Team Smith triumph at Oakville OCT Fall Classic

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Team Smith: Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, coach Viktor Kjall, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith (photo courtesy of Jonathan Brazeau/Sportsnet)

Team Smith claimed the Oakville OCT Fall Classic men’s title and $3,000 prize money by defeating Team McCormick of the USA 7-2 in the final.

While fellow Scots Team Mouat exited with a W1 L3 record at the pool stage of the World Curling Tour event in Ontario, Smith went unbeaten throughout.

Back across the Atlantic, meanwhile, there was double Scottish success at the Braehead Junior International – Teams Bryce and Jackson winning the boys’ and girls’ competitions respectively in their first competitions after line-up changes.

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Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) came into the Oakville OCT Fall Classic off the back of a run to the quarter-finals at the Baden Masters in Switzerland, and hit their stride in Canada straight away.

They began the round robin pool stage by beating Team Birr 4-2 (with a pivotal steal of one in end five), then saw off Team Ferris 6-3 with a three in end eight.

Passage to the quarter-finals was secured with two further victories, against Team Balsdon 8-4 (threes in ends four and eight) and Team Murphy (three in end six).

Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Derrick Sloan, Gregor Cannon), in contrast to Smith, altered their line-up over the summer (Sloan coming in) and this was their first competition of the 2016-17 season.

They opened with a 7-4 loss to Team Brown, giving up a four in end two, before enjoying a comfortable 8-1 win over Team Stewart, stealing four in end seven.

However, narrow defeats to Team Krell (7-6) and Team McCormick (8-7) saw them exit the competition on a W1 L3 record. They don’t have to wait long to put that behind them though – they’re back in action this coming weekend, in Stu Sells Oakville Tankard tier 2.

In the quarter-finals, Smith started poorly, giving up a steal of two in end one versus Team Deruelle, but responded with a two and then a massive steal of five. The match was over after six ends, Smith the winners 8-4.

The semi-finals pitted them against Team Gardner, and the Canadians were 2-1 up after four ends. Smith scored one in end six and stole two in end seven, and although Gardner scored two in end eight, it was the Scots who took their one in the extra end to win 5-4 and make the final.

There they faced McCormick of the USA – both rinks reaching the final with W6 L0 records. But it was Smith who started like an express train, scoring two in end one and stealing singles in ends two and three.

The Americans got on the board with two in end four, but ones for Smith in ends five, six and seven handed them a 7-2 victory, $3,000 and precious tour ranking points.

Skip Kyle Smith said: “I’m really pleased with how we played. The ice has been really good and we played as well as we could really.”

Smith will look to carry this early season winning form into the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard next weekend, joined in tier 1 by fellow Scots Brewster and Murdoch.

The Oakville OCT Fall Classic women’s title was won by Team Hasselborg, who overcame Team Wrana 6-2 in an all-Swedish final.

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Team Bryce: Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw (photo: Leslie Ingram-Brown)

In Scotland, the opening European Junior Curling Tour event of the season took place – the Braehead Junior International, which involved 12 boys’ teams and eight girls’.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle, Frazer Shaw) topped Pool A on the boys’ side, thanks to wins over Muskatewitz (6-1), Lottenbach (8-1) and Foss (7-2), plus peels against Ramsfjell (4-4) and Carson (6-6).

That meant they went straight into the semi-finals, whereas Teams Ramsfjell (Norway) and Carson (Luke Carson, James Carswell, George Ballantyne, Mark Taylor) finished second and third in the group and so proceeded to quarter-finals.

Pool B was won by Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean), who won against Teams Schnider (8-2), Haswell (8-3), Myran (6-1) and Hoesli (7-5), and lost to Hess (5-3).

Team Haswell (Blair Haswell, Adam Keron, Cameron Paterson, Adam MacDiarmid), despite a 6-5 win over Hess of Switzerland, finished bottom of the group – Swiss rinks Hess and Schnider made it into the quarters.

On the girls’ side, the pool was headed by three Swiss teams – Witschonke, Stritt and Keiser. Scottish Teams Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) and MacDonald (Amy MacDonald, Ellie Hamilton, Amy Bryce, Layla Al-Saffar) finished on W2 D1 L2 records to sit fourth and fifth.

Behind them, defending champions Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) squeezed into the quarter-finals having won two (against Davie and Keiser) and lost three (to MacDonald, Witschonke and Stritt).

In the quarter-finals, Hess scored three in end six in beating Carson 6-1, while Ramsfjell defeated Schnider 8-4. As for the girls, Aitken scored three in end four to overcome MacDonald 5-4, while Jackson got two in end two and stole two in end five to defeat Keiser, also 5-4.

Bryce started their boys’ semi-final against Hess with a bang, scoring four in end one, adding a steal of three in end four to win 8-4. Whyte, meanwhile, scored twos in ends five and seven to beat Ramsfjell 5-2.

In the girls’ semis, Jackson were on a roll now and they overcame Stritt 7-4 (having been 4-1 down, they scored three in end six, stole two in end seven and another one in end eight); Aitken were unable to join them in the final, though, giving up two in end four and a steal of one in end five to lose 5-3 to Swiss junior champions Witschonke.

The boys’ final pitted two Scottish teams against each other, and Whyte stole two in end three to lead 3-1. Bryce responded with two in end four, then a steal of one in end six.

Whyte scored two in end seven, but Bryce replied with two of their own in the last end to win the match 6-5 and claim the title.

There was also Scottish success in the women’s final. Witschonke led 2-1 at halfway, but Jackson scored two in end five and stole two in end six for a 6-5 win – a remarkable success given their line-up change and their slow start to the competition, only just making the knockout stages.

Hess won the boys’ third/fourth playoff 5-4 against Ramsfjell, while Stritt beat Aitken 4-3 in the girls’ playoff.

For more photos from the event, and video interviews with skips Cameron Bryce, Sophie Jackson, Ross Whyte and Selina Witschonke, visit the event’s Facebook page here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Curling 2015-16: Mid-season review

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As we wave goodbye to 2015, it’s time for a look back at some of the events and stories from the first half of the curling season, and the Scottish teams’ part in them.

For all the talk of new broom technology ruining the sport, there was still a great deal that was familiar: brilliant events, Canadian Grand Slam dominance and Team Edin winning the biggest prizes…

Edin and Sidorova conquer Europeans
Esbjerg, Denmark, was the setting for the 2015 European Curling Championships and did a great job – competitors praised the ice, the volunteers and the fact that the A and B arenas were on the same site.

Scotland’s representatives were Team Smith for the men’s section and Team Muirhead in the women’s.

Smith had seen off Teams Brewster, MacDonald and Murdoch to qualify for Esbjerg, but their relative inexperience (this was a first men’s Europeans for the 2013 World Juniors champions) seemed to tell early on.

They slid to a W1 L4 record with defeats against Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands – their A-Division status seemed to be at stake and playoff hopes a distant dream.

But suddenly it clicked into place. Finland were beaten 7-3 and from there Smith reeled off the wins against Italy, Russia and Germany – they had their confidence back, and were making the big shots.

They had secured Scotland’s spot at the 2016 World Men’s Championship, but faced a tiebreaker against Sweden to make the semi-finals.

They were edged out 8-7 by Edin’s Swedish rink – a disappointment after their run of wins, but undoubtedly a fine European debut for Smith.

There was less drama for Team Muirhead in making the women’s playoffs, as they racked up seven wins from nine.

The drama was saved for their semi-final with Finland, as the Finns led 5-0 after three ends and the game looked to be slipping away from the Scots.

But the nightmarish start was followed by seven ends of professional and increasingly dominant curling from Muirhead’s rink, dragging themselves back to 6-6 after seven ends and stealing two in end eight for a lead they never relinquished.

It was not to be the perfect ending for Muirhead, as Team Sidorova of Russia won the final 6-4 – but the silver medals represented a step up from last year (where they won bronze), both on the podium and in terms of quality, delighting coach David Hay with their consistent level of performance.

Gold for Sidorova was a fitting reward for a team who operated with an air of composure and control throughout the week – while in the men’s competition it was Sweden who took top spot.

Having narrowly beaten Scotland in the tiebreaker, Team Edin got up to their 2014-15 tricks again, really turning it on when it mattered to beat Norway in the semi-finals and Switzerland in the final.

Homan hammer Grand Slam rivals
While the four Grand Slam of Curling men’s titles played for so far have gone to four different winners – Team Koe claimed the Tour Challenge, Team McEwen the Masters, Team Gushue the National and Team Epping the Canadian Open (angle raises ahoy) – there’s been one team ruling the women’s events.

Team Homan may have lost the Tour Challenge final to Team Tirinzoni of Switzerland, but since then they’ve been winning. A lot.

The Masters, National and Canadian Open all fell before them, three of their titles in a season that has seen them take more than $160,000 in tournament winnings… with plenty more to come in 2016, no doubt.

As for the Scots… well, Tirinzoni’s Tour Challenge win is the only Grand Slam title not to go to a Canadian rink at this point in the season, so it’s been an uphill battle.

Teams Brewster and Smith reached the semi-finals of the Tour Challenge tier 2, but the Olympians of Team Murdoch struggled – at least up until the Canadian Open, where they went out at the quarter-final stage after earlier notching wins over Teams Jacobs, Laycock and Bottcher.

In the women’s Grand Slams, Muirhead made the quarter-finals of the Tour Challenge (beaten by Homan) and semi-finals of the Canadian Open, Team Jones denying the defending champions a spot in the final.

With those results – as well as being runner-up at both Europeans and the Stockholm Ladies Cup, plus semi-finalists at the Women’s Masters Basel – it’s been a consistent enough season so far. Indeed their skip believes they’re in a better place than they were at this point in 2014.

One more thing from the Grand Slams: Gushue’s fall at the Masters.

As well as prompting discussion about whether helmets should be worn on the ice, it also raised the issue of concussion.

Gushue miraculously (or, perhaps, dangerously) returned towards the end of the game in which he fell – but should that have been his decision to make, or one for an objective party, i.e. a doctor?

Curling Canada is now looking to create the sport’s first concussion protocol ready for the 2016-17 season, which can only be a good thing.

Scots winning at home and away
So it’s been nearly but not quite for the Scottish teams so far in 2015-16? Not exactly.

Smith claimed the spoils at the Goldline Scottish Curling Tour Edinburgh International, seeing off Van Dorp’s Dutchmen, their other most notable performance coming at the Swiss Cup Basel, where they fell to Gushue in the semi-finals.

Brewster won the Curling Night in America men’s event held in Eveleth, as well as finishing runners-up to Edin at the Baden Masters in August and to compatriots Team Mouat at the Champions Curling Tour event in Dumfries this month.

Mouat had previously won the BrokerLink OVCA Junior Superspiel in Ottawa, Canada – a week after beating Epping twice on the way to the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau semis – and also the Forfar Open on the Scottish Curling Tour.

The team currently holding the most Scottish Curling Tour titles this season, though, are Team Hardie, who won both the Braehead and Dumfries Opens.

Just a few days before Christmas, Murdoch won the Karuizawa International in Japan, seeing off Pat Simmons’ rink in the final, and taking momentum into 2016.

On the women’s side of things, Team Gray won the Dumfries Challenger CCT ladies event, having reached the semi-finals of the Dave Jones Northbridge Mayflower Cashspiel and quarter-finals at the Boundary Ford Classic, both in Canada, earlier in the season.

Team Fleming have had a tough few months, although they did make the quarters at the Women’s Masters Basel and semis at the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in Alberta.

The future’s bright
Scotland’s hopes for future success also performed well in the first part of the season.

The first leg of the Asham Under-21 Slam was held in Greenacres and the men’s section was won by Team Whyte, while the women’s title went to Karina Aitken’s rink.

From there, while the men’s events were won by a different team each time, Team Murray went all Homan on their opponents and claimed top spot at Kinross, Inverness and Lockerbie.

As for the junior men, Team Bryce won in Kinross, Team Brydone in Inverness and Team McNay in Lockerbie.

There were also Scottish teams involved in the European Junior Curling Tour events – several picking up medals.

Team Jackson won gold at the Braehead Junior International in September, while Mouat won men’s bronze.

Brydone and K Aitken won silver and bronze respectively at the EJCT event in Oslo, Norway, while Bryce and Murray took third and fourth respectively in Thun, Switzerland.

Hopes for 2016
The next year promises to be a big one for Scotland. Tour events begin with the Perth Masters, which has again attracted a world class field, from January 7-10.

Others include the Glynhill Ladies International (also January), Aberdeen City Open (February), Aberdeen International (March) and Perth Ladies International (April).

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club hopes for increased media attention and spectator numbers for these, and the Scottish Championships in February of course, ahead of Braehead hosting the 2016 Europeans in November.

Another area of potential growth is in mixed curling, boosted by mixed doubles’ inclusion in the 2018 Olympics.

Scotland (Cameron Bryce, Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson) were a tiebreaker away from making the quarter-finals of the inaugural World Mixed Curling Championship in Bern, Switzerland, in September.

In April 2016 we have the World Mixed Doubles Championship in Karlstad, Sweden – Scotland will be represented by Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken, and hopefully they can lay down a marker for the nation at this key time in the development of the discipline.

One more hope for the year to come: a concrete resolution to #broomgate.

Following complaints about ‘joystick curling’ and teams calling others ‘cheats’, certain broom heads were banned, at least temporarily, at elite level while the sports governing bodies try to sort it out.

It’s not an easy thing to do. How do you answer questions such as:
– How effective a broom is too effective?
– What should the balance be between good shot-making and good sweeping?
– What should the balance be between getting in the best physical shape and getting the best out of your equipment?
– Can the World Curling Federation be seen to make objective calls when it is sponsored by some broom suppliers (Balance Plus and Goldline) and not others (notably Hardline)?

However those in charge of the sport come to a conclusion (I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes!), it must involve the global curling community and the testing/decision-making process must be transparent.

Or, in other words, what these guys said.

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Thanks for reading and supporting The Roaring Game Blog in its first few months… may you, dear reader, and the sport have a fantastic 2016!

Weekend round-up: Titles for Scots home and away

It was a busy weekend before Christmas for Scottish curlers, with Team Murdoch taking the Karuizawa International title in Japan while their compatriots battled each other in Dumfries and Lockerbie.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) joined men’s teams from Belarus, Canada, Germany, Norway and Sweden, as well as Japan and South Korea, at the Karuizawa International, with 15 rinks divided into three pools.

Murdoch began with a 9-2 win over Team Fukui of Japan, scoring three in end three and four in end six, before a 7-4 victory against Team Matsumura, again of Japan, with threes in ends two and four.

Further wins, 7-6 against Team Hoiberg of Norway and 5-3 over Team Baumann of Germany, sent Murdoch directly into the semi-finals.

There they faced Team Soo-Hyuk Kim of South Korea, and the Scots came out on top 6-4, with twos in ends one and five.

The final was contested between Murdoch and Team Simmons of Canada, and again Murdoch scored two in end one.

But Simmons came back with two in the sixth, and the game went to an extra end tied at 3-3.

Murdoch held hammer, though, and got the one required to win the competition – ending the week undefeated and with impetus to take into 2016.

The women’s competition was won by Team Ogasawara of Japan, who saw off compatriots Team Fujisawa 5-4 in the title decider.

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The latest Curling Champions Tour event, the Lely Challenge Series, was held at the Dumfries Ice Bowl – with both men’s and women’s titles up for grabs.

The men’s competition saw 16 teams divided into four sections, the first seeing Team Hardie finish top, ahead of Team Smith in second.

Section 2 was headed up by Team Mouat, ahead of Team Hamilton, while Section 3 saw Teams Bryce and Van Dorp as the top two.

Finally, Section 4 produced Team Brewster and Team Thune as qualifiers for the playoffs.

In the quarter-finals, Bryce defeated Hamilton 7-4, Hardie were 4-3 winners over Thune, Mouat saw off Van Dorp 9-5 and Brewster edged Smith 5-4 after an extra end.

Then, in the semi-finals, Brewster won 5-3 against Bryce with a three in end one, while Mouat defeated Hardie 6-2, largely thanks to steals of two in ends three and four.

So the final pitted last year’s winners Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) against Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Duncan Menzies, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell).

Mouat started with a two in end one but Brewster stole ones in ends three and four to lead 3-2, before another two for Mouat in end five.

The game was 4-4 going into end eight, and Mouat scored one with hammer to claim the title.

Bruce Mouat told British Curling: “It’s been a really good week, winning [the Scottish Mixed Doubles] last weekend, then having two exams this week that went OK ahead of this.

“The guys played really well this weekend. I’m thankful that each and every one of them played really well. We got to know the ice.”

“It’s a great way to finish the year and we’ll be looking to come back with guns blazing as we have a really hectic February, March and April coming up.”

The 15 women’s teams were divided into three groups, the first one being headed by Teams Gisler and Rilea.

Group 2 saw Teams Driendl and Maillard qualify, while it was Teams Gray and Fleming who made it out of Group 3.

Driendl and Gisler went straight into the semi-finals, but the remaining four playoff teams faced off in quarter-finals – Gray beat Rilea 5-1 and Maillard beat Fleming 8-3.

Come the semis, there were wins for Gray, 6-5 against Driendl, and Maillard, 4-3 over Gisler.

The final, then, was between Gray (Lauren Gray, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird) and Maillard (Isabelle Maillard, Andrea Marx, Fabienne Furbringer, Bettina Bouhel).

And it was Gray’s Scottish rink who came out on top, scoring twos in ends three and five on their way to a 6-4 victory.

Skip Lauren Gray said: “It came down to the last shot with a hit and roll to win and another good team performance in a tight game.

“It’s our first competition that we’ve won as a team against good international teams so it’s been a great weekend.

“It’s our second season together and we’re starting to make our games tighter and we need to keep building on that, but we’re progressing quite fast and we’re really pleased to get a team win.”

Team Gray With Dumfries Challenger Series Trophy - David Owen
Team Gray with the trophy – photo: David Owen

***

The final leg of the Asham U21 Slam took place in Lockerbie this weekend, with 10 junior men’s teams (including three from Denmark, England and the Netherlands) in two groups and eight women’s teams (also with one from Denmark), again divided into two groups.

Men’s Group A was topped by Team McNay (Cameron McNay, Fin Campbell, Ryan McCormack, Angus Bryce) ahead of Team Carson (Luke Carson, George Ballentyne, James Craik, Mark Taylor).

The second group saw Teams Joiner (Craig Joiner, Euan MacDiarmid, Robin McCall, Craig Patterson) and Whyte (Ross Whyte, James Baird, Gavin Baird, Euan Kyle, David Baird) qualify.

In the semi-finals, Joiner stole ones in ends six, seven and eight to beat Carson 6-3, while McNay versus Whyte went to an extra end before McNay scored their one with hammer to win 5-4.

The final was a more one-sided affair, McNay scoring twos in ends two and four and stealing three in end six to defeat Joiner 8-1 and claim the title, while in the third/fourth place match Whyte won 7-2.

Junior Women’s Group A saw Teams Murray (Katie Murray, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Mili Smith) and Bryce (Amy Bryce, Lauren Morgan, Leeanne McKenzie, Rebecca Baird) progress.

Teams Young (Lesley Young, Beth Dandie, Kathryn Spain, Jane Barr) and Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Emma Barr, Annabel Skuse) were the qualifiers from Group B.

Come the semi-finals, Young scored two in end one and stole one in end four on their way to beating Bryce 6-4, while Murray stole ones in ends four and five to see off Davie 4-1.

Murray went on to clinch the title by beating Young 8-3 in the final, courtesy of a two in end one, four in end four and two in end six – while Bryce won the third/fourth playoff 5-4.

Weekend round-up: Teams Bryce, Murray and Gray compete

Teams Bryce and Murray both reached the last four at the European Junior Curling Tour (EJCT) event in Thun, Switzerland, while Team Gray made the quarters at the Boundary Ford Classic in Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada.

The EJCT event saw teams divided into pools ahead of a knock-out stage to decide the boys and girls winners.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Zack Stewart, Fraser Kingan, Frazer Shaw) went undefeated through the group stage, winning all their games.

They recorded victories over Team Hess of Switzerland 4-3, Team Pimpini of Italy 8-2, two more Swiss teams Hösli (6-2) and Stucki (9-4), before rounding off with a remarkable 16-2 win over Team Ramsfjell of Norway – scoring SIX in end five.

Topping their pool meant they bypassed the quarter finals, and so faced a semi final against Pimpini.

Although Bryce had won their group stage encounter, this time it was the Italian rink which came out on top, 5-3.

Bryce did go on to win the third-place playoff, beating Hess 4-3.

As for Team Murray (Katie Murray, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Mili Smith), they also cruised through their pool with five wins from five.

Those victories came against Team Turmann of Estonia 8-2, Team Ramsfjell of Norway 6-5, Team Gauchat of Switzerland 6-3, another Swiss rink, Team Witschonke, 5-4 and Team Constantini of Italy 6-4.

However, like Bryce, Murray went out at the semi final stage to Team Demkina of Russia, going down 5-4, before losing the third/fourth match 6-2 to Team Stern of Switzerland.

***

In Canada, Team Gray (Lauren Gray, Jen Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird) took part in the Boundary Ford Curling Classic, a triple knock-out competition with A, B and C-Roads leading to playoffs.

Gray opened with a 7-6 win over Team Dutton, but were then knocked down to the B-Road by Team Anderson as they were beaten 7-4.

There they lost again, 10-0 against Team Zingel, and so were in last chance street on the C-Road.

However, victories over Teams Despins (9-4) and Silvernagle (7-6) qualified them for the quarter finals.

There they were finally knocked out with a 10-7 defeat to Team Kleibrink, who themselves went on to lose in the semi finals to eventual spiel winners Team Scheidegger.

 

Weekend round-up: Team Mouat win at Forfar, Brewster and Gray battle hard in Canada

Team Mouat won the latest Goldline Scottish Curling Tour event, the Forfar Open, while Teams Brewster and Gray put together good runs in World Curling Tour events in Canada.

Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell) won their pool ahead of Teams MacLeod (going into the quarter finals in second spot), Taylor and Kirk with three wins.

The other qualifiers were Teams Bryce, Hardie, Joiner and McGlynn, plus Teams K Aitken and Jackson from the women’s pool.

Mouat secured themselves a place in the final with a 6-4 quarter-final win over McGlynn and 7-2 victory over Bryce in the last four.

Joining them in the final were the rink they’d beaten 8-7 in the group stage, McLeod (Scott McLeod, Derrick Sloan, John Penny, Ross Fraser), who knocked out Scottish Curling Tour leader Hardie in the quarters (6-5) and then saw off Jackson 4-2.

The final was 1-1 after four ends, but then tipped in Mouat’s favour as McLeod’s final draw of end five was heavy, gifting a steal of four.

McLeod managed to claw their way back to 5-4, but a two in end eight sealed the win for Mouat 7-4.

***

Over in Canada, Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Ross Patterson, Hammy McMillan Jr, Duncan Menzies) competed in the DEKALB Superspiel in Morris, Manitoba.

Playing a triple knock-out system, Brewster lost their first match to Team Atkins, thus were knocked down to the B-Road.

There they saw off Teams Wunderlin and Irving, before a loss to Team Dunstone.

A C-Road defeat to Team Thomas (who have been making the #broomgate headlines this weekend) saw them go out, just one game short of a quarter-final qualifying decider.

Meanwhile, Team Gray (Lauren Gray, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird) participated in the Dave Jones Northbridge Mayflower Cashspiel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the only non-Canadian team involved.

Gray topped their pool, defeating Teams Robichaud (4-3), McEvoy (6-4) and Breen (8-3) while only suffering one loss, 7-4 against Team Jones (Colleen, not Jennifer!).

In the quarter finals, Gray saw off Robichaud again, this time 5-1, but were then beaten in the last four by eventual winners Team Brothers, 4-3 with steals of one in ends seven and eight.

Weekend round-up: Mouat win Superspiel, Fleming make Medicine Hat semis

Aside from the GSOC Masters, Scottish teams enjoyed success in Canada over the weekend, Team Mouat winning their competition and Team Fleming making the last four in theirs.

Teams Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell) and Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) were among 32 teams participating in the BrokerLink OVCA Junior Superspiel in Ottawa.

In what was a triple knockout competition with A, B and C-roads, Team Mouat began with a 5-3 win over Team Hahn, followed by a 6-5 extra-end victory versus Team Smith, before being knocked down to the B-road by a 7-1 defeat to Team Dunstone.

Team Jackson lost their first three matches, to Teams Sutherland (5-2), McKay-Saturnino (7-1) and Wallingford (7-6), which knocked them down into the consolation event.

Although Jackson did gain their first win against Team Hahn, 7-6, their participation in the event was over with an 8-1 loss to Team Smith.

Mouat were faring rather better, winning their B-road quarter final 7-1 against Team Calvert.

However, they then lost 7-4 to Team Dropkin, which meant going onto the C-road and knowing one more defeat would mean elimination.

From there, performances and momentum really picked up. A 9-5 win over Team Kee was followed by an 8-5 win over Canada’s Youth Olympics rink, Team Tardi, and the Scots were into the semi finals.

Their last four encounter with Team Quevillon saw Mouat score threes in ends one and six on their way to a 9-1 win.

That set up a final against Team Dunstone, who had beaten them 7-1 earlier in the competition.

There was to be no repeat of that result, however. Mouat stole one in ends three and six then two in end seven to take the match 7-4 and the Superspiel title – see how the match unfolded on CurlingGeek here.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Lorna Vevers, Alice Spence, Abi Brown), meanwhile, were taking part in the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in Alberta.

They opened with a 7-4 win versus Team Schneider but then lost 5-4 to Team Dutton.

Nonetheless, an 8-3 win over Team Dong saw them safely into the quarter finals.

There they faced Team O’Connor, scoring three in end two and finishing off with a steal of two in end eight for another 8-3 victory.

The semi finals saw them play Team Scheidegger, the defending champions, and they battled hard until a steal of three in end six for Scheidegger proved the knockout blow – Fleming bowing out 8-4.

Team Scheidegger were unable to retain their title, beaten 5-3 in the final by Team Kleibrink.

Weekend round-up: Team Mouat outstanding in Canada

Four Scottish teams competed in Curling Champions Tour and World Curling Tour events this weekend, with Team Mouat gaining the best result.

While Teams Brewster and Smith participated in the Champery Masters in Switzerland, Teams Mouat and Murdoch were at the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau in Canada – Mouat reaching the semi finals.

Mouat and Murdoch were joined by a strong field including Teams Edin, Gushue and Simmons in what was a triple knock-out event – A, B and C-roads leading to playoffs for eight qualifiers.

Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) faced Team Fournier first and took a 4-1 lead after four ends, only to lose the match 5-4.

Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Duncan Menzies, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon) also lost their opening match, 7-3 to Team Casey.

The younger Scots recovered to defeat Team Balsdon 9-4, thanks to scores of three in ends three, four and six, but Murdoch dropped down to the C-road with a 9-5 loss to Team Fitzner-Leblanc.

Another victory for Mouat followed, 6-4 against Team Stjerne (Mouat scoring two in an extra end for the win), while Murdoch kept themselves alive with an 8-1 win over Team Dion.

Mouat then claimed wins over Team Michel (6-5, thanks to scores of two in ends two and four and a steal in seven) and Team Zang (scoring four in end four for a 7-5 victory).

For Murdoch, a 4-3 win over Team Zou was followed by a 5-3 loss to Team Menard – which meant the end of their challenge, just one match short of a C-road final.

In their B-road final, however, Mouat secured themselves a place in the last eight with a 4-2 win over Team Epping.

The quarter finals drew up a Mouat-Epping rematch and again Mouat came out on top, scoring the one needed in end eight for a 5-4 win.

The semi finals proved their limit, however – Team Gushue scoring three in end one and then exchanging scores of one to beat the Scots 6-3.

Team Gushue went on to defeat Team Bice 6-1 in the final for their fourth title of what is already an exceptionally successful season.

As for Teams Brewster and Smith, they were in action at the Champery Masters, with a pool stage leading quarter finals, semis and final.

Despite them having qualified for the European Championships the week before, it was not a great event for Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith).

They began with a 6-4 loss to Team Wunderlin, but they won their next match 8-7 against Team Gulbis 8-7.

That was as good as it got however, as they lost their other group matches to Teams Baumann (4-3), Keller (6-3) and Grattan (7-4).

Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) did manage to qualify from their group, opening with an 8-4 win over Team Van Dorp.

They then lost 5-4 to Team Rantamäki but recovered to record victories over Teams Arkipov (8-2), Attinger (11-2) and Hess (5-2).

That led to a quarter final against Team Schwaller and the Swiss team proved too strong, winning 6-2 – you can watch the match here.

The competition was won by Team Grattan of Canada, as they beat Team Keller 5-4 in the final.

World Curling Tour round-up: Quarter finals the limit for Scottish teams

This weekend saw four Scottish teams compete in two World Curling Tour events across in Canada – Teams Brewster and Smith in the HDF Insurance Shoot-out in Edmonton, and Teams Murdoch and Gray in the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic in Cornwall.

Brewster, Smith and Murdoch all qualified for the quarter finals of their respective competitions, but that was as far as they could go, the tournaments once again dominated by Canadian teams.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cameron Smith) started brilliantly at the HDF Insurance Shoot-out, winning three consecutive games to qualify directly for the quarter finals along the A road.

After opening with a 4-3 win over Team Webb, the Scots beat Team Sluchinski 5-4 and Team Scoffin 7-4 to book themselves a place in the last eight.

Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), by contrast, did things the hard way.

They lost their first match to Team Sturmay, 6-5 after an extra end, but bounced back in style, cruising past Team Meachem 9-1.

A 4-3 defeat to Team Sluchinski knocked them down to the C road, where they stayed alive thanks to a 5-4 extra-end win over Team Lizmore, before a 6-3 victory over Team Hanson that saw them into the quarters.

There, both Scottish teams fell to defeat. Team Smith lost 8-4 to Team Korte, steals of two in ends seven and eight proving fatal.

Team Brewster, meanwhile, were edged out 7-6 by Team Thomas, who scored two in end eight to take the win.

The competition was eventually won by Team Meachem, who had recovered from that 9-1 loss to Team Brewster and battled through the C road, as they defeated Team Bottcher 8-4 in the final.

The women’s event was claimed by Team Sweeting, who secured a hometown victory by beating Team Lawton 6-4 in the final.

In the Shorty Jenkins Classic, Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) followed Team Smith’s example by starting with three wins.

They defeated Team Fournier 6-4, Team Fanset 6-2 and Team Brewer 7-2 – and then made it four wins in a row by beating Team Bailey 4-2.

Despite a 4-2 loss to in-form Team Gushue in their final pool match, Team Murdoch were safely into the last eight.

The quarter finals saw them pitted against Team Jacobs, the rink which had defeated them in the 2014 Olympic final in Sochi, and again the Canadians came out on top, 8-3.

The final, between Teams Gushue and Howard, went to an extra end, but it was Gushue who prevailed, 5-4.

The fourth Scottish team competing in Canada over the weekend were Team Gray (Lauren Gray, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird), in the women’s section of the Shorty Jenkins Classic.

They were beaten in their first three matches – losing to Team Birt 7-3, Team Larouche 4-3, and Team Inglis 5-3 – but then recorded a 7-6 victory over Team Hanna.

Although they then lost 7-1 to Team Middaugh and finished on a W1 L4 record, this was good early season experience for Gray’s rink ahead of the Stockholm Ladies Cup this coming weekend.

The Shorty Jenkins Classic women’s competition was won by Team Eun Jung Kim, the south Korean rink beating Team Flaxey 5-4 in the final.

Team Fleming 2015-16 season preview

Team Fleming: Hannah Fleming, Lorna Vevers, Alice Spence, Abi Brown
Team Fleming: Hannah Fleming, Lorna Vevers, Alice Spence, Abi Brown

Team Fleming have once again been chosen as one of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s podium potential funded teams for the season.

Joined by Lorna Vevers last season, the rink – skipped by Hannah Fleming and also consisting of Alice Spence and Abi Brown – were Team Muirhead’s closest challengers at the 2015 Scottish Championship, losing out in a close-fought final.

Here, Hannah Fleming looks forward to an exciting season with plenty of opportunities to push on and make further progress on the home and international stage.

Q: How have you prepared for the season and how has training gone?
A: Summer training has gone really well – we have had individual analysis and development on our technique and all of us are seeing huge benefits in the changes we’ve made. Also we’ve been working off ice in the gym with our strength and conditioning programmes.

Q: What competitions do you have lined up?
A: We have a fairly busy season ahead, having started in Oakville, Canada. We also head to Stockholm, Basel, Bern and back to Canada, as well as competitions at home.

Q: What are your ambitions for the season?
A: Our main goals this season are to qualify for the European and World championships and gain enough points on the World Curling Tour to qualify for Grand Slam events.

Team Fleming’s next scheduled competition is the Stockholm Ladies Cup, September 25-27, where they will compete alongside Teams Homan, Jones, Pätz, Sidorova and fellow Scottish rinks Gray and Muirhead.