine run in their first competition of the season with two new players.
Elsewhere in the curling world this weekend, the World Curling Federation’s Annual General Assembly took place in Stockholm, Sweden.
The 54 member associations approved the WCF’s proposed resolutions for sweeping and brushes in elite level curling, allowing the world governing body to “set rules, specifications and policies for sweeping techniques and brush technology” for the first time – see the full news story here.
In short, these rules define the accepted sweeping motion (can be in any direction), approved sweeping devices for each player (no brush/brush head changes), and the penalties for breaching the standards (player/team disqualification).
Brushes will be made from a single fabric, from a single source, made widely available for purchase – and to be used from next month’s World Mixed Curling Championships.
And it seems the new rules in response to #broomgate have gone down well with the elite curlers they have been designed for – Niklas Edin and Glenn Howard for sure.
In addition to the sweeping rulings, other announcements were made, including that the Andorra Curling Association will host its first championship (the European Curling Championships C-Division 2017) and Champery in Switzerland will be the setting for the World Mixed Curling Championship 2017.