January 2017 curling preview

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Team Murdoch are among the rinks who kick off their 2017 at the Perth Masters (photo: British Curling/Tom J Brydone)

2017 has arrived and, with the Christmas break over, the curling competition calendar fills up again.

A Grand Slam, the Scottish Juniors Championship and two major events on Scottish soil – the Perth Masters and Glynhill Ladies International – are excellent appetisers for the Scottish Championships in February.

Here’s a guide to what’s coming up…

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Meridian Canadian Open (Grand Slam of Curling)
January 3-8, North Battleford, Saskatchewan (Canada)
Team Smith are the sole Scots competing in the latest stop on the Grand Slam tour. They had an excellent first half of the season, and this is another chance for the young team to test themselves against the world’s best – Edin, Epping (the holders), Gushue, Jacobs, Koe et al – in a triple knockout format. Teams Hasselborg, Homan (the reigning champs), Jones, Sidorova and Tirinzoni are among those competing in the women’s section. Follow the competition here.

World Junior-B Curling Championships 2017 (World Curling Federation)
January 3-10, Oestersund (Sweden)
Team Jackson, having been relegated to the Junior B-Division last season, have the chance to redeem themselves by getting Scotland back up to the top table of junior women’s curling. Placed in a group with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, Romania and Spain, they will hope to make the knockout stages, with the top three qualifying for WJCC 2017 in Gangneung, Korea, next month. Selected games are being shown on World Curling TV, and you can follow scores here.

Mercure Perth Masters (Curling Champions Tour)
January 5-8, Perth
Thirty-two men’s rinks – coming in from across the world, from China to Switzerland – descend on Perth for this Curling Champions Tour event, which is in a triple knockout format. Ten of those 32 are Scottish, including Teams Brewster, Bryce, Hardie, Mouat and Murdoch. There’s no guarantee of a home victory, mind you, especially when the likes of Teams De Cruz (Switzerland), Kauste (Finland), Morozumi (Japan) and last year’s finalists Ulsrud (Norway) are in town. Scores can be found here and live streaming here.

Scottish Curling Senior Men’s Championship qualifiers (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 6-8, Ayr and Forfar
Curlers aged over 50 take to the ice in Ayr and Forfar aiming to qualify for the Senior Championships in February – the winners of which will represent Scotland at Worlds in Lethbridge, Canada, in April. In these men’s qualifiers the holders, skipped by Gordon Muirhead, are back again to defend their title. Follow the scores here and here.

Scottish Junior Curling Club Challenge (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 7-8, Murrayfield
An event open to junior curling clubs, it consists of three divisions, with clubs being promoted and relegated between divisions depending on their performance. Each club entry is represented by two teams – they must field a minimum of two females, and the club entry takes a combined score from the results of their teams. Follow the event here.

Bernese Ladies Cup (Curling Champions Tour)
January 12-15, Bern (Switzerland)
Bern welcomes 32 women’s rinks – including three from Scotland – for a triple knockout competition. The Scots all have Swiss opposition up first – Team Fleming have been drawn against Keiser, Team Muirhead versus Mathis and Team Smith with Hegner. Other rinks to look out for include Teams Flaxey (Canada), Moiseeva (Russia), Sigfridsson (Sweden), Tirinzoni (the defending champions, of Switzerland) and Wang (China). Follow scores from this tournament here.

Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles (Curling Champions Tour)
January 13-15, Zoetermeer (Netherlands)
Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat and Judith McCleary/Lee McCleary, Scotland’s premier mixed doubles teams, are among 20 rinks to take part in this competition in the Netherlands. Teams play group matches to decide who’ll make the knockout stages. As well as many of the world’s mixed doubles mainstays, there are duos from England – Anna Fowler/Ben Fowler – and Ireland – Alison Fyfe/Neil Fyfe – involved too. You can keep up to date with the event here, and games will also be live streamed on the Champions Curling Tour YouTube channel.

Scottish Curling Junior Championships (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 18-22, Aberdeen
Team Jackson look to retain their junior women’s title and (depending on how they get on at the World Junior-B Championships earlier in the month) go to Worlds. Their main competition looks to be Team K Aitken, but Teams Davie and MacDonald are also in with a shout. There will definitely be a new champion on the junior men’s side though – Team Mouat are aged out, so Teams Bryce and Whyte are the frontrunners for tournament victory and Worlds qualification. Event scores will be shown here.

Ceramtec German Masters (Curling Champions Tour)
January 19-22, Hamburg (Germany)
Twenty-four teams, separated into six groups, are in Germany for this men’s competition – including the holders, Team Murdoch. The other Scots participating are Teams Brewster, Mouat and Smith. Their main rivals look to include Teams Bottcher, De Cruz, Stjerne, Ulsrud and Van Dorp. The live scores will be posted here.

Glynhill Ladies International (Curling Champions Tour)
January 19-22, Braehead
There are also 24 teams registered for what is becoming another major event in Scotland, this time for the women. Teams G Aitken, Fleming, Muirhead and Smith fly the flag for Scotland in Braehead, while reigning champions Team Tirinzoni return. Teams Feltscher, Kubeskova, Moiseeva, Paetz and Sigfridsson also join the party, which consists of pool stages (four sections) then knockout stages. The event website is here, with live streaming also planned here.

Asham Under 14 Slam – Intu Braehead (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 28, Braehead
The second of three events in the U14 Slam series is being held in Braehead, with best of four end games. The previous competition, at Forfar, saw the high road final won by Team Gallacher. For more information on the event as it takes place, see this page.

Four Nations (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 28-29, Greenacres
Rinks from across the British Isles descend on Greenacres (Howwood) for the latest Four Nations. Last season it was the Irish who took the triple crown title – which of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will come top of the pile this time around? The event page is here.

28th Winter Universiade (International University Sports Federation)
January 29-February 8, Almaty (Kazakhstan)
Finally, we have the World University Winter Games held in Kazakhstan. Curlers to have taken part in this event in just the past few years include Brendan Bottcher, Oskar Eriksson, Hannah Fleming, Anna Sidorova, Anna Sloan and Kyle Smith. This time round it’s Gregor Cannon, Bobby Lammie, Bruce Mouat, Alasdair Schreiber and Derrick Sloan (men’s) and Gina Aitken, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen, Rowena Kerr and Angharad Ward (women’s) who are representing Team Great Britain. The event website is here.

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November curling preview

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The European Championships are coming to Scotland this month – photo: facebook.com/royalcaledoniancurlingclub

The European Curling Championships are in Braehead this month – what, you hadn’t heard? That’s the really big one, but what else is going on through November? Read on…

CookstownCash (World Curling Tour)
Dates: November 3-6
Number of teams: 40 (30 men’s; 10 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Smith
Last year’s winners: Team De Cruz (Switzerland)
Website: worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4337

Team Smith take on a host of local rinks in Cookstown, Ontario, as well as big-hitters such as Team Epping, Team Howard and Team De Cruz (defending champions). The competition begins with a pool stage ahead of knockouts – Smith are in Pool D with Teams Bailey, Gordon, Robillard and Ross.

Edinburgh International Curling Championship (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: November 4-6
Number of teams: 18
Scottish teams: Team Bryce, Team Fraser, Team Hardie, Team MacDonald, Team Mouat
Last year’s winners: Team Hardie
Website: murrayfieldinternational.com

The Goldline Scottish Curling Tour’s third event of the season takes place at Murrayfield Curling in the capital. Hardie look to defend their title against home opposition and some more than capable challengers from abroad – chief among them 2016 World silver medallists Team Stjerne – with entries coming from the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and Wales.

Inverness Junior International (Asham U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 4-6
Number of teams: 18 (10 boys’; 8 girls’)
Last year’s winners: Team Brydone; Team Murray
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-inverness-junior-international-4/

Usual suspects on the Scottish circuit Team Bryce and Team Jackson are not taking part in this U21 Slam, which allows the likes of Team Whyte (boys’ side), Team K Aitken and Team MacDonald (girls’) the opportunity to take advantage by gaining vital ranking points.

World Wheelchair-B Curling Championship (World Curling Federation)
Dates: November 4-6
Number of teams: 16
Last year’s winners: Norway
Website: worldcurling.org/wwhcc2017

Lohja in Finland hosts the Wheelchair-B Championship, where Scotland are represented by 2014 Winter Paralympic bronze medallist Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson and Angie Malone (alternate) – and hope to improve on last season’s fifth-place finish. England, skipped by Rosemary Lenton, also compete.

Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (World Curling Federation)
Dates: November 5-12
Number of teams: 17 (9 men’s; 8 women’s)
Last year’s winners: Soo Hyuk Kim (Korea); Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan)
Website: worldcurling.org/pacc2016

With curling’s focus being steadily pulled eastwards both by the strength of Asian teams in world competitions and the location of the 2018 Winter Olympics, this event in Uiseong, South Korea, is one to watch. The women’s rinks of Bingyu Wang (China), Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan) and Kim Eunjung (Korea) make for a fearsome threesome and the competition between them is likely to be fierce. Rui Liu (China) and Yusuke Morozumi (Japan) are among those on the men’s side.

National Masters Curling Championship – Qualifiers (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 8-10
Number of teams: 30
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/national-masters-curling-championship-qualifiers/

Greenacres hosts the qualifying event for the National Masters Curling Championship, with Scottish curlers over the age of 60 eligible to take part. Thirty rinks in six sections are expected to compete for those qualification spots.

Tour Challenge (Grand Slam of Curling)
Dates: November 8-13
Number of teams: 60 (30 men’s; 30 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch, Team Smith (tier 1), Team Brewster, Team Mouat (tier 2); Team Fleming (tier 2)
Last year’s winners: Team Koe (tier 1), Team Cotter (tier 2); Team Tirinzoni (tier 1), Team Einarson (tier 2)
Website: thegrandslamofcurling.com

Grand Slams are like buses, apparently. Two in very quick succession! After the Masters in Okotoks, Alberta, it’s time for the Tour Challenge in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Teams Murdoch and Smith go in tier 1, where Team Edin will look to make it a Swedish double after taking the Masters. Teams Brewster and Mouat are in tier 2, while Team Fleming compete in women’s tier 2.

Forfar Open (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: November 11-13
Last year’s winners: Team Mouat; Team Jackson
Website: scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk

Forfar Indoor Sports’ unique competition – the sole Scottish Curling Tour event with a women’s section – returns. Team Mouat won’t be there to defend their title (see above), nor will Team Jackson (see below), so there’ll be two new champions this season.

World Junior Women’s B Playdown (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 11-13
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/world-junior-b-playdown/

Karina Aitken and Sophie Jackson’s rinks will battle it out over a best-of-five series to fly the Scottish flag at the World Junior B Curling Championships in January – and hopefully get Scotland promoted to the A-Division for next season.

ZO Women’s Tournament (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: November 11-13
Number of teams: 24
Scottish teams: Team Aitken, Team Muirhead, Team Smith
Last year’s winners: Team Feltscher (Switzerland)
Website: curling-wetzikon.ch/cms/zo-frauencurlingturnier/en/index_en.php

Team Muirhead warm up for the European Championships with this tournament in Wetzikon, Switzerland. They are joined by Teams Gina Aitken and Hazel Smith, as well as the likes of Teams Feltscher (Switzerland), Nielsen (Denmark) and Sidorova (Russia). There are four pools of six teams, with playoffs on the Sunday.

The Baljaffray Trophy (Asham U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: November 12-13
Number of teams: 24
Last year’s winners: Team Whyte
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-the-baljaffray-trophy-3/

Greenacres hosts the latest round of the U17 Slam series. Teams Craik, Haswell and Kinnear will once again be expected to challenge for this title and ranking points, with overall winners gaining entry to a World Curling Federation junior curling camp in Germany next year.

Mixed Doubles Bern (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: November 18-20
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat, Judith McCleary/Lee McCleary
Website: curlingbern.ch/turniere/2016-2017/1-mixed-doubles-bern/

Two Scottish pairs travel to Switzerland for this inaugural mixed doubles event, to challenge alongside 30 other teams including Szekeres/Nagy (Hungary), Bryzgalova/Krusheinitcki (Russia) and Perret/Rios (Switzerland). There are qualification matches, playoffs and a consolation cup.

 Red Deer Curling Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: November 18-21
Number of teams: 54 (32 men’s; 22 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch, Team Smith; Team Fleming
Last year’s winners: Team Lizmore; Team Rocque
Website: worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4233

Red Deer, Alberta, hosts this major World Curling Tour event (triple knockout format), with the three Scottish rinks taking part being the losing teams at the European Playdowns last month. Look out for the likes of Teams Bottcher, Koe, Carey and Rocque on the men’s and women’s sides.

European Curling Championships (World Curling Federation)
Dates: November 19-26
Number of teams: 46 (26 men’s; 20 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Brewster; Team Muirhead
Last year’s winners: Team Edin (Sweden); Team Sidorova (Russia)
Website: worldcurling.org/ecc2016

It’s almost here! Braehead hosts the Europeans, with 46 teams in men’s and women’s A and B-Divisions. Can Team Brewster build on their last performance at Worlds? Will Team Edin reign supreme again (they’re on brilliant form)? Can Team Muirhead go one better than in Esbjerg, with Team Sidorova failing to qualify? Or is it time for Team Hasselborg’s true international arrival? So many questions, so many top curlers – let’s hope they attract big crowds.

Team Jackson victorious in Prague

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EJCT Prague Junior Cup winners, Team Jackson (photo: facebook.com/CurlingChampionsTour)

Team Jackson won the women’s title at the EJCT Prague Junior Cup, defeating Team Gauchat of Switzerland in the final.

Three Scottish teams took part in the first Grand Slam of Curling event of the season, the Masters, with Team Murdoch performing best in making it to the quarter-finals.

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat also posted a quarter-final finish, theirs coming at the Geising Mixed Doubles, while the Province Championship and U17 Slam at Lanarkshire took place back in Scotland.

***

Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) travelled to the Czech Republic for the EJCT Prague Junior Cup.

They kicked off their pool stage with a 9-2 win over Team Wuest of Switzerland, scoring two in end four and five, and three in end six.

Team Hoehne of Germany were up next, and the Scots scored two in end two only for the Germans to hit back straight away with three and head into the extra end with hammer. Jackson, however, stole one for the 5-4 victory.

Threes in ends one and two pointed them towards an 8-2 win over Team Cerne of Slovenia, and despite a 6-5 loss to Team Joo (Hungary) they were safely into the semi-finals.

There Jackson met Team Fomm of Germany, and gave up steals in ends four and five to fall 4-1 behind. But two in end six and a steal of three in end seven turned the match on its head, Jackson winning 6-4.

Team Gauchat of Switzerland were their opponents in the final, but it was the Scots who pulled through 7-4 to take the cup!

Skip Sophie Jackson said: “We are really happy with our result this weekend as we had a few tough games and stuck together to grind out the wins.

“It’s great to see our hard work from pre-season paying off with regards to results so far this season.”

***

Three Scottish teams were in Okotoks, Alberta, for the WFG Masters, the opening Grand Slam of Curling tournament of the 2016-17 season.

Teams Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were drawn in the same pool and they opened against each other.

Murdoch began with three in end one, forced Smith to one and then added a huge four in end three for an almost unassailable 7-1 lead – and so it proved, Smith conceding at 9-2.

Smith, in their first Grand Slam at the elite level (they played in tier 2 of the Tour Challenge last season), claimed a win in their next match – two in end four and a steal of one in end seven seeing them past Team Carruthers 5-3 – but two further losses (6-5 to Team McEwen and 7-5 to Team Morris) saw them exit with a W1 L3 record.

Murdoch edged a tight battle with Morris (5-4) for their second win of the competition, but defeats to Carruthers (5-1) and McEwen (6-5) tipped them into a tiebreaker with Team Koe, the reigning world champions.

A good time for your skip to curl at 100 per cent then – and that’s just what David Murdoch did, as his rink scored two in end three, then three in end five, and stole one in end six, as Koe were beaten 7-3.

The quarter-finals pitted them against the on-song Team Laycock, and this time the Scots fell short, Laycock taking two in end four and stealing one in the fifth in winning 5-3.

The men’s final was contested by Teams Edin and Jacobs. Jacobs led 4-2 into end eight, but the Swedes scored two to force an extra – where they stole one to win the match 5-4, taking their first Grand Slam title and – remarkably – the first men’s Grand Slam won by a non-Canadian team!

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray), fresh from qualifying for the European Championships and welcoming back Sloan at third, flew the Scottish flag in the women’s event.

First up they faced Team Kim of Korea – they stole two in end one but then gave up five unanswered points in the following four ends, the Koreans eventually winning 6-5.

They then suffered another 6-5 defeat, this time going toe-to-toe with Team Pätz of Switzerland but giving up a steal in end eight, before a first win came against Team Rocque – three in end one, four in end four and three in end six giving them a 10-2 victory.

That set up a must-win match with the reigning Masters champions, Team Homan. Homan took the victory though, 7-5, and Muirhead dropped out on W1 L3.

Despite four of the quarter-finalists being international teams, it was an all-Canadian – indeed an all-Ontario – final between Teams Flaxey and Homan.

Flaxey, having made the playoffs via a tiebreaker, shocked Homan with a four in end five pivotal in their 6-3 victory. Like Edin, this was Flaxey’s first GSOC title.

As an aside, it is very disappointing to see Sportsnet having chosen to end non-Canadian subscriptions to live Grand Slam matches – it means that fans of the international teams playing the tournaments cannot watch them at home, and it will hardly help to grow the sport worldwide.

I hope that curling fans’ passionate pleas for the service’s return will be rewarded.

***

Back in Europe, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – who had finished runners-up at the Austrian Mixed Doubles the week before – took part in the CCT Geising Mixed Doubles.

The Scottish pair cruised through the group stage, with wins over Walczak/Knebloch of Poland (10-5), Belarussians Petrova/Petrov (10-3), Poles Szeliga-Frynia/Frynia (8-4) and Kobler/Hess of Switzerland (8-2).

The quarter-finals saw them face Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky of Russia, who have real pedigree this season – having come third at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles and then helped Russia to gold at the World Mixed Championship.

The Russians stole in ends two, three and four to lead 3-0, before Aitken/Mouat got on the board with two in end five. The Russian pair scored four in end six though, and stole another one in the seventh end for an 8-2 win.

And it was Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky who won the title, beating Hajkova/Paul of the Czech Republic 8-5 in the final.

***

Lanarkshire Ice Rink hosted the second Asham Under 17 Slam of the season, with 24 teams involved.

The rinks being divided into six sections, the pool stage delivered two high road and two low road quarter-finals, all the knockout matches played on the Sunday.

In the high road quarters, Team Craik scored two in end one and three in end four in beating Team Gallacher 6-4, while Team Haswell cruised past Team Hair 6-1.

Haswell won again in the semis, scoring two in end four and stealing one in the sixth end for a 4-3 victory over Team Davie, while Team Kinnear overpowered Craik 7-0.

The high road final saw Haswell take a 3-0 lead after two ends, but Kinnear roared back with three in the third end, then steals of one, two and one in the next three ends.

That secured Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean and Matthew McKenzie) a 7-3 victory and their second U17 Slam title of the season.

Third spot went to Craik, courtesy of a 3-1 win over Davie, while Henderson defeated Lyon 7-6 after an extra end in the low road final.

Across in Greenacres, 28 teams took part in the Scottish Province Championship.

A pool stage determined which rinks would make the quarter-finals. There, North Eastern defeated Border 5-4, Central beat Cupar 7-4, Renfrewshire 12th edged Galloway 5-4 and Ayrshire 1 saw off Moray 7-4.

Come the semi-finals, Renfrewshire 12th overcame Ayrshire 1 5-3 thanks to two in end five and a steal of one in eight, and Central won a ding-dong battle with North Eastern 8-7 – after the rinks had traded fours in ends two and three, Central scored two in end four and stole singles in ends five and six, then just about held on for the victory.

Renfrewshire 12th (Eric Richardson, Doug Kerr, Fraser Davidson, Margaret Richardson) came through as champions, defeating Central 7-6 in the high road final, scoring two in end three, three in end five and their one with hammer in end eight.

Stirlingshire won the low road final, 9-2 against North & South Esk.

Scotland win bronze at World Mixed Championship

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Bronze medal winners (L-R): Sophie Jackson, Bobby Lammie, Katie Murray, Cameron Bryce (photo: worldcurling.org/wmxcc2016/teams)

Scotland’s young team only lost one match as they claimed bronze at the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia.

They were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual silver medallists Sweden, as the Russian hosts took gold, but recovered to take bronze ahead of Korea.

Elsewhere this weekend, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat finished as runners-up at the Austrian Mixed Doubles Cup, and more Scottish curlers competed at home, in Norway and in Canada.

***

There have been two World Mixed Curling Championships, and Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson have represented Scotland at both of them.

Last year in Bern, Switzerland, they exited the competition at the last 16 stage, but they surpassed that achievement by some distance in Kazan.

The Scots kicked off their group stage challenge with an 8-3 win over Italy, and followed that by beating Norway 8-1 and Japan 7-4.

Further victories against Romania (8-4) and Belarus (9-5, with a five in end two!) saw them ease into the knockout stages, and a sixth win from six was secured as they saw off New Zealand 7-2.

Ireland’s foursome finished the competition with a W2 L4 record (beating Brazil 13-4 and Slovakia 6-4), while Wales were W4 L3 for the event, narrowly missing a playoff/tiebreaker place despite defeating Croatia (7-6, after an extra end), Slovenia (8-1), the Netherlands (8-3) and Estonia (6-3).

England were even closer, wins against Brazil (12-1), Ireland (8-5) and Finland (6-4) earning them a tiebreaker against the Finns, only for their opponents to edge it 6-5 and make the playoffs themselves.

Scotland the last British side standing, they took on the USA in the round of 16, the stage at which they’d gone out to Switzerland last season.

No problems this time round, Bryce’s rink scoring three in end two and stealing one in end four for a 4-1 win.

To the quarter-finals then, and a big match with Canada, who like Scotland were yet to lose a game.

Scotland stole two in the first end, but Canada took singles in ends two and three, and the Scots were forced to one in end four for a 3-2 lead at halfway.

Canada took two in end five and they led 5-4 going down the eighth – but Scotland, crucially, held hammer. And they used it to maximum effect, as skip Bryce made a takeout to score two and win the match 6-5.

Sweden were their opponents in the last four, and they proved too much for Scotland to handle. Successive steals in the first three ends saw the Swedes 3-1 up at halfway, and they took two in end five and three in end seven to take the game 8-2 and make the final.

A tough result for Scotland to pick themselves up from, but they had to go again in the bronze medal match with Korea.

There they again found themselves 3-0 down after giving up a steal of one in end one and two in end two, but they fought back with singles in ends three and four.

A crucial steal of two in the fifth end put Scotland ahead for the first time in the game, a lead they carried into the eighth at 5-4.

Korea had hammer down the last, but Scotland had four shot stones ahead of opposing skip Lee Kibok’s final stone – a raise takeout attempt which only cleared one stone, giving the Scots a steal of three, an 8-4 victory and the bronze medals!

In the final, Sweden – runners-up in 2015, beaten by Norway – finished second again, Russia winning gold after a 5-4 extra-end victory.

Reflecting on his team’s bronze medals, Scottish skip Cameron Bryce said: “It’s always good to bounce back after a defeat in the morning. We wanted to make sure we went home to Scotland with a medal. We started off slow so we had to do it the difficult way and steal our way through.

“Bronze is good now, but we were really disappointed this morning. After a couple of days we’ll be really happy with our bronze.”

For photos from the event, check out the WCF Facebook album here.

***

Another Scottish success story came at the CCT Austrian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup in Kitzbühel, as Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – who have both been selected in the British curling squad for the next Winter University Games – finished as runners-up.

The Scottish pair eased through the pool stages of the event, beating Zubercova/Gallo of Slovakia 16-3, Reitsma/Genner (Austria) 12-3 and Mayrhans/Kapp (Germany) 8-1.

In the first playoff round, they defeated Fischer/Roth (Austria) 9-3, with two in end three, four in end five and two in end six, to wrap up a semi-final spot.

There they scored twos in ends one and three, stole one in end four and added another three in end seven to overcome Kauste/Rantamaki of Finland 8-3 and make the final.

The final proved a step too far for Aitken/Mouat, up against the Hungarian pair of Ildiko Szekeres and Gyeorgy Nagy.

It was finely poised after the fourth end with the Scots leading 4-3 courtesy of twos in ends two and four, but the Hungarians scored three in end five then took single steals in ends six, seven and eight for a 9-4 victory.

Nevertheless, a positive result for Aitken and Mouat, who continue their mixed doubles progress with the CCT Mixed Doubles Cup Geising next weekend.

***

There were more up-and-coming Scottish teams in action this weekend in events at home and abroad.

The second Asham Under-14 Slam of the season, after the event in Forfar earlier this month, took place in Stranraer.

The four sections were topped by Teams Stewart, Ryder, Stranraer 1 and Stranraer 2.

And so in the high road semi-finals, Stranraer 1 defeated Ryder 4-1 and Stranraer 2 beat Stewart 7-2.

That set up an all-Stranraer final, and it was Stranraer 2 (Robyn Munro, Robbie Lyon, Finlay Aldred, Iona Irving) who triumphed over Stranraer 1 (Matthew McCrone, Kaleb Johnstone, Kerr Lyon, Thomas Hay), scoring three in end one and adding singles in ends three and four to clinch a 5-2 victory, while Ryder defeated Stewart 4-1 for third spot.

In the low road final, it was Forfar winners Team Gallacher (Hamish Gallacher, Scott Hyslop, Jack Strawhorn, Jack Carrick) who came out on top, beating Team Gow 6-1.

Further afield, meanwhile, Teams Baird (David Baird, Fraser Kingan, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) and Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) took part in the EJCT Oslo event in Norway.

Baird started with a 7-1 victory over Team Kringlebotrn, and then saw off Team Studer of Switzerland 9-4.

Two 6-5 defeats to Norwegian rinks followed, to Teams Foss (after an extra end) and Myran, but they then overcame Team Bremanis of Latvia 7-2 for a spot in the quarter-finals.

There their progress ended, Team Nygren of Sweden stealing three in end eight to beat the Scots 8-5.

In the girls’ section of the junior event, Aitken lost 8-5 to Norwegians Team Forbregd but were 8-5 winners themselves in their next match, against Team Bremane of Latvia.

However, two losses against Swedish rinks, Teams Sundberg (4-3) and Westman (6-2), saw them exit on a W1 L3 record.

The boys’ winner at the event were Team Muskatewitz of Germany, beating Myran 6-4 in the final, and on the girls’ side it was Sundberg who triumphed in an all-Swedish final, 8-3 versus Westman.

***

Finally, there were – as ever – an abundance of events taking place in Canada over the weekend, ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season this week.

Team Brewster, having just won the European Playdowns to represent Scotland in Braehead, took part in the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in Alberta.

Brewster’s rink – Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan – couldn’t carry over their form from Perth though, losing to Team Scharback (4-2) and Team Stroh (5-4) to drop to the C-Road.

There they finally picked up a win, beating Team Kleibrink 6-2, then added another – defeating Scharback 9-0, capped by a steal of five in end five – but a 6-1 loss to Team Appelman ended their run a match short of the playoffs.

Team Smith (Hannah Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton) also made the trip to Canada, competing in the Canad Inns Women’s Classic in Manitoba alongside some stellar names – Teams Homan, Jones, Sigfridsson and Tirinzoni to name but four.

Their first match was a daunting one, against Stockholm Ladies Cup winners and European Championships qualifiers Team Hasselborg, and the Swedes won 9-1.

Another defeat followed, 7-3 against Team Middaugh, and a 5-2 loss versus Team Barbezat of Switzerland on the C-Road saw their participation finished.

The playoffs for both the Medicine Hat Charity Classic (follow here) and Canad Inns Women’s Classic (here) are being contested later today.

As for the Challenge De Curling De Gatineau in Quebec, it was Team Epping (with ‘super spare’ Craig Savill) who triumphed, overcoming Team Dunstone 4-3 in the final.

One last thing! Back in Europe, Team Edin claimed yet another title in what has been an incredibly fast start to the season for the Swedes, beating Team Pfister 7-5 in the Champery Masters final.

The tournament was televised through World Curling TV, another step forward in their attempts to expand the sport’s reach.

 

September 2016 curling preview

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Oakville Curling Club (photo: facebook.com/teammouat)

The Baden Masters kicked 2016-17 off as far as Scottish curling is concerned; September sees things go up a notch with a dozen competitions during the month.

Here’s a quick rundown of what the next four weeks have in store.

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Braehead Junior International (European Junior Curling Tour)
Dates: September 2-4
Number of teams: 20 (12 boys’; 8 girls’)
Scottish teams: Team Bryce, Team Carson, Team Haswell, Team Whyte; Team K Aitken, Team Davie, Team Jackson, Team MacDonald
Prize money: £2,000
Last year’s winners: Team Hess (Switzerland); Team Jackson (Scotland)
Website: http://www.curlbraehead.co.uk/ejct-2016.html

It’s a big season for Braehead, with the European Championships coming to town, and it kicks off with this international juniors competition. Teams play round robin games on Friday and Saturday, followed by semi-finals and finals on Sunday. The new-look Scottish rinks of Cameron Bryce and Ross Whyte will certainly look to challenge on the boys’ side, while Teams K Aitken and Jackson lead the Scottish girls’ title tilt.

***

Oakville OCT Fall Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 2-4
Number of teams: 43 (25 men’s; 18 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Mouat, Team Smith
Prize money: $13,000 men’s; $10,000 women’s
Last year’s winners: Team Maus (Canada); Team Harrison (Canada)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4300

Scottish men’s teams Mouat and Smith have travelled across to Canada to take on a strong field in a competition comprising of pools then knockouts. Mouat face Teams Brown, Stewart, Krell and McCormick; Smith, meanwhile, are up against Teams Birr, Ferris, Balsdon and Murphy. Other teams to look out for include Brady Clark and John Epping’s rinks. There are no Scottish teams in the women’s competition, but Fleury, Hasselborg and Roth are among those that are.

***

HDF Insurance Shoot-Out (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 8-11
Number of teams: 24
Scottish teams: Team G Aitken, Team Muirhead
Prize money: $32,000
Last year’s winners: Team Sweeting (Canada)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4304

Gina Aitken and Eve Muirhead’s rinks kick off their season in Edmonton, Alberta. This competition is made up of a round robin pool stage then knockouts. Reigning champions Team Sweeting return, as do previous winners Team Carey and Team Lawton, alongside other dangerous opponents in Teams Driendl, Fujisawa, Rocque and more.

***

Stu Sells Oakville Tankard (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 8-11
Number of teams: 64 (20 men’s tier 1, 20 men’s tier 2; 24 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Brewster, Team Murdoch, Team Mouat, Team Smith; Team Fleming
Prize money: $27,000 men’s tier 1, $16,000 men’s tier 2; $24,000 women’s
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue (Canada) tier 1, N/A tier 2; Team Homan (Canada)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4364

Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith are in tier 1 of the men’s competition in Ontario, which has a triple knockout format and also contains Teams Bottcher, Edin, Gushue, Laycock and Morris. In men’s tier 2, Team Mouat are contention alongside the likes of Team Clark and Team Van Dorp. As for the women’s competition, it’s here where Team Fleming kick off their season, potentially facing big names such as Sherry Middaugh, Margaretha Sigfridsson and the Swiss trio of Feltscher, Pätz and Tirinzoni across a triple knockout format.

***

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Team Gushue won last season’s Shorty Jenkins Classic (photo: facebook.com/TeamGushue)

AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 15-18
Number of teams: 39 (24 men’s; 15 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Brewster, Team Murdoch; Team Fleming
Prize money: $59,000 men’s; $29,500 women’s
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue (Canada); Team EunJung Kim (Korea)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4313

Cornwall in Ontario hosts some of the sport’s greatest rinks for a round robin pool stage then knockouts. Teams Brewster and Murdoch are pitted against the likes of Carruthers, De Cruz (Baden Masters winners last weekend), Edin, Gushue (defending champions), Jacobs, Koe and McEwen. In other words, the very best of Canadian men’s curling. The potential games facing Team Fleming on the women’s side are just as challenging – Homan, Middaugh and Tirinzoni to name but three.

***

Greenacres Junior Masters (U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: September 16-18
Last year’s winners: Team Whyte (Scotland); Team K Aitken (Scotland)
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-greenacres-junior-masters-3/

The opening leg in the four-part U21 Slam series sees teams compete to win this competition, and to gain points which go towards the overall Asham U21 Slam male and female titles. Last year’s overall winners were Teams Whyte and Murray.

***

Colonial Square Ladies Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: September 16-19
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Team Muirhead
Prize money: $50,000
Last year’s winners: Team McCarville
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?eventid=4305

Saskatoon hosts this long-running major women’s event. With Stefanie Lawton, Jennifer Jones, Sherry Middaugh and Eve Muirhead among the previous skips to have won the title, and generous prize money on offer, you can expect a quality field.

***

Tallinn Mixed Doubles International (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 22-25
Number of teams: 18
Prize money: €400
Last year’s winners: N/A
Website: http://softpeelr.com/en/tournaments/348

We’re all very excited about mixed doubles making its Olympic bow in 2018. The opening competition in the discipline takes place in Estonia, with group matches, quarter-finals, semis then final. No Scots have entered this event, but organisers Harri Lill and Marie Turmann (who are themselves competing) have still attracted a fine field for this inaugural event. Names to look out for include Oona Kauste/Tomi Rantamäki (Finland), Ildiko Szekeres/Gyorgy Nagy (Hungary) and Jenny Perret/Martin Rios (Switzerland).

***

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Team Hardie, 2015 Braehead Open winners (photo:facebook.com/TeamHardie)

Braehead Open (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: September 23-25
Number of teams: 24 (space for 32)
Scottish teams (so far): Team Adam, Team Barr, Team Bryce, Team Hardie, Team Horton, Team Jamieson, Team McCall, Team Mouat, Team Taylor, Team Telfer; Team G Aitken, Team Jackson, Team McDougall, Team H Smith, Team Wilson
Prize money: £2,000
Last year’s winner: Team Hardie (Scotland)
Website: http://scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk/

Reigning champions Team Hardie headline the opening Scottish Curling Tour event of the season, alongside other strong Scottish contenders including Teams Bryce, Mouat, G Aitken and Jackson. Team Hazel Smith (including ex-Team Muirhead leads Claire Hamilton and Sarah Reid) will also compete, in addition to rinks from England, Ireland, Wales and the Czech Republic.

***

Stevenson Trophy (U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: September 24-25
Last year’s winner: Team Kinnear (Scotland)
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-the-stevenson-trophy-2/

There are five U17 Slam events (each lasting two days), with each team’s best three results accumulated to determine the overall winners. Teams can be male, female or mixed for these events, which are made up of games of six ends. Prizes include guaranteed selection for the WCF Junior Curling Camp in Fussen, Germany, in 2017.

***

Swiss Cup Basel (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 29-October 2
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Team Brewster, Team Mouat, Team Murdoch, Team Smith
Prize money: CHF 40,500
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue (Canada)
Website: http://swisscupbasel.ch/index.php?lang=en

There’s strong Scottish representation at the Swiss Cup Basel, with Teams Brewster, Murdoch, Mouat and Smith all involved in this triple knockout competition. Brewster won this event in 2014, and Smith came joint third last year as Team Gushue of Canada picked up the title. Gushue returns to Switzerland again this time around, part of a strong field that also includes Teams De Cruz, Edin, Stjerne and Ulsrud.

***

Kinross Junior Classic (U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: September 30-October 2
Last year’s winners: Team Bryce; Team Murray
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-kinross-junior-classic-4/

The second leg of the Asham U21 Slam brings the competition to Kinross. Team Bryce could be in the running to retain their title, but there’ll certainly be a new champion on the women’s side, with Team Murray having broken up over the summer.

***

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Stockholm Ladies champions 2015, Team Homan (photo: facebook.com/stockholmladies)

Stockholm Ladies Cup (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 30-October 2
Number of teams: 20
Scottish teams: Team Fleming, Team Muirhead
Prize money: SEK270,000
Last year’s winner: Team Homan
Website: http://slcc.se/

Teams Fleming and Muirhead carry the flag for Scotland in this pool stage then knockout competition. Last year’s winners Team Homan are not returning to defend their title, but it’s still a top field. Fleming are in a pool with Teams Feltscher, Lundman, Matsamura and Sidorova, while Muirhead face Teams Hasselborg, Kim, Mani and Nielsen.

***

Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Classic (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: September 30-October 3
Number of teams: 32
Scottish teams: Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat
Prize money: $25,000
Last year’s winners: Rachel Homan/John Morris
Website: https://www.canadinns.com/about-us/in-the-community/canad-inns-in-classic/canad-inns-mixed-doubles-classic/

More mixed doubles, this time in Canada – Portage, in Manitoba, to be exact. World Mixed Doubles Championship semi-finalists Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat are one of 32 teams to compete, along with star names Rachel Homan/John Morris, Jennifer Jones/Brent Laing and Kalynn Park/Charley Thomas.

***

As well as following linescores and, occasionally, YouTube coverage from these events, you can keep up to date with Scottish teams’ progress throughout September via the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter pages.

Baden Masters: Solid Scottish start to season

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Team De Cruz’s winning draw (via youtube.com/user/curlingchampionstour)

Team De Cruz scored a home victory at the Baden Masters, after the three Scottish teams in Switzerland succumbed at the quarter-final stage.

Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith all qualified from the round robin with W3 L1 records in their opening tournament of the 2016-17 season, but could progress no further than the last eight.

That left it to Peter De Cruz and Thomas Ulsrud’s rinks to contest the final, with the Swiss team taking the victory 6-5 after an extra end.

***

Curling is back, and that meant the welcome return of some of the sport’s greatest sights.

There was a strong field in Baden for the Curling Champions Tour event, including recent World and European medallists Teams De Cruz, Edin, Stjerne and #funkypants Ulsrud.

Scotland was well represented too, with Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith all involved.

Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) started their campaign with two victories – both after an extra end.

They led Team Hess of Switzerland 4-1 after four ends, but were taken to an extra end at 6-6, using hammer to score two and win 8-6; they were then pegged back to 4-4 by Team Retornaz of Italy scoring two in end eight, but again they got the job done by scoring one in the extra.

Their third match was much more straightforward, scoring two in end one and threes in ends three and four to beat Swiss Team Lottenbach 8-1, which set up a showdown with fellow unbeaten side Ulsrud – this time the Scots were on the wrong side of an extra end game, the Norwegians using hammer to score one and win 6-5.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) won their first match 9-4 against Swiss Team Pfister (taking a four in end five), but crashed to a 7-2 loss against another Swiss rink, Attinger, giving up two in end two, three in end four and two in end five.

But the Scots recovered from that by posting two victories – 7-4 against Team Van Dorp of the Netherlands (scoring twos in ends one and five) and 8-0 over Norwegians Team Walstad (three in end one, five in end two) – which meant that, like Brewster, they were into the quarter-finals with three wins and one loss.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) opened with a 7-3 win over Team Morozumi of Japan, and enjoyed another comfortable win over Team Schwaller of Switzerland, twos in ends one and eight giving them a 6-3 victory.

They were edged out 4-3 by Stjerne (the Danes stealing one in end eight), but secured passage to the last eight by beating Team Brunner 5-2, scoring two against the Swiss in end one and stealing singles in ends six and seven.

Come the quarter-finals, it was over almost before it had begun for Murdoch, as Edin of Sweden scored two in end one and stole four in end two, plus another one in end three, to kill the game – handshakes at 7-0.

Brewster and Smith’s games both went down to the eighth end – Brewster leading Stjerne 2-1 in a low scoring affair (ends five to seven all blanked), but the Danes scored two in end eight to win the game 3-2.

And Smith led Ulsrud 4-3 into end eight… only to give up four at the death, and with their 7-4 defeat, the Scottish challenge in the competition was at an end.

Ulsrud saw off Edin 6-5 (after another extra end) in the last four to reach the final, where they would face De Cruz of Switzerland – who had beaten Pfister 6-5 and Stjerne 5-1 in the knockout rounds.

That pitted the two unbeaten teams in the competition against each other – and it was an suitably tight final that went down to the wire.

The Norwegians opened with two, only for De Cruz to hit right back with three. From there they exchanged singles, Ulsrud forced to one in end eight for 5-5.

That meant hammer advantage for the Swiss in the extra end, and they needed a draw to the four-foot for victory – which they made.

So an opening tour victory for last season’s European Championships runners-up, and a solid enough start for the Scots – who will all be in Canada over the next month competing in World Curling Tour events.

Weekend round-up: Scotland bounce back at World Women’s

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Team Scotland in Swift Current: Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid, Rachel Hannen

Scotland sit on two wins and one loss after day two of the World Women’s Championship in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

Elsewhere, Judith and Lee McCleary were runners-up at the Westbay Ltd Hungarian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup, while several other events took place involving Scottish and English teams.

And Team Gushue won the latest Grand Slam of Curling event, the Elite 10, after women’s rink Team Homan made a little history by taking on the men.

***

Scotland sat out the first session of play at World Women’s in Canada, then were beaten 5-3 by Team Sigfridsson of Sweden in their opener, a two in end five and steal of one in end six proving crucial for the Swedes.

But they bounced back by beating Korea 8-6 – with twos in ends one, four and six – and then Germany 10-3 – taking two in end two, three in end four and stealing four in end seven.

So with all teams playing three times, it’s only Canada and Japan who sit unbeaten.

For linescores throughout the tournament, go here, while you can watch selected games on World Curling TV.

You can get updates on Scotland’s games here, plus the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter.

And photos from the event can be found here and here.

***

The Westbay Ltd Hungarian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup involved the Scottish pair Judith and Lee McCleary.

At the quarter-final stage, they defeated Michelle Gribi and Reto Gribi of Switzerland 9-4, before overcoming Victoria Moiseeva and Petr Dron of Russia 7-6 in the semi-finals.

They faced another Russian pair, Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitskiy, in the final – despite a four in end two and three in end five for the Scots, the game went to an extra end, and the Russians were victorious 10-9.

***

In Scotland, the Scottish Curling Pairs Championship was played in Stranraer, and was won by Lockerbie (Scott Hamilton/Robert Hamilton), 5-2 victors in the final against Murrayfield 1.

Meanwhile, the RCCC Funspiel took place in Braehead – with Stranraer 1 winning the under-15 final and Lockerbie triumphant in the under-13 final.

And Greenacres hosted the English Mixed Championship, which featured five teams playing a double round robin before a final between the rinks skipped by Greg Dunn and Andrew Woolston.

Dunn and his team of Angharad Ward, Nigel Patrick and Lorna Rettig won 6-4 for the title and a spot at the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia, in October.

***

Finally, the Grand Slam of Curling Elite 10 was held in Victoria, British Colombia, featuring eight Canadian men’s teams, one Swedish men’s team (Niklas Edin’s rink) and one Canadian women’s team, that of Rachel Homan.

Team Homan played four pool matches against men’s rinks (the games using match play format) and won one of their ‘battles of the sexes’ by defeating Team Thomas.

But ultimately the competition came down to a final between Teams Carruthers and Gushue.

Gushue went two up, Carruthers pulled it back level and the title was decided by a shootout to the button – won by Brad Gushue.