Playoff picture set at Canada’s Olympic curling pre-trials

October 30, 2021
Playoff picture set at Canada's Olympic curling pre-trials

After a week of curling in Liverpool, N.S., which saw 28 teams from across the country hoping to keep their Olympic dreams alive, it’s now down to just 12 teams, six women’s teams and six men’s teams.

The women’s and men’s playoff picture is set at the pre-trials in the pressure-packed event. Think of this bonspiel as a last-chance qualifier to get to the big show in Saskatoon – the Olympic trials – at the end of November.

On the women’s side, Team McCarville, Team Harrison, Team Brown, Team Birt, Team Zacharias and Team Anderson are all into the playoffs.

The McCarville rink, from Thunder Bay, Ont., finished with a 5-1 record in Pool A, tying Team Jacqueline Harrison, of Dundas, Ont., for top-spot. McCarville got the No. 1 seed, however, because of her victory over Harrison earlier in the week. That’s important because of how the playoff system works. Harrison finished second with Brown finishing third.

Krista McCarville is playing in her fourth Olympic pre-trials event, having qualified for the trials twice previously.

In the women’s Pool B, all three teams that qualified for the playoffs finished with 4-2 records — and all finished with 1-1 records against each other. That meant the cumulative Last Stone Draw determined their rankings. 

Suzanne Birt’s P.E.I. foursome finished first, with young Manitoba skip Mackenzie Zacharias claiming second place and the experienced Saskatchewan skip Sherry Anderson taking third.

Horgan takes undefeated record into playoffs

On the men’s side Team Horgan, Team Gunnlaugson, Team Simmons, Team Howard, Team Flemming and Team Tardi have all qualified for the playoffs. 

In Pool A, Horgan, from Kingston, Ont., was the only team to go undefeated throughout the event, posting a perfect 6-0 record. Jason Gunnlaugson of Morris, Man., finished second with Pat Simmons’s Manitoba-based rink finishing third. 

In Pool B, Glenn Howard, of Penetanguishene, Ont., reeled off five-straight victories to lock up top-spot with a 5-1 record. There was drama to determine the final playoff spots. Hometown favourite Paul Flemming defeated Saskatoon’s Colton Flasch in the final game of pool play, setting up a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots.

Flasch was eliminated from contention because of losing to both Tyler Tardi, of Langley, B.C., and Flemming. He started the event 4-0 before dropping his last two.

1st, 2nd-place teams get an ‘extra life’

Now to the playoff format. It’s a tad complicated.

The first-place team in Pool A crosses over and plays the second place team in Pool B. The winner of that games plays the winner of a game between first in Pool B versus second in Pool A. 

That sets up an A-final game with the winner clinching an Olympic trials berth to Saskatoon.

The loser of that match then goes all the way to the ‘B’ final. 

The losers of the No. 1 vs. No. 2 games then play the third-place teams from each pool. The winners of each of those games move into somewhat of a semifinal game. The losers are eliminated. 

Finally, the winner of that semifinal moves into a final showdown against the loser of the A final for the last trials spot.

It means Harrison plays Birt in a Saturday afternoon playoff game with McCarville playing Zacharias – the winners move into a Saturday night ‘A’ final to determine a trials spot.

On the men’s side, Horgan plays Flemming, while Howard plays Gunnlaugson on Saturday afternoon. The winners will meet in a battle for a trials berth on Sunday morning.

Teams already qualified for the Olympic trials on the men’s side include: Matt Dunstone, Mike McEwen, Brendan Bottcher, John Epping, Brad Gushue, Brad Jacobs, and Kevin Koe.

On the women’s side, Kelsey Rocque, Laura Walker, Casey Scheidegger, Kerri Einarson, Tracy Fleury, Rachel Homan and Jennifer Jones have all qualified for Saskatoon.

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