First Grand Slam final for Team Smith at Tour Challenge

 

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Team Smith made their first Grand Slam final this weekend (photo: Anil Mungal/thegrandslamofcurling.com)

Team Smith battled through to their first ever Grand Slam final at the GSOC Tour Challenge, ultimately falling to back-to-back Slam winners Team Edin.

Elsewhere, Team Fraser won the SCT Forfar Open and three Scottish teams competed at the ZO International Women’s Tournament in Switzerland – Teams G Aitken and Muirhead exiting at the quarter-final stage.

Team Jackson won the World Junior B Playdown against Team K Aitken, while the National Masters and Baljaffray Trophy also took place.

***

The GSOC Tour Challenge, in Cranbrook, British Columbia, was organised in two tiers for men’s and women’s teams, and involved five Scottish rinks.

Teams Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) took part in men’s tier 1.

Murdoch began with an 8-4 loss to Team Ulsrud of Norway, then were beaten 8-5 by Team Jacobs (losing a five in end five).

Despite an 11-5 victory over Team Koe (stealing five in end eight), an 8-3 reverse against Team Morris saw them exit on a W1 L3 record.

Smith also started with a defeat, 9-4 to Team Nichols (giving up five in end five), but recovered to post wins against Team Carruthers (6-1), Team Thomas (8-7) and Team Epping (6-4) to progress to the playoffs.

In men’s tier 2, Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) – Scotland’s representative at the upcoming Europeans in Braehead, of course – also made the playoffs courtesy of victories against Team Schneider (7-2), Team Bice (5-4) and Team Lyburn (8-3), their only defeat coming against Team Joanisse (9-4).

Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon), also in men’s tier 2, made a good start – beating Team Geall 9-5 – but then lost to Team Balsdon (6-4).

Mouat defeated Team Clark 8-2 to give themselves hope of making the playoffs, but a 6-4 loss to Team Gunnlaugson tipped them into a tiebreaker with Bice, which they lost 7-4.

And in women’s tier 2, Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) were victors against Team Galusha (9-4) and Team Tippin (7-6) but were beaten by Team Brown (10-4) andTeam Kleibrink (6-3), which mean a tiebreaker with Team Harrison, the Canadians winning that 6-4.

Come the playoffs, Brewster went down 5-2 against Joanisse in the men’s tier 2 quarter-finals, which left Smith as the sole Scottish rink remaining.

In the quarter-finals against Carruthers, Smith scored three in end three and stole two in end six on their way to a 7-5 win, putting them into the last four and up against Ulsrud.

Smith scored two in end one but the match went down to the wire, 5-5 after eight ends, the Scots taking their one with hammer in the extra end to make the final.

There they met Edin, who had lost their first two matches in Cranbrook but – as they often do – found form when they needed it to win their tiebreaker and then keep rolling through the playoffs.

And they proved too strong for Smith here, scoring two in end two, stealing one in the third and adding three in end five for a 7-3 victory – and their second successive Grand Slam title.

Team Smith’s coach Viktor Kjall said: “It has been an impressive week from the team and they played with confidence, determination and exactly executed their gameplan.”

“It is an incredible performance from such a young team competing in their second slam to reach a final and it is one of the biggest achievements in Grand Slam history.

“At the moment they can beat any team in the world but they still have to work hard if they want to break into the top 10 in the world.”

Women’s tier 1 was claimed by Team Sweeting (8-5 winners over Team Englot in the final), while Team Balsdon won men’s tier 2 and Team Harrison women’s tier 2.

For photos from the event, see the GSOC gallery here… and of course Ben Hebert returned to present another edition of the ‘Sheet Show’…

***

Sixteen teams travelled to Forfar for another Scottish Curling Tour event, which came just one weekend after the Edinburgh International.

The 12 men’s and four women’s teams – from Canada, England and Ireland as well as the host nation – played out group matches to decide the quarter-final line-up.

Those last eight matches pitted Team Bryce against Team Hardie (Hardie won 6-1), Team Fraser versus Team D Wilson (Fraser took it 5-2), Team Taylor up against Team Telfer (Taylor coming through 5-4) and – in the women’s quarter – Team Ward against Team M Wilson (Ward, the English women’s team preparing for European B-Division in Braehead, winning 9-4).

In the semi-finals, Hardie overcame Ward 6-2 and Fraser defeated Taylor 5-2.

Hardie have become accustomed to winning SCT events over the past couple of seasons but it was not to be this time, as Fraser (Ally Fraser, Ruairidh Greenwood, Calum Greenwood, Angus Dowell) scored twos in ends one, three and seven in taking the match and the silverware 7-6.

Photos from the event are available on the SCT blog pages here.

***

The International ZO Women’s Tournament in Wetzikon, Switzerland, attracted three Scottish entries.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) – like Team Brewster, counting down the days to be the home team at Europeans – took their place in the quarter-finals courtesy of round-robin victories against Teams Szeliga-Frynia (4-3), Nielsen (5-3), Lundman (9-3) and Bugnon (8-5), before a 7-2 loss to Team Barbezat with qualification already secured.

Team Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) joined Muirhead in the last eight – on draw shot ranking – having won against Teams Maillard (4-2), Mathis (6-5) and Kauste (5-4), and losing to Teams Moiseeva (8-5) and Kubeskova (6-5).

The third Scottish rink, Team Smith (Hazel Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton), went out with a W1 L4 record, beating Team Strnadova 8-3 but suffering defeats to Teams Baksheeva (6-4), Wrana (5-3), Stern (5-4 after extra end) and Mani (8-5).

The quarter-finals proved the limit for both remaining Scottish teams, Aitken beaten 9-3 by Team Schöpp and Muirhead losing 7-5 against Mani.

Schöpp made the final but ended as runners-up, Barbezat claiming a Swiss victory with a 7-5 win over their German opponents.

***

Back in Scotland, two of the nation’s top junior women’s teams contested a playdown to decide who would fly the Saltire at the World Junior B Championships.

Team Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) took the first game of the best-of-five series by a 9-8 scoreline.

Their opponents, Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Sophie Sinclair, Mili Smith), hit straight back by taking the second game 9-3.

Again they traded victories, Aitken winning 9-6 and then Jackson 8-3, which set up a decisive fifth match.

This one was lower-scoring than the previous games, Jackson taking a steal of one in end five to lead 2-1 at halfway; Aitken couldn’t wrestle back control of the match and opposing skip Sophie Jackson drew the four foot to score one in end 10 and claim victory 4-3.

Therefore it is Jackson who will represent Scotland at the international tournament in Ostersund, Sweden, from January 3-9, 2017.

***

Finally, to round up the last few events (a very busy week!), the National Masters Curling Championship qualifiers took place at Greenacres – results here – and the latest round of the Asham U17 Slam was held at the same venue later in the week.

The latter competition, the Baljaffray Trophy, drew 24 junior teams – who battled it out to make high and low road finals.

The high road final saw Team Kinnear beat Team Farmer 8-4 to win yet another title in what is already turning into a very successful season for Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean and Matthew McKenzie.

Team Gallacher defeated Team Davie 10-1 for third spot, while in the low road final it was Team Craik who won out, 6-5 against Team Hair.

 

Also this week we had the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships, held in Uiseong, Korea, and the host country claimed gold in the women’s competition.

Team Eunjung Kim and silver medallists China (skipped by Bingyu Wang) both secured qualification for the 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship in Beijing.

As for the men, Japan (skipped by Yusuke Morozumi) won gold ahead of China (Rui Liu) – both teams booked their tickets for next year’s World Men’s in Edmonton, Canada.

Last, but certainly not least for Scotland, the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championships took place in Lohja, Finland.

Not only did the Scots (Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson, Angie Malone (alternate)) win silver (beaten 6-4 in the final by the host nation), they also qualified for the 2017 World Wheelchair Curling Championship – and the 2018 Winter Olympics as Great Britain.

You can see Scotland’s full results from Lohja, including their 13-3 semi-final win over England, here.

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