‘Another week, another final’: Team Muirhead runners-up in Saskatoon

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Team Muirhead: Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray (photo: British Curling/Tom J Brydone)

Team Muirhead reached their second consecutive final in Canada, battling their way along the C-Road at the Colonial Square Ladies Classic, before falling at the last to Bingyu Wang’s Chinese rink.

Also in Canada, Team Brewster were the top performing Scottish rink at the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic, going out in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Team Koe.

And in Scotland, the first leg of the Asham U21 Slam took place – the Greenacres Junior Masters titles being won by Team Bryce and Team Jackson.

***

Team G Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) and Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Kelly Schafer, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) were the two Scottish rinks competing at the Colonial Square Ladies Classic in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In what was a triple knockout event, with A, B and C-Roads, Team Aitken won their first match by defeating Team Englot 5-4 after an extra end, having picked up twos in ends two and six.

They lost their next match, 6-4 against Team Fujisawa of Japan, and then dropped to the C-Road after being beaten 9-2 by Team Eberle.

There they routed Team Rocque, who are seventh on the World Curling Tour Order of Merit, by a 10-0 scoreline (steal of five in end two, three in end three), before being eliminated by Team Silvernagle, 6-5 after an extra end – but this was a positive experience for the young Scots rink.

As for Team Muirhead, they opened with a 5-4 victory over Team Lawton (scoring two in end seven and stealing two in end eight) and then overcame Team Pätz of Switzerland 5-3, again with a steal of two in the eighth.

However, they lost 8-4 to Team Hasselborg of Sweden in the A-Road final (giving up a four in end one), and then suffered a second successive defeat to Swedish opposition, Team Sigfridsson winning 6-4 to knock the Scots onto the C-Road.

Two wins needed to make the quarter-finals: two wins achieved. First they beat Team Martin 6-5, and then defeated Team Campbell 8-4, and that set up a quarter-final rematch with Sigfridsson.

This time the Scottish-Swedish clash had a different outcome, as Muirhead scored two in end three, one in end five and stole two in end six to win 5-3.

In the semi-finals they faced Team Jones (with Cheryl Bernard skipping in place of Jennifer Jones, who’s on maternity leave) and began well, with threes in ends two and four, before scoring two in end six and stealing one in end seven to win 9-5.

So that meant a second successive final for the new-look Muirhead foursome, this time facing Team Wang of China, the 2009 world champions having lost their first match in Saskatoon but reeling off six subsequent wins to make the title decider.

Wang scored two in end four to lead 3-1 at halfway; Muirhead replied with a two of their own, but three for Wang in end six proved decisive – the Chinese rink winning 7-4.

No dwelling on defeat for Muirhead and their new tactical coach Glenn Howard, though – two second places from two season-opening events with two new players is not to be sniffed at.

And skip Eve Muirhead told British Curling: “Another week, another final… from last week in Edmonton we continued to build on our performance, having some great games but also lots of learning curves.

“There of course is still room for improvement but this early in the season we as a team feel we are in a great place, and are aiming to continue to show the benefit of the work we have done on ice and off during the summer months.”

***

Meanwhile, there were three Scottish teams competing in the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic in Cornwall, Ontario.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Alice Spence) were one of 15 rinks in the women’s section, with the top six qualifying for the playoffs.

Fleming opened with a 6-5 extra end win over Team Morrissey, but then lost 8-3 to Team Homan.

A 6-4 defeat to Team MacPhee followed, which meant that a 5-4 victory over Team Inglis (thanks to a decisive two in end six) was not quite enough to make the knockout stages.

The competition was won by powerhouse Homan, who topped Team Flaxey 7-1 in the final.

In the men’s event, Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) also fell narrowly short of the playoffs on a W3 L2 record.

After a 7-6 loss to Team Bailey, they achieved three successive wins – 6-5 against Team Shuster, 11-1 over Team McCrady (including a steal of six in end four!) and 5-4 versus Team Brown after an extra end.

But with four wins required to make the last eight, an 8-2 defeat to Team Koe proved to be the killer blow for Murdoch.

That left Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) as the sole Scottish representation in the quarter-finals, having posted a W4 L1 record in the round robin.

They overcame Team De Cruz of Switzerland 6-3, Team Kean 8-5, Team Carruthers 7-4 (scoring three in end one and four in end three) and Team Hemmings 7-6 (after a steal in the extra end), with their only loss coming against Team Epping (7-6 after an extra).

In the quarter-finals they faced Team Koe, the reigning world champions, and exchanged twos in the first couple of ends.

Koe, though, scored two in end four and three in end six, and two for Brewster in end seven was not enough to avert an 8-5 defeat.

No shame in that, of course, especially as Koe went on to win the competition, bashing Team Gushue (with Charley Thomas filling in for Brad Gushue and Mark Nichols playing skip) 9-3 in the final.

Skip Tom Brewster reflected: “It’s been a good two weeks for us. We feel like we’ve improved over the two spiels we’ve played in.

“Shorty has been excellent, a really well organised event with a very strong field. We’re happy with how we’ve performed over the weekend and we had a good performance against the world champions in the quarter-final.”

***

The Greenacres Junior Masters kicked off the Asham U21 Slam for the 2016-17 season, with 12 men’s and nine women’s teams taking part at Howwood.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) topped men’s section A, courtesy of wins over Teams Hair (18-0), Craik (5-3), Carson (12-3), Baird (5-2) and Joiner (9-3).

Men’s section B was headed up by Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean), who defeated Teams McNay (8-3), Moodie (14-2), Lockhart (8-1), Cormack (10-3) and McLean (5-1).

As for the women, it was Team K Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) who were first in section A, having beaten Teams Blair (17-0), Dakers (5-3) and Dandie (8-4).

And Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) qualified first from section B, victors over Teams Hunter (11-0), Davie (10-4) and Keen (13-0), and drawing 4-4 with Team MacDonald.

In the men’s semi-finals, Bryce took a 5-0 lead after two ends and ultimately defeated Cormack 7-1, while Whyte beat Carson by the same scoreline, having taken threes in ends one and two.

In the last four on the women’s side, Aitken scored twos in ends six and seven to overcome MacDonald 7-5, while Jackson edged out Dakers 4-3, having been 3-0 up after three.

Bryce claimed the men’s title courtesy of a 7-2 win over Whyte in the final, with little to separate the teams until a four for Bryce in end six blew it open.

In the women’s final, Jackson scored two in end one, stole one in end two and added another two in end six to overcome Aitken 6-3.

That meant two titles in three weeks for Bryce and Jackson, who had also triumphed at the EJCT Braehead Junior International at the start of the month.

Carson beat Cormack 10-3 to take third on the men’s side, while MacDonald won 8-6 versus Dakers for women’s third spot.

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