Bryce and Muirhead continue consistent form with semi-final finishes

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SEMI-FINALISTS: Team Muirhead. Photo: British Curling/Graeme Hart (Perthshire Picture Agency)

It was a case of ‘close but no cigar’ for both of Teams Bryce and Muirhead at the weekend.

Bryce made the semi-finals at the Latvia International Challenger, only to lose out to Team Stjerne, while Muirhead also got to the last four at the GSOC Masters, where they were beaten by Team Einarson.

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There were two Scottish teams at the second Grand Slam of the season, the Masters, with Team GB’s Olympic representatives taking on the world’s best in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were in Pool B of the men’s event alongside Teams Gushue, McEwen, Shuster and Ulsrud.

Opening defeats to Gushue (7-6) and Ulsrud (7-6) put them on the back foot right away, and although they managed to beat US rink Shuster (6-2), defeat to McEwen (6-3) ended their playoff hopes.

The title was won by reigning world champions Gushue, who beat Team Edin of Sweden 8-4 in the final.

In the women’s field, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) faced Teams Flaxey, Hasselborg, Sidorova and Sinclair in Pool A.

Wins against Sidorova (6-5) and Flaxey (7-6) got them off to an ideal start, and after a 6-4 loss to Sinclair, a 10-7 victory over Hasselborg secured their place in the knockout stages.

The quarter-finals pitted them against Team Pätz of Switzerland, with the Scots winning 5-4, thanks to two in end seven and a steal of one in the eighth.

But the last four proved their limit, as Canadians Einarson beat them 6-3 (with twos in ends three and six) – Muirhead’s conquerors finishing as runners-up to Jennifer Jones’ rink in the final (6-5).

Skip Eve Muirhead said: “Crowds have been great and to have such an atmosphere when playing is really something special; Canada really do know how to put on curling events!

“”Overall our two weeks have been a great success, beating three of the teams we are going to be coming up against in the Europeans and Korea, so this is all stepping stones towards these major events.”

***

The Latvia International Challenger involved Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) on the men’s side, and Team Wilson (Maggie Wilson, Jennifer Marshall, Laura Barr, Eilidh Yeats) – plus English rink Team Farnell – on the women’s.

Both British women’s teams had their challenges ended early, with Farnell going W0 L4 and Wilson W1 L3 – their win coming against Team Rudzite of the home nation, 7-6 after an extra end.

Bryce did much better though, continuing their rich vein of form at the start of this season, as they made the playoffs with wins over Teams Bremanis (7-2), Lill (10-4), Truksans (7-1) and a loss to Hess (7-6).

Following their 7-4 victory over Team Gulbis in the last eight (stealing three in the second end), Bryce’s challenge was ended by experienced Danes Team Stjerne, who won 7-2 and went on to claim the title, while Bryce ended with a 7-3 defeat against Team Wunderer in the third place match.

***

Also this weekend, the Lanarkshire leg of the Asham Under-21 Slam took place.

After 24 teams faced off across six groups, the high road final was contested by Teams Craik and McCormack, with the former (James Craik, Angus Bryce, Matthew McKenzie, Niall Ryder) scoring four in the third end on their way to a 6-2 triumph.

After a very busy day of curling we are pleased to say we have won the second leg of the Scottish U17s at Hamilton. A really tight performance throughout the day ment we won our Quarter Final Against Team Gallacher 5-1 and then followed it up in the semi with a win over Wilkie-Milne and then finally a win over Team McCormack 6-2 ment the slam was ours👍🏼 A massive thanks to our sponsors for all the support as it really makes competing in these slams so much easier for us. Up next we are back to U21s next weekend with the European Junior Curling Tour Event held in Braehead. Looking forward to pitching ourselves against several foreign teams and hoping to put in a strong performance. @fitbituk_ireland @foxglide @forfarindoorsports @ziyeninc

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Teams Fleming and McNay take the plaudits

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SMILES: Team Fleming. Pic: British Curling/Graeme Hart (Perthshire Picture Agency)

Team McNay emerged victorious at the Dumfries Open, while over in Switzerland Team Fleming reached the semi-finals of the Women’s Masters Basel.

The weekend also saw the Scottish Curling Senior Mixed Championship take place, and Scotland (Team Hardie) begin their campaign at the World Mixed Curling Championship.

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The Women’s Masters Basel involved two Scottish rinks – Teams Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray).

Fleming took the simplest possible route to the playoffs, as wins over Witschonke, Norberg and Matsumura sent them straight into the quarter-finals.

Muirhead – the reigning champions – also began well, with victories against Widmer and Hegner, but a loss to Fujisawa (giving up three steals in the last four ends) knocked them down onto the B-Road.

A second defeat, to Sidorova, followed, but Muirhead then beat Widmer again and Sigfridsson to set up a last-eight clash with Fleming.

The all-Scottish match went Fleming’s way, as they scored twos in ends three and five and one in end eight to win 5-4, and Muirhead’s title defence was over.

Having put so much into that match, though, things rapidly fell apart for Fleming against Feltscher in the semi-finals… the Swiss rink winning 8-1.

The final went the way of Bingyu Wang’s rink, the Chinese team beating Feltscher 9-3 to claim the title.

For Hannah Fleming, who had not beaten Muirhead since 2013, this win (and overall tournament performance) will give her and her team-mates hope of narrowing the gap to their Scottish friends and rivals as the season goes on.

***

The second event in this year’s Goldline Scottish Curling Tour, the Dumfries Open, saw 10 teams take part – initially separated into two pools of five.

Team Jamieson topped Pool A with four straight wins, while Team Gallacher clinched Pool B and the other direct route into the semi-finals.

To see who would join them, Bryce met Taylor and McNay faced Pougher of Wales in the quarter-finals – which went the way of Bryce (8-3) and McNay (7-5).

Both of those rinks then won in the last four, Bryce seeing off Jamieson 7-4 and McNay breezing past Gallacher 7-1.

The final was a see-saw affair, with Bryce stealing their way into a 3-0 lead but McNay scoring three in the third end to level, before the teams traded singles up to end seven, where McNay scored two.

Bryce were forced to one in the eighth end, taking the game into an extra end, but McNay held hammer and scored one to win 7-6 – meaning it was they (Cameron McNay, David Baird, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) who took the title.

***

The Scottish Curling Senior Mixed Championship was held at Stranraer Ice Rink over the weekend, again with 10 teams in two groups.

The round robin stage ended with Teams Adam, Cannon, Kesley and McQueen making the semi-finals.

There, Adam beat McQueen 9-2 and Cannon overcame Kesley 8-5, setting up a final which was won 6-5 after an extra end by Adam (Graeme Adam, Alison McLennan, Stuart Wilson, Carolyn Hibberd).

***

There were 16 teams involved in the first Asham Under-14 Slam of the season at intu Braehead.

The final saw Team Munro (Robyn Munro, Findlay Hare, Rory Dodds, Ben Kyle) beat Braehead Rockers 5-3 in four ends.

***

Finally, at the World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, in Champéry, Switzerland, Scotland (Grant Hardie, Rhiann Macleod, Billy Morton, Barbara McFarlane) have two wins and a loss so far.

They opened with wins over Spain and Ireland, only to then lose 6-5 after an extra end to Korea.

Their next match sees them face Denmark; you can stay up to date with the scores from the tournament here.

Team Bryce pick up second title of season at Braehead

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Team Bryce, Braehead Open winners. Pic: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce

The first Goldline Scottish Curling Tour event of the season took place this weekend, with Team Bryce claiming the Braehead Open title.

Elsewhere, the new Team Hamilton competed at the Colonial Square Ladies Classic in Saskatoon, Canada, and fell just short of a quarter-final spot.

***

The Braehead Open involved 22 teams in two sections, playing three pool matches ahead of the last 16.

The rinks making the quarter-finals were Teams Bryce, Carson Gray, Hardie, Hare, Ireland, Marshall and Woolston.

Bryce and Hare met in the final, which was 3-3 after five ends, but after Hare scored two, Bryce claimed three, meaning Bryce went into the final end 6-5 up but without hammer.

They managed to force the error, though, stealing one for a 7-5 win – and added to the Tallinn International they won earlier in the month, that’s two wins from two events for Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle).

***

The new-look Team Hamilton (Claire Hamilton, Gina Aitken, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) were the latest Scottish rink to head across to Canada – for the Colonial Square Ladies Classic in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In a triple knockout format, they began with a 7-6 loss to Flaxey to slip onto the A-Road, but wins over Eberle and Fleming set up a B-Road final with Jennifer Jones’ rink.

The Olympic champions won that encounter, and Hamilton’s campaign was ended in the C-Road final, as they lost to Holland, just one match short of a quarter-final place.

Still, a decent start for the team, ahead of their participation in the Avonair Cash Spiel next week.

Bryce and Mouat get Scots off to a flier

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Team Mouat, 2017 Stu Sells Oakville Tankard winners. Pic: twitter.com/DMurdoch17

That didn’t take long, did it? One week, two events, two Scottish wins in World Curling Tour events.

We’re barely into September, but a slightly altered Team Bryce and a rather more different Team Mouat have already secured their first titles, in Tallinn and Oakville, respectively.

With our first Grand Slam of the season just around the corner, here’s hoping that Scottish curling can carry this initial form further into the season.

Bryce rise to the challenge

While four Scottish teams headed west to Canada, Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) went east to Estonia, for the Tallinn Challenger.

They cruised through the round robin stage, finishing with four wins (against Teams Truksans, Lill, Svensgaard and Jungen) and no defeats.

They faced Team Eremin (Russia) in the last four, and a 7-3 win put them into the final against Team Gulbis of Latvia.

Again Bryce were just too strong for their opponents, scoring three in end three and stealing two in the fourth on their way to a 7-2 victory and the Tallinn Challenger title.

Skip Cameron Bryce told British Curling: “The whole team played really well, although we are still learning with our change of line-up for the season.”

The team now return to the new National Curling Academy, to prepare for the Braehead Open (September 22-24).

Mouat takes Tankard triumph

Teams Brewster, Drummond, Mouat and Smith ensured Scotland was well represented at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard in Ontario, but it was Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) who finished top of the pile.

I said in my season preview that I was excited to see what these boys could do on tour this season… it looks like I have my answer already.

Things were not so rosy for Team Drummond, though, as they lost to Mouat, McCormick and Deruelle to bow out early.

It’s early days for this rink, certainly, but they will be hoping for more at next week’s GSOC Tour Challenge (Tier 2).

Team Brewster have also rung the changes, and they had something of a rollercoaster in Oakville – a defeat to Fournier to drop onto the B-Road, wins over Corbett and Kim, a loss to Clark, victory over Stjerne, and finally a defeat to McCormick to end their involvement.

Team Smith, by contrast, have kept the same roster (only adding Glen Muirhead as alternate ahead of the Olympics), and they made the quarter-finals in Oakville.

Not that it was a smooth journey. Beaten by Kim first up, they then saw off Zou and Horgan, lost to Simmons to land on the C-Road, but then overcame Fournier and Gunnlaugson to make the playoffs.

Those quarter-finals pitted them against Mouat, who had sailed into the last eight thanks to four straight wins – against Ainsley, Drummond, Horgan and Clark.

Mouat dominated the all-Scottish meeting, taking three in end one, then a steal, and then twos in ends four and six to win it 8-3.

Mouat’s semi-final was tighter, but one in end eight was enough to see off Horgan, setting up a final against Kim of Korea.

The Korean rink scored three in end four to lead 3-1, but twos in ends five and seven, plus a steal in the eighth, gave Mouat a 6-4 victory – making it W7 L0 at the event.

For this team to have gelled this quickly is highly impressive, especially given the quality of the other teams on show.

So that’s $8,000 in the bank for Mouat already; their next event is the Oakville OCT Fall Classic (alongside Brewster) – can they maintain their hot streak?

Teams Bryce and Jackson excel at World Juniors

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SILVER: Cate Brewster, Laura Barr, Sophie Sinclair, Mili Smith, Naomi Brown and Sophie Jackson. Pic: twitter.com/CurlTeamJackson

Team Bryce and Jackson both performed strongly in Korea at the World Junior Curling Championships, Sophie Jackson’s rink winning silver in the women’s section and Cameron Bryce’s men finishing fourth in the venue for the forthcoming Winter Olympics.

***

Scotland women (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair, Laura Barr (alternate), Cate Brewster (coach)) enjoyed a huge turnaround from the last World Juniors, when they were relegated to the B-Division, but having won promotion they did superbly.

They cruised through the round robin with a W7 L2 record, starting with four consecutive victories – versus Korea (7-6, stealing one in end 10), Hungary (8-7), Turkey (10-5) and Sweden (6-5, stealing two in the 10th end).

Team Jackson then lost 8-7 to Switzerland, but bounced back with three more wins, against Japan (9-7), the USA (7-2) and Canada (8-5, scoring four in end four).

Their last round robin match brought an 8-7 loss to Russia after an extra end, but they had done enough to make the 1v2 page playoff.

There they were beaten 9-6 by Sweden, having given up a steal of three in end three, but they secured their spot in the final, guaranteeing a medal, with a emphatic victory against Canada.

The Scots got off to an ideal start, scoring three in end one, and added two in the third end, stole four in the fourth, three in the fifth and one in the sixth, for a 13-2 win after eight ends.

Skip Sophie Jackson said: “I think the fire was sparked in us. We were so ready for that game and we wanted to make the final so bad after last night’s loss.

“We were just really ready and really pumped for that. This takes the pressure off a wee bit, but we still want that gold so bad.”

The final brought a third meeting with Sweden, the sides having won once and lost once against each other already in Gangneung.

Isabella Wranaa’s Swedes took the spoils this time, as although Scotland scored three in end four to lead 4-3, Sweden hit back by taking a three of their own in end five, stealing two in the sixth end and adding another two in the eighth for a 10-7 win and the gold medals.

Scotland could still be delighted with claiming silver in a tough competition; Canada took bronze.

Jackson said: “I’m a bit gutted, but we’ve had a really good week.

“I’m speechless really, we’ve done way better than we expected, so we’re still happy.

“I’m so proud of my team, we’ve done so much this season.”

***

It was a tougher route to the playoffs for Scotland men (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw, Ross Whyte (alternate), Colin Morrison (coach)), who lost their opening two matches – 7-6 to the USA after an extra end (having been 6-2 down), and 8-7 to Norway (having been 6-1 down).

But they pulled out four successive wins to get back in contention – beating Sweden 8-6, Switzerland 8-7 (after an extra end), China 8-3 and Italy 7-5.

They went down 8-7 to hosts Korea (another extra end loss), which meant they had to win their final two round robin games to clinch a playoff spot.

That they did, overcoming Turkey 7-4 and Canada 9-8 (taking their one with hammer in an extra end).

They won the 3v4 game 8-7 against Norway, scoring two in end 10 and then stealing one in the extra end, but they came unstuck against Ki Jeong Lee’s Korea in the semi-final.

The host nation, who went on to beat the USA in the final to win gold, beat the Scots 11-4 courtesy of three in end one, two in end three, three in the sixth end and two in the eighth.

That left Scotland facing Norway (again!) for bronze, and here they fell short – as the Norwegians went 7-0 ahead courtesy of steals in the first three ends, and eventually won out 10-3 in eight ends.

***

 

As well as the Scottish Championships, plenty of other national championships have been taking place this week, including the English Championships – which were won by Team Woolston (men’s) and Team Farnell (women’s).

In Canada, of course, we had the national women’s championship, the Scotties, which witnessed fierce competition between Teams Englot (Manitoba) and Homan (Ontario).

Englot won both the round robin encounter and the 1v2 page playoff game, but when it came to the final, it was Rachel Homan’s rink who won a see-saw affair 8-6, gaining the national title and securing a trip to face Team Muirhead and co at Worlds in Beijing.

 

Bryce and Jackson win Scottish Juniors

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Scottish Junior men’s champions Team Bryce (photo: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce)

Teams Bryce and Jackson will represent Scotland at the World Junior Curling Championships next month after winning the national titles in Aberdeen.

There was also success this weekend for Team Muirhead, who claimed a home victory at the Glynhill Ladies International, a Curling Champions Tour event in Braehead.

And Team Smith made the final at the German Masters in Hamburg, finishing as runners-up to Team Walstad of Norway.

***

The Scottish Curling Junior Championship, hosted by Curl Aberdeen, saw Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) top the men’s round robin with seven wins from seven.

They defeated Teams McNay (8-2), Cormack (10-2), Whyte (7-5), Joiner (10-2), Carson (5-3), Craik (6-3) and Baird (7-3).

Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean) finished second in the section on W6 L1, ahead of Teams Baird (David Baird, Fraser Kingan, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) and McNay (Cameron McNay, James Baird, Fin Campbell, Angus Bryce) on W4 L3, who had to play a tiebreaker – won 8-6 by McNay after a steal of two in end 10.

On the women’s side, it was Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair), who went undefeated, with round robin victories against Teams Farmer (7-6), Aitken (14-5), MacDonald (8-4), Dandie (9-6), Keen (12-1) and Davie (9-4).

Behind them came Teams Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Annabel Skuse, Emma Barr) and Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr), both on W4 L2 records.

In the 1v2 page playoff games, Bryce scored twos in ends seven and nine to beat Whyte 7-5, while Jackson roared into a 7-2 lead after five ends in overcoming Davie 8-6.

Whyte earned their third crack at Bryce by winning the men’s semi-final 7-4 against McNay, but it was Aitken who claimed the women’s match – defeating Davie 8-3.

The finals were both tight affairs. Bryce led Whyte 6-3 after five ends but their opponents forced the issue right to the end, Bryce having to take one in end 10 to win 9-7 and clinch the title.

The women’s final was even closer, as Aitken and Jackson traded singles up to 2-2 after six ends; Aitken then stole in end seven, but Jackson scored two in end nine to lead.

One from Aitken in end 10 forced an extra end, where Jackson scored one to take it 5-4 and claim a place at the World Juniors that they had qualified Scotland for this month.

Jackson’s third Naomi Brown said: “After such a nip and tuck game and following all the hard work that went into the World Bs this is probably the best feeling ever after this Scottish final.

“For a new team we have achieved such a lot together; I didn’t even know Mili at the start of the season and we have all gelled so well and held it together and kept the focus.

“I am really proud of all of my team mates and our coach Cate (Brewster) who is so much part of our team and our results today, it has made all of the hard work worthwhile.”

Bryce and Jackson will fly the Saltire in Gangneung, Korea, between February 16-26.

***

The Glynhill Ladies International returned to Braehead for its 10th edition, with four Scottish teams among the 24-strong field.

The teams were divided into four sections, and Section A saw Teams Kubeskova (Czech Republic) and Wang (China) qualify – Team Aitken (Gina Aitken, Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday and Rachel Hannen) dropped short despite wins over Teams Tirinzoni (6-5) and Nielsen (7-3).

In Section B it was Teams Pätz and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) who progressed, Muirhead having won against Kauste (8-4), Sveliga-Frynia (7-2), Wrana (6-3) and Pätz (9-3), and lost to Barbezat (4-1).

Section C saw Team Feltscher join Swiss compatriots Pätz in the last eight, but Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Nancy Smith (super sub)) just missed out after a 9-7 loss to Team Jentsch meant the Germans went through.

Fleming were then beaten 7-3 by Team Moiseeva in the Consolation competition semi-finals, Moiseeva finishing runner-up to Barbezat in that part of the event.

And Section D was topped by Team Sigfridsson of Sweden and Team Hegner of Switzerland – with Team Smith (Hazel Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton) going out on a W2 L3 record.

Muirhead faced Feltscher in the last eight and scored twos in ends three, four and seven to overcome the Swiss 8-3.

The semi-finals pitted them against Hegner, and this match was won 7-5, the Scots stealing two in end three and scoring three in end six.

And they faced Swiss opposition once again in the final, in the form of Pätz.

Muirhead scored twos in ends two and four to lead 4-3 at halfway, before steals of three in end five and one in end six handed them the win 8-3 and their first Glynhill title.

Skip Eve Muirhead told British Curling: “Alina [Pätz] won last week in Switzerland when we didn’t have such a good week, so for us to bounce back from that after a lot of good chats with our coaches and all our support staff, we had a few key things to work on and to focus on and I think we did that really well.

“To get a Scottish winner’s always nice, and there was a lot of support in here. I was really impressed with the numbers that came along.”

***

There were also four Scottish rinks involved in the German Masters in Hamburg, and while Teams Brewster and Murdoch went out early on W1 L2 records, there was more success for Teams Mouat and Smith.

Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were in Pool B, and won three straight matches – versus Teams Brunner (6-4), Rui Liu (7-2) and Retornaz (7-4).

Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon), in Pool E, lost their opener 6-3 to Team Walstad of Norway, but hit back by defeating Teams Wunderer (8-4) and Baumann (7-5).

Smith, having topped their group, had two chances to qualify for the quarter-finals and after losing the first 5-4 to Walstad after an extra end, they won the second 7-4 against Team Bottcher of Canada.

Mouat joined them in the quarter-finals after pipping the colourful trouser enthusiasts of Norway, Team Ulsrud, 6-5.

In the last eight, Smith scored four in end four in beating the Swiss De Cruz rink 6-4, but Mouat gave up a four in end six versus Walstad to lose 8-3 and exit the competition.

Come the semi-finals, Smith faced Team Timofeev of Russia, and having scored two in end two, they took their ones when they needed to, winning 4-2.

That set up a final with Walstad, the Norwegians having been something of a nemesis so far for the Scottish rinks.

And so it proved again. Walstad stole one in end four, but Smith stole in end six to level it up at 3-3.

But a three for the Norwegians in end seven proved the game-winner, as they took the title 6-3 – having won every game played in Hamburg – with Smith as worthy runners-up.

2016-17 curling half season review

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Braehead bronze: Team Muirhead with their European Championship medals (photo: twitter.com/Team_Muirhead)

As 2017 looms large, it’s time for The Roaring Game Blog to look back on the first half of the curling season.

There was plenty going on – although thankfully #Broomgate controversy has vanished from the spotlight, following the World Curling Federation’s sweeping summit and new regulations.

That means the focus has been on the ice, with Scottish teams more than holding their own as non-Canadian teams draw closer to the likes of Gushue, Homan and Koe.

Here are some of the highlights…

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BRAEHEAD: Curling came home, as Braehead hosted the 2016 European Championships… which ended up being pretty similar to the 2015 Championships.

Just as in Esbjerg 12 months previously, Sweden won men’s gold (more on Team Edin later), Russia won women’s gold, Scotland men fell short of the playoffs, and Scotland women medalled again.

Team Brewster defeated all of the eventual men’s medallists (Sweden, Norway and Switzerland) in the round robin but finished in sixth place – missing the playoffs but qualifying Scotland for the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championships.

Team Muirhead cruised through the round robin, winning nine from nine, but had one bad game – against eventual winners Team Moiseeva of Russia – and had to settle for bronze… skip Eve Muirhead’s seventh consecutive European medal, a remarkable run of consistency.

In the B-Division, England’s men and women, and Wales men, all won more than they lost – but none made the playoffs, the English women particularly unlucky, with three of their defeats coming after an extra end.

***

KINGS OF SWEDEN: Team Edin have been the outstanding team in the world this year, the Swedes winning their third consecutive European gold, as well as claiming victory at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, Swiss Cup Basel, Champery Masters and the first two Grand Slam of Curling events of the season – the Masters and Tour Challenge.

No team has perfected the art of starting a tournament slowly and finishing it like a steam train quite like Niklas Edin’s rink, and they look more than capable of continuing their amazing title-winning form into 2017.

***

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GREAT SCOTS: Team Smith (photo: Tom J Brydone/British Curling)

THE RIVALS PART I: Team Smith have enjoyed an outstanding first half of the season, despite being beaten to European qualification by Team Brewster, and it could have been even better had they not repeatedly run into the red-hot Team Edin.

Kyle Smith’s quartet won the Oakville OCT Fall Classic to kick-start their season, before making the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard semi-finals (beaten by Edin) and Swiss Cup Basel semis (beaten by Edin).

They then reached their first ever Grand Slam final, at the Tour Challenge in Cranbrook, where they finished as runners-up… to Edin.

So far, so Djokovic v Murray in tennis slam finals – but Smith’s form shows they’re a match for anyone in the world, which they continued to demonstrate by taking the Dumfries Challenger title just before Christmas to sit 13th in the World Curling Tour Order of Merit rankings.

***

FLEMING TAKE FLIGHT: Just like their 2013 World University Games comrades Team Smith, this half season has been a real breakthrough for Team Fleming.

Hannah Fleming’s rink, having added Jen Dodds and Vicky Wright to the line-up, have pulled off some remarkable victories over top teams and posted a series of runners-up finishes.

The Women’s Masters Basel saw them reach the semi-finals, and they upped that result by reaching finals at the Stockholm Ladies Cup, Red Deer Curling Classic and Qinghai China International, only to fall short of the top prize each time.

A first title of the season may still elude them, but there’s no doubt they’re on the up – to 27th in the women’s Order of Merit.

***

DIFFERENT NAMES, SAME RESULTS: Team Fleming are still chasing the top Scots though – Team Muirhead have added Lauren Gray at lead and Glenn Howard as coach, while fielding Kelly Schafer at third for the first few months of the season while Anna Sloan recovered from injury, but they have looked no less impressive.

They were the best women’s team in Braehead (and so were unlucky to ‘only’ win bronze), while also coming in as runners-up at the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out and Colonial Square Ladies Classic.

After those second-placed finishes, they finally got to the top spot of the podium by winning the Women’s Masters Basel – and ended 2016 by coming third at the Karuizawa International.

The 2018 Winter Olympics remain the ultimate goal for these ladies, and the indications are that they’re gelling with plenty of time to spare.

***

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ON THE UP: Team Bryce (photo: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce)

NICE TO SEE YOU, TO SEE YOU BRYCE: Team Murdoch were runners-up at the Swiss Cup Basel and Karuizawa International, Team Brewster won the latter, but the most successful Scottish men’s side aside from Team Smith have been Team Bryce.

With a rejigged line-up of their own, they’ve had a fantastic first half to the season – winning the EJCT Braehead Junior International, Greenacres Junior Masters (U21 Slam), Kinross Junior Classic (U21 Slam) and EJCT Livechannel Cup.

Add to that third place at the EJCT Thun event and second at the Dumfries Challenger (pushing Smith all the way in the final), and it’s no surprise to see them ranked as Europe’s second best junior team.

They’re also favourites to win next year’s Scottish Juniors to qualify for Worlds.

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THE RIVALS PART II: Team Bryce’s superb form has irked one team more than most: Team Whyte, who just haven’t quite managed to get the best of them yet.

Bryce won their head-to-heads in the Braehead Junior International final, Greenacres Junior Masters final, Kinross Junior Classic final and EJCT Thun third-place playoff.

Ross Whyte’s boys have had a fine season themselves, mind you – runners-up at the Dumfries Open and winners of the Inverness Junior International and Lockerbie Junior International U21 Slams.

And 3/4 of their line-up, skipped by Callum Kinnear, have been tearing it up in the U17 Slams – victors at the Stevenson Trophy, Lanarkshire Slam and Baljaffray Trophy.

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EUROPE’S BEST: Team Jackson are first in the EJCT women’s rankings after enjoying their own excellent half season.

It’s been a very busy one for Sophie Jackson and co, but their highlights include winning the women’s titles at the EJCT Braehead Junior International, Greenacres Junior Masters and EJCT Prague Junior Cup, as well as placing second in the Braehead Open and Dumfries Challenger events.

They also saw off Team Karina Aitken to qualify for next week’s World Junior-B Championships, where their aim is clear: get Scotland back up to the top table after relegation last year.

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QUEENS OF SWEDEN: Outside of Scottish curling, it’s been an intriguing season so far, perhaps most marked by the emergence of Team Hasselborg of Sweden.

Shooting past Team Sigfridsson (so long Sweden’s dominant rink, who haven’t had a bad half season themselves to be fair), Hasselborg have won the Stockholm Ladies Cup, reached the semi-finals of two Grand Slams, and won silver at Europeans in Braehead.

We’ve also seen the impressive return of Bingyu Wang of China, the 2009 world champion, while Team Homan have struggled to find the consistency of their steamroller-style start to 2015-16 – Grand Slam titles instead going to Teams Einarson, Flaxey and Sweeting.

On the men’s side, Teams Carruthers and Jacobs have looked the most impressive aside from Team Edin, while Team Gushue have performed admirably during skip Brad’s recuperation – and ‘Team Pants’ (Thomas Ulsrud’s delightfully wacky Norwegian rink) have been far from pants in coming second at the Baden Masters and Europeans, before winning the Qinghai China International men’s title this month.

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CHAMPIONS: Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken, Scottish Mixed Doubles winners (photo: facebook.com/TeamAitkenMouat)

MIX IT UP: Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat continue to make waves in the mixed doubles discipline, winning their fourth Scottish Mixed Doubles title to qualify for Worlds, while excelling on the continent.

They claimed the CCT Bern Mixed Doubles title, as well as coming in as runners-up at the CCT Austrian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup.

Judith and Lee McCleary were second at the Scottish Championships, and also won the Consolation Cup at the Bern Mixed Doubles, so proved they’re very capable of keeping Aitken and Mouat on their toes as Pyeongchang 2018 draws closer.

At the 2016 World Mixed Curling Championship (four players per team as opposed to two), Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson played brilliantly as they secured bronze medals for Scotland.

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SUPER SILVER: Speaking of medals, the Scottish wheelchair curlers Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson and Angie Malone (alternate) won silver at the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championship.

In doing so, they also qualified for the 2017 World Wheelchair Curling Championship – and the 2018 Winter Olympics as Great Britain.

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Curling in 2017 kicks off with the World Junior-B Championships in Sweden (January 3-9) and the Mercure Perth Masters (Jan 5-8). Enjoy!