Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Day 9

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Scotland supporters had the flags flying early, only for Russia to spoil the final party

Scotland women won European Curling Championship silver, beaten in the final by Russia, while Sweden won gold in the men’s event.

The Scots (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) had been edged out by Anna Sidorova’s Russia in the round robin, and that was to prove the case today too.

Russia scored two in end two, but Scotland instantly responded with two of their own and the game was 3-3 at the fifth end break.

The crucial end was the eighth, as Sidorova played a superb couple of shots to prevent Scotland scoring a big end – and instead come away with a steal of one.

That put Russia 5-3 in the lead and they held firm to win the game 6-4, after an incredibly tense, tight match that swung decisively late on.

Coach David Hay said: “It was the best performance of the week from us.

“We had a couple of chances, a big chance in the eighth end – Eve makes a double takeout there and we pick up three.

“Instead we lost a steal of one – a four-shot turnaround. That was maybe the changing point in the game.

“Both teams are very good, it’s one shot here, one shot there, and this time it didn’t go for us.

“Next Saturday we’re back out to Canada for the Grand Slam of Curling event in Yorkton in 10 days’ time, so a bit of rest before then.

“We’ve had a good season so far, we keep rolling on and hope to go one better next time.”

***

Earlier in the day, Sweden, skipped by Niklas Edin, retained the men’s title they won last year, seeing off Switzerland in the extra end.

The Swedes had struggled in the group stage before knocking out Norway in yesterday’s semi finals, and started slowly here as well – Peter De Cruz’s Switzerland scoring two in the first end.

But Sweden then got into the groove that has seen them hold both European and World titles, scoring two in end four and taking the lead with another two in end six.

Switzerland, though, were not for giving up, and they scored two in end 10 to force an extra with the scores at 6-6.

However, the Swedes – holding hammer – were not unduly troubled there, Edin making a simple draw to the four foot to score one and win the title.

***

In the other games played on the final day, Denmark men beat Italy 4-2 to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in their World Challenger series – so the Danes will play at the World Men’s Championship in Basel, Switzerland, in April 2016.

The qualifier for the World Women’s Championship in Swift Current, Canada, in March 2016 were Italy. Norway tied the series 1-1 with an 8-6 win in the second game, but the Italians won the decider 8-2.

And Belgium retained their B-Division status for next year with a 10-8 win over Croatia, who drop to the C-Division.

***

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Teams lined up at the closing ceremony

The European Curling Championships 2015 has been a superb event to attend as fan-turned-journalist, with Esbjerg fine hosts and the organisation behind the event doing a great job.

More spectators would have been a bonus, but teams had vocal support from their country’s supporters throughout the week.

From a Scotland point of view, the way that the men (Team Smith) came back from a very low ebb to make a playoff tiebreaker was incredibly encouraging for their future – and in the end they only went out by a single point to eventual winners Sweden.

As for Muirhead’s women, they played well throughout the week, made an extraordinary comeback in their semi final and their silver medals represent a step up from last year – not just on the podium, but as a sign that their performances are improving.

Tak (thank you) Esbjerg!

GSOC Masters: Preview

There are just two Scottish teams competing in the second Grand Slam of Curling event of the season – the Masters, October 27-November 1, in Truro, Nova Scotia – Team Murdoch on the men’s side and Team Muirhead on the women’s.

The Scots are among 15 men’s and 15 women’s teams divided into three groups of five, with a round robin format deciding the top eight on each side to progress to the playoffs.

Who do they face, and what are their chances? Well, read on to find out.

Team Murdoch
The rink of David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow have been handed a tough draw, facing three experienced Canadian teams and the current world champions.

David Murdoch (Photo: Anil Mungal/Grand Slam of Curling)
David Murdoch (Photo: Anil Mungal (@PhotoVagrant)/Grand Slam of Curling)

Their first match is tomorrow, against Team Howard. Four-time world champion Glenn Howard reshuffled his team for this season, bringing in Wayne Middaugh at third, moving Richard Hart to second and adding his own son Scott at lead.
The combination has worked well so far, as the team reached the quarter finals of the first Grand Slam of the season, the Tour Challenge, only to be beaten by Team Gushue, then made the finals of the Shorty Jenkins Classic (beaten by Gushue again) and Toronto Tankard (beaten by Team McEwen).
They did, however, fail to make the playoffs in their last competition, the Canad Inns Men’s Classic.

The second match comes on Thursday, against Team Epping. It has been chop and change for skip John Epping recently, and this year he plays alongside Mathew Camm, Patrick Janssen and Tim March.
The quarter finals have been their limit this season, getting to that stage at the Shorty Jenkins Classic (beaten by Gushue) and the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau last weekend, where they were beaten by Team Mouat of Scotland.
Otherwise, they failed to make the playoffs at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, Tour Challenge, Point Optical Classic and Toronto Tankard.

After that, on Friday, Murdoch face Team Edin. The Swedes (Niklas Edin, Oskar Eriksson, Kristian Lindström, Christoffer Sundgren), who won the world title in Halifax in April, began their 2015-16 season by winning the Baden Masters, beating Team Brewster in the final.
Since then, they made the Oakville Tankard quarter finals (lost to Gushue), failed to make the Tour Challenge playoffs (one of their losses being to Murdoch) and then reached three quarter finals – at the Shorty Jenkins Classic (beaten by Howard), Point Optical Classic (lost to Team Jacobs) and Toronto Tankard (again beaten by Jacobs).
Most recently, they’ve gone out before the playoff stage at both the Canad Inns Men’s Classic and the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau.

And Murdoch finish off with another Friday game, this time against Team Gushue (Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker).
Gushue’s rink are undoubtedly the form team in world curling. They have picked up titles at the Oakville Tankard, Shorty Jenkins Classic, Swiss Cup Basel and, just this past weekend, the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau.
The only exceptions to the winning rule came at the Tour Challenge, where they lost the final to Team Koe, and the Toronto Tankard, where they lost in the quarter finals to McEwen.

Verdict: Can Murdoch win enough games in this group to make the playoffs? It looks a tough ask. Like Epping, their limit this season has been the quarter finals (at the Baden Masters and Oakville Tankard); they fell short of making the playoffs at the Tour Challenge, and couldn’t reach the last eight at last weekend’s Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau.
Results aren’t what the team would want them to be at the moment – and faced with form teams in Gushue and Howard, it’s going to be tricky for Murdoch to turn things round here.

Team Muirhead
Fresh from qualifying for the European Championships next month, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid – the latter returning from injury) face three Canadian teams and one Swiss in Truro.

Eve Muirhead (photo: Anil Mungal/Grand Slam of Curling)
Eve Muirhead (Photo: Anil Mungal (@PhotoVagrant)/Grand Slam of Curling)

They begin against Team Einarson tonight. The Canadians (Kerri Einarson, Selena Kaatz, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish) won their first championship together at the Tour Challenge Tier 2, claiming $9,200 and a place at the Masters.
Since then, they’ve made semi finals at the Mother Club Fall Classic (lost to eventual winners Team Montford) and Prestige Hotels & Resorts Classic (beaten by eventual winners Team Lawton), before failing to make the playoffs at the Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Classic and then reaching the Canad Inns Women’s Classic quarters (lost to Englot).

Muirhead’s next opposition are Team McDonald tomorrow. This rink (Kristy McDonald, Kate Cameron, Leslie Wilson-Westcott, Raunora Westcott), formed last season, have been all about the quarter finals so far in 2015-16.
That was the stage they reached at the Tour Challenge (beaten by Team Kim), Mother Club Fall Classic (lost to Team Link) and Canad Inns Women’s Classic (beaten by eventual winners Team Kim).

Thursday evening sees Muirhead face Team Feltscher. The 2014 women’s world champions (Binia Feltscher, Irene Schori, Franziska Kaufmann, Christine Urech) have had a mixed season.
They fell short of the Tour Challenge playoffs (finishing with a W1 L3 record), then failed to make the Stockholm Ladies Cup last eight, placing third in their group behind Östlund and Muirhead.
They did then reach the Womens Masters semi finals, going out to Team Tirinzoni, and most recently were in the final of the Swiss European Championships qualifiers, only to lose out to Team Pätz.

Muirhead round off their round robin with a match on Friday morning against Team Sweeting (Val Sweeting, Lori Olson-Johns, Dana Ferguson, Rachel Brown), who won last season’s Masters and finished second at the 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
After making the quarter finals at the Oakville Tankard (lost to Pätz), Sweeting failed to get off the ground at the Tour Challenge, finishing W1 L3.
They have picked up since then, though, winning the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out and reaching the Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Classic semi finals, being knocked out by Team Carey.

Verdict: On paper, Muirhead look to have a kinder draw than Murdoch. But it’s no stroll in the park either, as even the underdogs of the group, Einarson, are very capable of a shock.
Feltscher have the pedigree, McDonald a knack of reaching playoffs and Sweeting are deservedly seen as one of Canada’s top three women’s teams alongside Homan and Jones.
Nonetheless, if Muirhead’s rink maintain their focus and show the form that got them to the Stockholm Ladies Cup final and Womens Masters Basel semis, they should at least make the playoffs in Nova Scotia.

The full Masters draw schedule is here. And you can watch games live online from Thursday on Sportsnet (the link to subscribe is here).

Baden Masters: Team Edin pips Brewster

Two Scottish teams competed in the season opener in Switzerland – and Team Brewster finished runner-up to world champions Team Edin.

Both Team Brewster and fellow Scots Team Murdoch qualified from the Baden Masters round robin stage to make the quarter finals.

Group A saw David Murdoch’s rink come up against Teams Attinger (Switzerland), De Cruz (Switzerland), Snitil (Czech Republic) and Van Dorp (Netherlands).

Three wins and one loss (to Team De Cruz) saw Murdoch and team-mates Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow safely through.

Group D, meanwhile, pitted Team Brewster against Teams Hess (Switzerland), Gulbis (Latvia), Keller (Switzerland) and O’Connor (Canada).

Skip Tom Brewster and his rink of Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson and Hammy McMillan cruised into the quarter finals with a 100 per cent record, capped by a 9-5 win over second-placed team Keller.

There, scores of 3 in the third and sixth ends gave Brewster a 6-1 win over Team Biedermann of Switzerland.

In the other Swiss v Scots quarter final, however, Team Murdoch were unable to really get going against Team Michel, going down 6-2.

Team Michel weren’t able to complete a double over the Scottish teams in the semi final though. Team Brewster claimed scores of 3 in ends one and five to see them into the final 8-5.

The final was a tight affair. Team Edin blanked the first two ends, then scored 2 in the third. But Team Brewster replied in kind, making it 2-2 at the halfway mark.

Further scores of 2 were exchanged in ends six and seven, meaning the Swedes had hammer going into the eighth and final end with the match poised at 4-4.

There they claimed another 2, giving them victory in the final 6-4. You can watch that match back here.

Teams Brewster and Murdoch now head to Canada with their first competitive curling of 2015-16 under their belts – and it’s fair to say they’re off to an encouraging start.