A successful first half of the 2017-18 season for Scottish curling teams ended in a most fitting way, with Team Mouat picking up yet another title, in Dumfries.
There was more good news from overseas, as Teams Drummond, Muirhead and Smith all made the playoffs in their competitions in China and Japan.
I’ll reflect on all of those results, and do a quick review of the season so far, just in time for us to step into Christmas.
Nine Scottish rinks were joined by teams from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain and Switzerland for the Dumfries Challenger Series event last weekend.
There were some surprising round robin stage results, which saw Teams Brewster and Bryce make early exits after finishing W3 L2, and Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan, Euan Kyle (sub)) barely squeeze into the knockouts, also on a W3 L2 record.
The quarter-finals brought victory for Teams Schnider (7-5 versus Jungen), Hess (5-4 against Hare), Krause (6-2 over Marshall) and the last Scottish rink standing, Mouat (7-2 against Staehli).
Hess then beat Schnider 6-4 to make the final, where they were joined by Mouat, but only after they had come from 6-2 down after six ends to steal in the extra end and beat Krause 7-6.
Victory in the final was a bit more routine for Mouat, stealing one in the third end and two in the sixth to beat Hess 5-3 and clinch the title.
Great Britain Olympians Teams Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) travelled out to Japan to take part in the Karuizawa International.
On the men’s side, Smith topped Pool C, with four straight wins over Kasahara (8-1), Shimizuno (6-0), SooHyuk Kim (6-2) and Ogihara (7-2).
They won their quarter-final, too, 6-4 against De Cruz of Switzerland after scoring three in the fourth end and two in the sixth, but lost out in the semi-finals to Chang-Min Kim (5-4), although they did bounce back to take third place by beating Mabergs 6-4 while Morozumi took top spot.
As for Muirhead, they safely qualified second from Pool A, having beaten Natsuizaka 7-5, lost 8-4 to Un-Chi Gim, but then winning against Paetz (5-4) and Matsumura (6-2).
They could not get past Tirinzoni of Switzerland in the last eight, though, losing out 5-2, with Fujisawa going on to win the title.
Team Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) enjoyed a good end to the year, too, finishing third at the Qinghai International in China.
In the group stages, they saw off teams from Canada and Russia, then China juniors, before losing to Switzerland and beating the USA, Norway, Sweden and China to make the semi-finals.
The last four brought a rematch with Rui Liu of China, and this time the local favourites claimed victory, but Drummond rebounded to beat Norway (Ulsrud) 8-5 to clinch third spot.
The final Asham Under-21 Slam of the season also took place, in the form of the Lockerbie Junior International.
Eight men’s teams and 10 women’s rinks took part, with Sections A and B on both sides of the competition.
The men’s semi-finals saw Team Kinnear score fours in ends five and six to beat Craik 9-2, and Team Denmark defeat Baird 7-4.
As for the women, the last four brought victory for Team Denmark (7-4 over Bremane of Latvia) and Team Davie (4-3 against Bryce).
So both men’s and women’s finals pitted a Danish team against a Scottish one, and in each the Scots came out on top – Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Duncan McFadzean, Ryan McCormack, Matthew McKenzie) winning 6-3, and Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Anna Skuse, Emma Barr) victors by a 6-5 score.
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Weekend at the final U21 slam event of the year at Lockerbie. We finished the group stages on a 2 win and 1 loss record and squeaked into top spot of the section. We played the Semi this morning against Team Kinnear. A good close game but a loose end left the game in their hands. A similar story in the 3V4 VS Team Baird meaning it was a 4th place finish for us. However the points collected this weekend was enough for us to now be the Asham U21 slam winners!!! This is a massive achievement for us and has smashed all targets we set at the start of the season! Massive thanks to all our sponsors @foxglide @fitbituk_ireland @ziyeninc @forfarindoorsports Next up for us is our last comp of 2017 the 4th leg of the Scottish U17s held in forfar. He hope everyone has a fab Christmas! 🎄
The overall Under-21 Slam titles go to Craik (men’s) and Davie (women’s), and there’s now just a month to go until the Scottish Junior Championships in Aberdeen.
So that’s the last of the curling before Christmas – it’ll return on December 28-29 (the Asham Under-17 Slam in Forfar) and then January 4-7 (the Perth Masters).
Until then, a moment for reflection. With the Winter Olympics less than 50 days away, Scottish/British curling couldn’t really have asked for a better first half to the season.
The European Championships in St Gallen, Switzerland, in November were a triumph for Scotland, with Team Muirhead taking gold and Team Smith silver.
If they can distill those winning ingredients again in Pyeongchang, there’s no reason why they can’t medal again on the Olympic stage.
Team Mouat have also been outstanding, especially given their new line-up. Things were already going pretty well, with two titles in two weeks in September (the Oakville Tankard and Oakville Fall Classic), but that was nothing compared to the National in Sault Ste Marie in November.
On their way to winning that Grand Slam – the first ever by a Scottish men’s rink, with Bruce Mouat the youngest skip to win one – they defeated the cream of Canadian men’s curling: Jacobs, Koe and McEwen!
Mouat team member Grant Hardie also skipped Scotland to the World Mixed Championship title, while there was overseas success aplenty for Teams Bryce, Drummond, Fleming, Jackson, Morrison…
These are just the headlines in what has been a frantic, but fantastic, start to the season.
Let’s hope it continues into 2018, but until then… have a Merry Christmas!