What to watch at Canada Cup, draw by draw

One of Canadian curling’s premier events - the Home Hardware Canada Cup - is coming to Estevan this week with some of the best in the country battling it out on the Affinity Place ice. There are 10 regular draws and four playoff round draws on tap for the next few days. Here’s a preview about some of the draws.

The sheets are labeled A to E; thinking about it in hockey terms, A will be closest to the penalty box and E is by the players benches.

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Wednesday, 9 a.m.

A Brendan Bottcher vs John Epping

B Brad Jacobs vs Kevin Koe

C Chelsea Carey vs Darcy Robertson

D Laura Walker vs Allison Flaxey

E Brad Gushue vs Matt Dunstone

 

It’s not much of an understatement to believe that the eyes of the curling world will be on the Brad Jacobs team this week and they get the opening day 9 a.m. draw against Kevin Koe. Jacobs’ longtime third, Ryan Fry, was apparently a big reason why his rink at the Red Deer Curling Classic was booted from the event. Teams complained, brooms were broken and damage was done to the dressing room.

Fry’s skip at Red Deer? Jamie Koe, Kevin’s younger brother. Fry was substituting for a member on Jamie Koe’s team. Certainly Jacobs, who won the Olympic gold medal in Sochi in 2014, with a couple of new temporary members is going to want to put the actions of his third behind him and come out strong against former Brier champ.

 

Wednesday 2 p.m.

A Jacobs vs Gushue

B Epping vs Reid Carruthers

C Casey Scheidegger vs Walker

D Kerri Einarson vs Rachel Homan

E Jenifer Jones vs Carey

 

A lot of eyes will be on Gushue vs Jacobs, but Rachel Homan will want to get on the right foot this week, and it’ll start against 2018 Scotties finalist Kerri Einarson. Einarson has totally changed her team since the Scotties but her shotmaking since qualifying as a wildcard into the Scotties was astounding. Homan, meanwhile, has won three Scotties before her 30th birthday and just last month won the Tour Challenge in Thunder Bay (taking advantage of a Tracy Fleury team that shot an uncharacteristic 70 per cent in the final; that Fleury team has the other three members of the Einarson rink from last season). The lesson here: everybody seeme to have curled with just about everyone else at some point.

 

Wednesday 7 p.m.

A Jones vs Robertson

B Homan vs Scheidegger

C Carruthers vs Bottcher

D Koe vs Dunstone

E Einarson vs Flaxey

 

The evening draw will be a chance for those people who work for a living to settle down and watch a match; their eyes will likely be focused on the team that is the closest to a hometown curler in Matt Dunstone. Originally from Winnipeg, the 23-year-old Dunstone threw skip stones for the Steve Laycock rink that won the Tankard at Affinity Place in February and is a fairly intense competitor and people here like that. The fact that he’s playing Kevin Koe, another fiery competitor, in a strong evening draw is all the more compelling. Dunstone’s Regina rink are the only Saskatchewan competitors here other than Einarson’s third Val Sweeting (originally from Redvers).

 

Thursday  9 a.m.

A Homan vs Walker

B Einarson vs Jones

C Gushue vs Epping

D Scheidegger vs Carey

E Carruthers vs Jacobs

 

We talked about Einarson already but how about Jennifer Jones? She’s won six Scotties and finished in the top three six other times in her career. And here she goes again trying to grab another Olympic ring to match what she won in Sochi in 2014. She’s already won a pair of world championships in 2008 in Vernon, B.C. and 2018 in North Bay, Ont. Winnipeg’s Jones is absolutely a first ballot hall of famer in every sense of the word and the preparation starts at draws like these: A tough match against a strong competitor in the early morning.

 

Thursday 2 p.m.

A Flaxey vs Carey

B Robertson vs Walker

C Dunstone vs Jacobs

D Bottcher vs Gushue

E Koe vs Epping

 

It’s rare to see a curler at this level have a greater accomplishment in the doubles game than they do in the four-person game, but that’s Laura Walker. She won bronze at the World Mixed Doubles championship with husband Geoff Walker, who is the lead on the Brad Gushue team. Laura Walker is ranked fifth in the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) and isn’t to be taken lightly. Her third is Cathy Overton-Clapham, who was a fixture on the Jones team for over a decade but who also won the Meridian Canadian Open last season with Chelsea Carey.

 

 

Thursday 7 p.m.

A Carruthers vs Koe

B Dunstone vs Bottcher

C Robertson vs Einarson

D Homan vs Jones

E Flaxey vs Scheidegger

 

Homan vs Jones is the kind of matchup one might see at a Scotties final if they’re lucky – and people did in 2013 in Kingston, Ont. – but here it works well also. They may well meet again at the 2019 Scotties final in Sydney, N.S. A team can write off an early loss as part of the learning process, and they can try to get better or make a minor tweak. But this will be the part of the tournament where wins will start to be of the utmost importance. Losing here can mean disaster for a team hovering at .500 because there just aren’t enough chances to get back the rest of the way.

 

Friday 9 a.m.

A Einarson vs Scheidegger

B Jones vs Flaxey

C Bottcher vs Koe

D Dunstone vs Carruthers

E Robertson vs Homan

 

Because the Canada Cup wasn’t held in 2017 due to the Roar of the Rings, 2016’s champions serve as the de facto defending titleholders. Those are Jones and Reid Carruthers, who will be battling Dunstone in what will likely be a must-win game for one of these teams. It’ll be the battle of the Winnipeg beards, with both teams having only one match left before the playoffs.

 

 

Friday 2 p.m.

A Gushue vs Carruthers

B Carey vs Homan

C Jones vs Scheidegger

D Epping vs Jacobs

E Walker vs Einarson

 

The Canadian Beef Masters Grand Slam event is normally a place where the Brad Gushues and Glenn Howards of the world can use as their playground, but in October, John Epping’s rink claimed the title, defeating Kevin Koe. Ranked seventh going into that playoff, Epping knocked off Scotland’s Ross Paterson – world bronze medal winner in 2018 – and Sweden’s Niklas Edin – who has been at the worlds eight times – before beating Koe. Epping personally curled at 81 per cent in the final against Koe’s 66 per cent. If Jacobs is on his game this could be a great one.

 

Friday 7 p.m.

A Epping vs Dunstone

B Koe vs Gushue

C Walker vs Carey

D Flaxey vs Robertson

E Jacobs vs Bottcher

 

We haven’t talked about Brad Gushue yet but Gushue has to be one of the prohibitive favourites. If he’s in the hunt, and there’s no reason to suggest he won’t be, look out. Kevin Koe has won three Tim Hortons’ Briers against Gushue’s two Brier wins, but Gushue does have that 2006 Olympic gold medal won in Turin, Italy. If either, or likely both, of them are in contention this will be a well-played game from start to end.

 

Saturday 9 a.m.

A Walker vs Jones

B Scheidegger vs Robertson

C Flaxey vs Homan

D Carey vs Einarson

E (TBA Men’s tiebreaker)

 

The men will be in their playoff tiebreaker, if necessary, but the women’s teams will have one more crack at a win if they need it. Carey vs. Einarson might be the one to watch as both are fielding fairly new teams together and either or both could be on the fence for the playoffs.

 

 

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