Sunday, February 27, 2011

Big Comeback by Saskatchewan to Win the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts

As everyone expected, the final was a close one. But Team Canada jumped off to a big lead, scoring three in the first end and led 6-3 after five ends, and Saskatchewan was in trouble for the rest of the first half. Then Saskatchewan scored three themselves in the 6th end to tie the game. Team Canada still had the advantage, having the hammer, but then Saskatchewan stole one in the tenth end to win the tournament.

I'm not sure how well they'll do in the worlds, but they've shown some pretty impressive ability for the past two years, and I expect they'll do quite well.

Side note: in the end the curling percentages were 84% for SK and only 74% for TC. All four Saskatchewan curlers curled over 80% but only Lawes curled over 80% for TC, with the front end curling in the 70s and skip Jennifer Jones curling only 68%.


2011 Scotties Final: Team Canada vs. Saskatchewan: Second half

I love these breaks. I get a chance to get up, walk around, rummage for some food (nice muffins that Ms. Eclectic sent back with me when I returned to Regina from Ontario; also some celery that was surprisingly not moldy).

The differential in curling percentages between the two teams has narrowed considerably. Through the first half, SK curled 85% and TC curled 82%. The TSN announcers all remarked that SK has curled pretty well. But they have also suggested that TC leads more because of good strategies compared with those of SK.

End #6
Askin starts with two near the center line in the rings. Kalenchuk (lead, SK) starts with two corner guards. Guard, peel, etc. TSchneider removes one of the TC rocks and sticks in the rings; Lawes hits it and rolls to the other side.
ARRRGHHH Can we do without the interviews during the end????
SK hits and sticks on the TC shot stone.
ARRRGHHH please make sure you show the shots!!
KSchneider draws around a TC guard, but drifts a bit behind the t-line. Jones tries to follow it and freeze to it, but wrecks on the guard and spins to the centre. So Holland draws another one around the guard, and this one is in front of the t-line for second shot. In response, Jones tries a come-around to the button and drifts to the back four for shot rock. Wow, Jones is on! Holland will try the same path, roughly, to try to tap it back to score three. A really, REALLY tough shot attempted. She makes it to score 3!
Can 6, SK 6
Interestingly both Russ and Linda were talking as if they thought SK should not try that shot...

End #7
SK starts the end with a tight centre guard, and TC comes around it to the top 4'. SK removes that rock, and TC removes the SK rock, but neither managed to roll behind the centre guard. But TSchneider did, leaving SK with a guard and a rock behind it top 8'. Officer peeled the guard but missed the double (as of now, she has the lowest curling percentage on the ice at 77%). SK puts up another guard, which again Officer peels without getting the double. KSchneider replaces the guard, but it's too tight; Lawes runs the guard back, but her rock rolls over as a corner guard, and leaves a SK rock on the corner 12' on the opposite side. KSchneider's second shot is touching the top8', SK sitting 2. Lawes hits the outside SK rock, trying to roll behind the other one, but rolls out. TC is not making the good shots right now.
Holland tries to tap back the SK rock in the top of the rings, but I'm not sure this a good choice since it will leave a double for Jones. Russ and Linda seem to agree with me on this. But the shooter looks as if it rolled out and she jammed the double, leaving a SK rock in the back 4'. Next shot, I'd draw around a guard and force one, but Holland tries to hit and roll; instead, her shooter rolls out, leaving a peel and a blank opportunity for Jones.
Can 6, SK 6

End #8
I'm still shaking my head about the last end. This one opens with a SK centre guard, a TC rock in the rings, SK hit and roll but not behind the guard, TC hit and roll out. Seconds rocks: TSchneider goes around the guard to the back of the button, Officer bumps it back a bit and rolls to the side 8'; hit by TSchneider is open, but TC ignores it and draws behind the centre guard to the top 8'. Brushing error on KSchneider's rock, and she wrecked on the guard, sitting open top 4'. Lawes removes that rock and bumps back another SK rock. Nose hit by KSchneider on shot rock. Another nose hit, this one by Lawes. Going to skip's stones, SK is shot, but TC has two that are really close in the top 8'. Nice hit and roll behind a guard (mostly) by Holland, forcing a draw by Jones to the top of the button with her first stone. Great shot. Holland will try to follow it down and freeze it to force TC to take one point this end, but it's barely a corner freeze, leaving Jones with a bump for two, but ends up taking only one.
Can 7, SK 6

End #9
Rocks rolling into the rings and being removed. A succession of nose hits leaves a TC corner guard. TSchneider nose hits it, too. So Jones asks Officer to draw around it, but she wrecks on the guard, rolling into the rings; TSchneider hits it and rolls, but not behind a guard. Lawes hits and rolls out. KSchneider clears the guard but drifts too far back. As expected, Lawes freezes to that rock. KSchneider misses again in the sense that her second shot was light, ending outside the rings. Jones wrecks on the guards. Holland draws around the guards but is half open. Jones barely peeled it, leaving a draw for one for Holland.
Can 7, SK 7

End #10
With the score tied, TC has the hammer coming home and is in great shape to win the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts, despite not having the higher curling percentage.

SK starts with a long centre guard. TC draws to the top 4'. SK draws to top 12'. Askin flashes on a pick attempt, so the game is afoot. Officer peels the long guard. TSchneider puts up another long guard. Officer peels again. KSchneider replaces the long guard. Lawes peels the guard. KSchneider's next guard attempt is too tight to the rings and the other SK guard, but Lawes misses the double attempt. Time out. The coach wants SK to play a tap up; Amber Holland opts for a come-around. It's shot rock, but it's pretty exposed again, having cleared the guard by at least 8". Jones can hit it and hopes for a roll behind the guards. But she rolls out to the edge of the rings. So with her last rock, Holland will try the draw one more time. Draw to the button and fully guarded. The only shot left for TC is a double raise: SK-TC-SK to leave TC shot for the win. She made the shot but the raised rock rolled out, and Saskatchewan wins the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts.


2011 Scotties Final: Team Canada vs. Saskatchewan: First half

After Alan did so much, presenting ongoing updates and analyses throughout the week, I'll be starting for the final and he'll contribute when he is able.

This should be a good game and a close game. The teams finished at the top after the round robin, and the teams finished 1-2 in curling percentages.

End #1 [Doc]
No messing around, getting a feel for the ice. Both skips put rocks in play. Halfway through, SK has two rocks in the 12' plus one in the 4', and Team Canada [TC] removed the 4' rock and rolled to the button. SK hit and rolled a bit, but then Lawes (vice, TC) hit and rolled behind a TC guard to put some pressure on SK. Kim Schneider (vice, SK) froze to that rock. Lawes tried to follow her down, but rubbed on the guard and is sitting wide open in the 4'. For Holland's first shot, if she doubles off the reds, she'll be sitting 3; nope, overcurled just a bit for a nose hit. Now with her first rock, Jones has a chance for a thin double. She removed one and pushed the other far enough back to be 1st and 2nd shot. Holland tries a freeze/draw but bounces out in the open, leaving Jones a hit for three.
Can 3, SK 0

End #2 [Doc]
I have to agree with Alan about wanting to see the first rocks. I like the current Capital One Aspire ads, but I'd rather see the curling.

I see from the comments that Alan thinks it's over already. hmmm.

As the play unfolds, TC has a bunch of rocks lined up near the centre line, and Tammy Schneider (2nd for SK) wasn't able to remove but one of them. Lawes hit and rolled, but not behind a guard, to sit 3. Kim Schneider curled a very nice, soft-touch double. Lawes hits and rolls the other way. KSchneider splits one of the guards onto the rings to sit 2.

Jones removes one of the SK rocks but also removes a TC rock from the back of the rings. Holland draws in, but is a foot too deep, leaving a nasty possible hit and roll for Jones, but she rolls out of the rings. Holland has a draw to the 8' for two.
Can 3, SK 2
AAA: Hey maybe it is not over!

End #3 [Doc]
How many of you find yourselves reminiscing about Flower Power and The Turtles? I do every time they show that M&M ad.

Great discussions by Linda and Russ! and indeed the split by KSchneider was a terrific shot for SK. Jones opens with a shot to the button, SK with a centre guard, then SK freezes to the TC rock on the button, then TC bumps it a bit. Three rocks in the rings, all with slight separation. TSchneider hits and rolls to the 12' to remove one TC rock. Jill Officer (TC second) tries to freeze but bumps a bit. Nice hit and flop by TSchneider, freezing her shot to another SK rock in the top 4'. Office blasts down the ice but wrecks on the centre guard. Kim Schneider does a nice bump of her own that then removes the only remaining TC rock, leaving SK sitting 3. Lawes tries a double or triple but has only a nose hit. KSchneider removes that TC rock, but rolls over in front of some of her own, leaving a double for Lawes, but she removes only one, and pushes the others a bit. TC is shot rock, but Holland can hit and roll to the other side of the rings and likely force TC to take only one.

Well, she rolls away a bit.... enough that Jones opts to attempt to remove only that one rock and maybe roll behind the other SK rocks, but she rolls the other way. A hit and stick by Holland would force Jones to go for only one, she doesn't stick, but she stays in the rings. Jones draws for one.
Can 4, SK 2
AAA - this is getting interesting. I wanted just to go watch the Oscars!

End #4 [Doc]
Wow! after three ends, SK is out-curling TC 90% - 77%. That one big end was all TC has done to dominate so far.
TC starts this end with a rock in the four-foot and a centre guard from Askin. SK replies with a corner guard but then they go around the TC centre guard. More guards and peel attempts.
My goodness! TSchneider removes a centre guard, and in the process bumps up a SK rock to the button and it curled behind the TC guards. Pretty shot, but TC still has two rocks in the rings and is in good shape to force SK to take one. So Jones puts up another centre guard, and KSchneider removes it and pushes another guard to the side. Lawes draws up to the SK shot rock. Holland asks KSchneider to attempt a raise double, but she misses big. Jones puts up another guard. As the end draws to a close, it looks as if Holland will be lucky to score one. She puts up a long guard to block a double raise takeout, but that leaves a corner in-off. I got the impression from the look on Holland's face that she might not have seen the in-off possibility, but that sure is hard to imagine. Jones raises the corner stone, but with not enough oomph, leaving SK sitting one. Holland throws hers through on the side, happy to take one.
Can 4, SK 3

End #5 [Doc]
SK begins with a centre guard followed by a come-around; TC begins with a rock in the top 4' but Askin [lead, TC] comes up just short of the rings with her second shot. Officer does a nice job of removing a centre guard AND a SK rock in the rings. With her first rock, KSchneider removes one TC stone and pushes the other to the back of the rings; Lawes for TC misses her attempt at a double, removing only one SK rock and flopping to the side. KSchneider hits that rock, but rolls out of the rings, a disappointing shot. So Lawes has an easy hit and stick to lie 2. Holland hits and sticks. Jones hits and sticks. Holland hit but jammed the TC rock on the back one, leaving an open draw for two for Jones.
Can 6, SK 3
AAA: I am pretty sure I am off to red carpet and awards. And it is funny, I have never remotely liked Jones and her team but they sure deserve respect!


Scotties Final

Hey wait did we not just watch these two teams?
And sadly it is true we did. 'The Amazing Race' comes on at 7 and then the Oscars at 8. so I am good for small detail only for a half hour, and of coursethere will be ten minutes of puffery.
Perhaps Doc can signal that he will commit more to coverage.

They Find a Way to Win

This is a phrase that epitomizes dimwitted sports reporting. How on earth did this team manage to win despite their looking so hopeless according to our insightful methods, ask the media?
As Doc points out, for all their early trouble in the tournament, Team Canada use the crazy idea of making better shots more consistently than any other team!
And as TSN pointed out this afternoon the next best shooting team was Saskatchewan!
Such deep mysteries. Such subtle forces at work.

Final End, Bronze Medal Game - Nova Scotia Runs Ontario out of Rocks and wins

After nine ends, Nova Scotia leads 9-5 and has outcurled Ontario 85% to 74%. But those curling percentages don't tell the whole story: The lead for Ontario (Weagle) has curled 92%, but the rest of the team has been in the 60s. In other words, Ontario has lost this game at least as much as Nova Scotia has won it. Nevertheless, I'm not sure I agree with Alan's comment that they don't care as much about this game (but then who knows what's going on in their minds). I can readily imagine they were more pumped for the 3-4 playoff, but I should think this game would also be viewed as significant.

As has happened before, once Ontario gave up a big end, they didn't seem to be able to bounce back. And as both Russ and Linda pointed out throughout the game, Ontario strategies often left much to be explained. Even I, a novice, wondered about some of the calls in the 9th end.

In the 10th end, as expected, Ontario struggles to put up guards and curl around them. Nova Scotia tries to clear them. Eventually, Heather Smith-Dacey knocked out one of the three Ontario rocks in the rings, to run Ontario out of rocks. For some reason, Curlcast awarded Ontario 2 points and posted that Nova Scotia won 9-7. Not that it matters for anything other than gamblers, but is that the way official scores are always reported? Seems odd to me, since the Ontario skip, Homan, could just as easily have thrown another draw and ended up with a score of 9-8. How odd!

I'm happy to watch championship curling, but this ain't it. I'm with Alan on this one: it wouldn't break my heart if they abandon the experiment of having a bronze-medal game.

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Scotties Bronze Medal Match

No commitment from me but here at least let me start.

END #1: Looks like an open first endd is in the cards. NS whiff on a takeout and Ontario with the hammer start to work on the deuce. Ontario go right through the house. We are back to dueling nosehits. Oooppsss! Ontario go for a freeze attempt. A little bump. NS pick the Ontario rock perfectly, leaving their own. Back to nosehits. Ontario blanks.

END #2: TSN is back into bad habits, rejoining the match after a couple of early rocks. But then who is likely to be watching? NS put up a center guard and come around, with Ontario behind them and now angle-frozen. So NS freezes back. Conga line is forming! "That's a great miss" - Ontario wreck on the guard, slide in, and open the center. NS remove the Ontario rock that slid in. Ontario clean up the house, leaving themselves shot behind a degree of cover. "I like it if you make it", says Smith (? - not sure). Risky NS shot works - really fine. Miskew gets shot back but slightly exposed. NS go for another runback - just excellent though the shooter is lost. NS sit one. Ontario freeze bumps too much. Smith removes it and rolls behind a corner guard. Sorry - mind wandered - I got hungry. Homan must draw against three - well, or hit for one.
1-0 Ont

END #3: Back at it again. I think returning to the next end when it is underway is disrespectful to the viewers. TSN evidently disagrees. I have started mostly watching golf so expect far lower quality, and to be honest, if TSN cannot be bothered to shoew us all the play, I have my problems. Returning now, it is a pretty wild house as Ontario angle freeze onto a NS rock behind the button. There is a lot of cover and a lot of backing. NS do not quite freeze to the angle freezer. Homan taps it back and there is a cluster around the button. Smith wrecks on a guard and the complexity is getting crazier. Homan has a debate with her team - she chooses the higher risk and seems to sit three. Dacey is out to 'intervene'. He wants violence ('pounding that rock'); the plan is to give up a steal of one. She is too thin - Ontario steal 2.
3-0 Ont

END #4: Late in the end Miskew makes a really bad miss and NS can put three counters into the house. And they do, with two slightly covered. Homan removess one, missing her double hope. Smith replaces it. Homan removes it but leaves Smith a pretty open hit for four. The shooter rolls away and they take three.

END #5: Homan wrecks on a guard and gives up a steal of one.
4-5 NS

END #6: Ontario miss and take one.

END #7: NS get a draw to the four-foot for two. And make it.
6-4 NS

END #8: Homan saves her one.
6-5 NS

(You may have noticed my attention has drifted. The bronze medal match here is a bit like the proverbial kissing of the sister.)

END #9: NS can hit for six! They hit for three.
9-5 NS

I will leave the tenth end to anyone else who might want to stride in.

I am not sure this will encourage further bronze medal games.


It's Deja Vu All Over Again!

One of the amusing outcomes of the Page playoff system is exactly what we are facing today! The same old same old!
Tonight Canada and Saskatchewan, who met in Page Playoff 1 vs 2 two evening ago are back at it, now for the final.
NS and Ontario, who played yesterday midday in Page Playoff 3 vs 4 are back at it now.
I'm not sure what I make of it; it is amusing, and it is actually almost what one might expect (at least when there is a bronze medal match). Do we get overexposed to the teams?


Who Scheduled The Scotties Final?

Personally I would have been happier with the bronze medal match in the morning and the final in the afternoon (Eastern time). As it stands, this evening's match runs against the Oscars, and this has to REALLY hit the audience numbers, general interest, and the advertising revenue for TSN.
One might argue that we are talking about different audiences but I do not believe that for a second, planted firmly in both potential audiences. I am an enthusiastic curling spectator, and doubt I will watch much of the final except before the Oscars start and during ads in that show.
Hence, I may not be live-blogging.
As for this afternoon, I am in front of the screen, but Martin Kaymer is working his way to #1 in the golf world, and that may attract more than a bronze medal match. I do not think I have ever watched a curling bronze medal match at the Scotties. Has it been possible? (A casual inspection of the 2008 draw schedule shows no such match.) OTOH, in support of watching is that I really liked both these teams this week.


Blog-type Updates

  1. There are daily blog-type updates about Amber Holland's Saskatchewan rink available here. They appear to be written by Jolene Campbell, the team's fifth.
  2. It isn't clear whether Alan or I or neither or both will be posting updates during the two games today. I definitely plan to watch them, but I'm hoping to watch them in the lounge or bar of a Regina curling club, and I'm not sure if I'll have my laptop with me. It would be fun, though, if during the final I could blog about both the game and the crowd reactions.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Variance, Schmariance

To see if my off-handed impression was correct, namely that Saskatchewan had a more variable performance in the round robin than did Team Canada, I entered the team percentage score for each draw into a spreadsheet. Unfortunately, when I try to copy the spreadsheet into Blogger, I lose the formatting.

But here are the results:

Variance Team Canada: 34.854
Variance Saskatchewan: 27.273

The range in performances was from 75 to 89 for Saskatchewan and from 75 to 93 for Team Canada.

It looks as if what I saw as team variance was just a lot more scores in the 70s for Saskatchewan.

And maybe there was more variance in the individual performances on Saskatchewan and that's what stuck in my mind. But I'll leave it to someone else to collect the data and do the stats for that possible hypothesis. The stats are available here.

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Let's Do It All, All Over Again

Canada edged Saskatchewan Friday night to move on to the championship game.

Then Ontario soundly defeated Nova Scotia Saturday morning to win a berth in the semi-final this evening.

Then Saskatchewan beat Ontario in the semi-final Saturday evening to advance to the championship game, to be played Sunday evening.

So here's the setup:
  • 12:30 Sunday (Saskatchewan time!), Ontario and Nova Scotia meet each other again, this time for the bronze medal.
  • 5:30 Sunday (Saskatchewan time), Canada meets Saskatchewan again.
Ontario has beaten Nova Scotia twice so far in the tournament and at every position had higher curling percentages during the round robin. If they can control the downs when they miss a shot and can gain some resilience, they should win the bronze handily. [It turns out Alan was right when he said we'd see Homan again, but I'm not sure he was talking about the bronze medal game.]

The championship game should be very good. Team Canada was pretty consistently good throughout the tournament, but they did lose three games, including one to Saskatchewan. There seems to be a bit more variance in the performance of the Holland rink from Saskatchewan (a testable hypothesis, I guess, but I ain't doing it right now). My impression throughout what I saw of the tournament was that Team Saskatchewan was often brilliant but also had some pretty dismal flat periods. [Update: a test of the hypothesis reveals I'm off base with this supposition.]

Saskatchewan defeated Team Canada in the round robin and forced them to an extra end before losing in the Page 1-2 playoff game. Add to that the fact that after a week visiting home in Ontario, I'm now back in Regina, SK, and I'll pick Saskatchewan to win this year's Scott Tournament of Hearts (though I wouldn't be disappointed to have Jones and the current Team Canada represent Canada once again at the Worlds).


Scotties Semi - Ontario - Saskatchewan

It is starting soon!

END #1
: Saskatchewan has the initial hammer. Ontario go into the house and SK decide to play the cleaning game. Once again we are seeing long misses early. And the normal open-house exchange of rocks. The exchange was made a bit more complicated by an Ontario back-biter but Kim Schneider fixed that handly. Holland blanks as intended.

END #2: Ontario comes into the front four-foot behindtheir guard (SK rock back in the four-foot),center SK guard. SK sits on top of Ont rock. Ont puts a rock angled off that most recent SK rock. SK peels front guard - still these teams are not lacking for aggression! Ont pop up a center guard. SK pop one Ontario rock out of the house. Ont pop an SK rock out. This may well really be fun! Kim Schneider puts a rock in the four-foot but it is open and inviting a nasty double. Which Ontario makes with delight (actually a triple). In the end SK take the one they are forced to take.
1-0 SK

END #3: I missed much of the early action but just saw Ontario remove three front SK rocks. Amd then attention drifted. Sorry!

So at the end of END 4:
3-2 SK

END #5: SK are filling the house behind a little front cover, with the help of at least one ontario small error. Miskew puts a rock on the button in the midst of many SK rocks. SK put a rock up in front of it. Ontario pop it back a bit but it remains live. SK puts a shot rock on the nose of the Ontario rock on the button. Ontario plan a rather nutty runback; it achieves at best a small fraction of its goals, but mostly removes Ontario rocks in the house. SK decide to toss another rock onto the button, as Ontario has a raise still possible. And that is a beauty! This has largely neutralized the Ontario raise. Well, we will see. Homan misses completely and Saskatchewan steal two.
5-2 SK

END #6: Sorry - forced to reboot by the most stupid piece of software on the planet, that seems unable to be updated without a reboot - Acrobat Reader. How does Adobe get away with this crap?
OK where are we? SK have three rocks cuddling the button. Homan going to blast. And she gets one - a very good shot if not a great outcome.
5-3 SK

END #7: Warring still with Adobe (because of curling!) I am still trying to figure out what is going on. SK have two rocks in the house, Ontario two up front. Miskew gets rid of one SK rock in the house. Lots of possibility up front for Ontario. SK put another rock into the back of the four-foot and all the commentary is negative. Ontario do not quite find the pocket created, coming up a little short. Kim Schneider bumps the Ontario rock, but there is still a mix around the four-foot. SK has the counter. Homan moves rocks but not obviously helpfully. SK toss another rock into the four-foot, and nobody seems to feel good about it. And I see why - it gives Homan a pocket for a steal. And she takes the opportunity with a lovely shot. Holland's pick attempt leaves Ontario a steal of one!
5-4 SK

Let me say these have been two really attractive curling matches today.

END #8: OK maybe I have been bad, basically mentally conceding this to SK. But I am back. Let me just say the eighth end is interesting. Shot is SK but there is quite the little army of Ontario rocks around it. Generally the house is open. Kim Schneider cleans up big time leaving one of each team's rock in play in the house.
Exchanges occur. Holland removes all Ontario rocks! Homan clears the house and Holland blanks. What great play!
5-4 SK

END #9: Once again I have been distracted, partly because I think SK have this in the bag. But Homan is making the end really interesting. She has rocks in the fron twelve-foot, and now a guard. SK do a tap to make one of their rocks the counter but things remain interesting. Miskew makes a nice tap-back and Ontario count one. Kim Schneider corrects that, removing all Ontario rocks that mattered. OK except for one, counting, and Ontario add one. Oopps. Schneider leaves Ontario an interesting opportunity. Oh my Homan almost makes it perfect but she rolls just a tad too far. It is still a challenge for Holland. And, as she has so often been, brilliant! Homan misses and leaves an open draw for two, and she makes it.

I hate seeing Ontario dismissed but I also think Saskatchewan deserved the final, even more than that!

We will see Rachel Homan and team again!

Well whoops! It is not over!

End #10 I think as an old coot I was being rational. And we will soon be into rock countdown.
SK win, as I assumed.


A Different Call-Out to TSN

Lest all our posts mentioning TSN in the subject line all be moans and whines and compaints, I want to sing the praises of this year's coverage of the Scotties. I made reference last weekend to waking in heaven and the coverage has close to justified this.
TSN have covered all the draws, given us excellent commentary, and a lot of entertainment. As a retired morning person, I have really benfited from the changes this year.
I don't know whether this was simply a decision by TSN or whether the CCA played a role but I really want to thank whoever caused this year's changes. And may they continue!

Page 3-4 Live-Blog

I am ready and looking forward to it.
Ontario looked amazing early in the tournament, and then a little more fallible; Nova Scotia have had their ups and downs but here they are, and they seem simply to get better and better. These are both good hitting teams with a willingness to be aggressive as well, so it should be fun.
AS TSN introduces the teams the emphasis is suitably on the youth in both squads, and an amusing quotation from Smith to the effect that her team can be fearless because "they don;t know any better", echoing nicely the other side of a comment I cited a few days ago from Russ Howard's coverage, as he made the amusing point that as one ages, one learns about things that can go badly wrong, and this does affect choices.

END #1: Ontario have the initial hammer. NS go into the house and Homan hits and clears the shooter. OK no guards this end! Exchange of nose hits ongoing. Along the way some rocks just go through the house; a useful end to teach some lessons for later. Homan blanks handily.

END #2: A little more action this end, but we are still having some trouble with reading the ice. Ontario have a rock on the front of the button, with a bunch of NS rocks in front. An Ontario shot cleans up the house, though I doubt that was the plan - there was double of just NS rocks available. With the next NS rock they seem to count three. Miskew hits the rock near the button but leaves her shot open. NS get a hit and roll almost under cover on that rock. Miskew's runback clears up the middle, but leaves a NS rock under cover, and it is shot. Smith clears the right side of the house - Homan misses on the other side and leave NS shot behind cover and put a guard in place near the center. Smith is no fool and comes around that center guard, slightly visible. Homan's draw is heavy and NS steal one.
NS 1-0

END #3: NS has a center guard and Ontario badly miss on an attempt to move it. It guards a NS rock on the button. Now NS piles up center guards; but they left the rocks so Kreviazuk could double them and remove all the other bother in the front of the house. Another center guard. Peeled. And another - I love how terse Smith can be - "Another guard". Mind wandered a tad - we now have two open NS rocks behind the T-line and the NS center guard is still there. Miskew is a bit short coming around the center (NS is still shot). Homan does a runback and is now shot (she moves NS rocks only). Smith's runback misses, and Homan has a draw for two. She makes it handily.
2-1 Ont

This is looking to be a very attractive match between two very attractive (in several senses) teams.

END #4
: Ontario center guard, NS come around but a little too deep, and Ontario follow in on top. NS come in nicely onto the button. Ontario runback misses. NS add a third rock to the cluster around the button. Ontario clean up, sit two on the button. NS post a center guard. Ontario are way short on a come-around. NS runback misses. A rock later NS has a rock in the front of the button. which Homan nicely does. Smith picks out one Ontario rock from the button but Ontario still have shot, with a , with a neighboring NS rock. Ontario pick the NS rock. They have two counters in the four-foot. Ontario also have a biter so Smith really cannot blank. She draws to the button perfectly for her one.

END #5: NS centerguard, a bundle of comearounds. Ontario on the button and at the back of the house. NS back of the four-foot with a couple of rocks. Ontario put a rock into the twelve-foot, backed by the NS rocks. NS come into the other side of the house and touch the twelve-foot. These skips are crazy (but fun crazy for me)! Ontario do a plan B tap-back as rocks pile up in the house. Smith guards to shut off access. Miskew peel some of the NS guards and cleans up the front a bit. NS make a nasty miss and simply remove one of their own rocks. Ontario do another plan B tap-back but it leaves them with two rocks in the four-foot backed by NS rocks. Smith plans a very toughdraw to the button. The button is surrounded by Ontario rocks. It is a beauty! Can she ever make shots under pressure! Unfortunately it lets Homan make one of her artillery-fire hits and she does, and Ontario now lies five. What an end! I did feel it was ominous watching all the rocks piling up early. Smith sure tries but Homan now has a draw for five. Linda Moore makes the interesting point that Smith played the kind of end she would play against herself, but perhaps not such an amazing hitter as Homan. Homan makes her five.
7-2 Ontario

This is really too bad. I think the match is over and it was a lot of fun while it lasted.

END #6: OK you all know me; my attention is indeed compromised. there is very minor complication in htis end and Homan is no fool, focusing on removing threatening guards. "We were looking at the out-turn missile there for a while; that could have been dangerous". Russ Howard, reflecting on Homan's consideration on her last rock, and it made me laugh really hard. She did something more rational thanks to advice from Miss Miskew; Smith, meanwhile, decides for higher risk, trying to get two. This is scary! Ahh they backed off and are going for one. They barely make it.
7-3 Ontario.

I know this is inappropriate but given that I already posted regarding Kim Schneider I want to say that Mses. Weagle and Kreviazuk also manage the Euro-weenie glasses nicely.

END #7: Things are going as you might expect. I think we are now in blasting mode. "It's kind of risky; they could be lying three after it. I don't think we need to." And that is Homan the crazy woman! After a certain indecision there is a call to peel. And we get that. Smith's last rock is a disaster and allows Ontario to score two.
9-3 Ontario

END #8: "Kind of what she's hoping for?" I love the mikes on the skips. Homan chooses, conservatively, to peel. As Linda Moore points out, Smith needs dumb choices by Ontario at this point. Homan seems impressively resistant to that, with a six-point lead. Homan's first shot does just what she did not want H- peeled only one guard and left her shooter as one, but a six-point lead is not too troubling. Homan happily leaves a draw or hit for two; Smith takes the draw.
9-5 Ontario.

END #9: Ontario back to peeling a few rocks into this end.
Ontario score four. Handshakes. An utterly diminating oerformce. I will be sorry to miss Heather Smith's team.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Team Canada Wins the Page 1-2 Playoff against Saskatchewan,
but it took them an extra end to do it

Team Canada and Saskatchewan both scored each time they had the hammer in the first half of tonight's game, but Saskatchewan deuced twice and led after five ends 5-2. But then in the second half, Jones's Team Canada scored two in the 6th end with the hammer, stole two in the 7th, and scored 3 in the 9th to go into the final end with a 9-7 lead.

During the first half, the score reflected the curling percentages as Holland's Saskatchewan rink out-curled and out-scored Team Canada. And then the roles were reversed in the second half, with Team Canada out-curling and out-scoring Saskatchewan.

But in the 8th and 10th ends, Saskatchewan scored two, and with their deuce in the 10th end, they tied the match, forcing an eleventh end. It came down to skips' stones, and Amber Holland (who struggled reading the ice, along with her vice, Kim Schneider) underthrew both her shots just a tad, and Jennifer Jones didn't have to throw her last rock to win.

As a result of today's play, Ontario plays Nova Scotia in tomorrow morning's game, and the winner of that one faces Saskatchewan in the afternoon. I'll be traveling during some of the games, but I'm looking forward to watching as much of them as I can.


Plus-Minus Scoring in Curling:
it doesn't mean the same thing as it does in hockey

I hadn't seen plus-minus scoring of individual curlers until quite recently. If you're like me, it made no sense because I was thinking in terms of plus-minus scoring in hockey, where a player's plus-minus rating refers to the number of goals scored by that player's team while s/he is on the ice minus the number of goals scored by the opponents while that player is on the ice.

Well, of course that makes no sense in curling because the players (with only a few exceptions) are on the ice for an entire game.

So what does plus-minus mean in curling? It simply is a measure of the number of times a player out-rates (in terms of individual percentage scoring) their opposite number at the same position but on the opposing team. For example, in Draw 17, Kelly Scott shot 88% and Amber Holland shot only 57%, so Scott got a +1 and Holland a -1 for that draw. Then to get a player's +/- rating for the entire tournament, just add up all the pluses and minuses.

Good curlers will have a plus-minus score that is substantially positive for a tournament. Those who are struggling will have large-ish negative plus-minus ratings.

Quite frankly, the +/- rating doesn't really tell me all that much. I'd rather see either a list of the % individual ratings for all players at a given permission (as is shown here) or, failing that, just tell me where they rank (as I did here).


Scotties 2011 Tiebreaker

And there is only one!

After their start it is impressive that BC is here and still alive. And it is not as if Nova Scotia has had an easy trip getting here.

Sasha Carter, I am sure, has insisted on being part of this match, despite her pregnancy.

END #1: Everybody seemed happy with keeping this end pretty open (I imagine they want their heart rates at a reasonable level even if we viewers like greater stress). On skip stones Scott makes a big miss on a rock Smith had put with BC backing and behind a BC corner guard. BC still lie two, it appears (but plan to measure!). Smith makes one for sure and the measure is underway. And indeed she gets two!
NS 2 - BC 0

END #2: I doubt Smith is instinctively so aggressive, but she chooses on her first second rock to put a guard up in front of her rocks in the house to join the Scott guards flainking it. BC gets a good runback but Nova Scotia still has two in the house and they come around into the house behind a BC rock. A BC runback attempt fails though it does open the center. NS put up a center guard. BC clear the guard and somehow miss hitting anything else. NS put another rock into the house behind cover (on the button). Sorry, had to to the door so missed a couple of shots.
OTOH after Smith's first shot things look much as before. Scott's first rock opens the center abit with little other obvious effect. Smith elects to fill the house with her own rocks and force a single on Scott. This seems to me to be very smart, and so it goes, except Scott wrecks on a guard and Smith steals one.
3-0 NS

END #3: My mind wandered (3-0 scores after two ends do that to me) and I have missed teh development of the wackiest end so far. Schraeder's second shot leaves a housse with the button crowded, two BC and two NS rocks, flanked in front by a BC rock and behind by a NS rock. Smith rather mischievously adds another NS rock to the mix at the button (this is Mark Dacey's wife, the ultimate hitter?).
Scott parks a rock on top of the NS rock on the button and we have an intervention from Mark Dacey. Smith returns the favor. Scott's final shot is a total whiff and Smith steals another one. It seems she does not really need the hammer.
4-0 NS

END #4
: NS steal two more as Scott misses an open draw to the six-foot. One wonders why BC fought so hard to get to this game.

END #5: Nova Scotia try hard to give away points (they whiff a peel, and on another peel leave the shooter out front) but manage to give away only two.
6-2 NS

END #6: Apologies, as my mind wandered.
8-2 NS

My mind may go on vacation.

END #7: Not on vacation yet! Schraeder makes two great shots and NS follows with great responses and then Scott makes a beautiful corner freeze to a protected NS rock. Smith decides she does not mind giving up two but really does not want to yield three so tries to prevent that and guards to push Scott to draw for two. As she does.
8-4 NS

I must say I barely noticed this Nova Scotia rink early in the week but they have really impressed today. Of course the story coming in, losing their skip (Colleen Jones!) to illness, with Smith having to step up as skip, were part of why I was ready to dismiss them.

END #8: Scott leaves Smith a draw for two, and there is no way she is missing today. Well, in fact she does, going long, so NS take only one.
9-4 NS.

END #9: Some pretty big misses by NS have BC lying three as skip rocks start. Smith clears away two of the offenders! (And it not far off clearing them all.) Scott replaces the lost pair with one. Smith removes the one she missed last time. Scott can draw for two to an open house. And does.
9-6 NS

END #10: This should be a running out of rocks countdown but we will see.
BC's third and skip are shooting in the 60%'s and that is certainly no way to win. All of NS are in the 80s. NS show early they can do great picks on guards and move one over. And then BC leave guards that can be doubled, and NS instead jam so there are BC and NS rocks by the center line up front. Carter squeaks into the house by a guard beautifully but it goes a bit deep. NS's next peel is a bit better, removing one guard and pushing the other well off center. BC goes in beside the remaining relevant guard. NS plan to peel it and do, losing the shooter too (as intended). Schraeder puts a rock in the house on the other side. NS starts the countdown but get only one. First BC skip rock comes into the house in the center front twelve-foot. Smith removes it. Last rocks now. Smith will need only an open hit to win. Scott puts another target on the button. OK this has to be a bit of butterflies for Smith - a really easy shot to win! She makes it!

It is a sweet story for this unlikely rink, and a sad one for BC, who fought back so hard from a rotten start here. But that is sports. My wife can barely watch most sporting events because she hates to see people lose.


Another Request for TSN

In the final end when there is time pressure, please keep the ticking clocks visible. They provide very valuable information in understanding what is happening.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Rankings, Going into the Playoffs

Looking at the rankings/ratings of the players as the 2011 Scott playoffs begin, I see that for every single position, Team Canada has the number one ranked player (see this for the full rankings).

Among the teams that qualified for the playoffs, the other striking feature of the player rankings is that for every position, Saskatchewan players are second, and Ontario players are third, with BC and Nova Scotia players ranked below the leaders. If player ratings have any predictive value, they indicate (albeit with considerable imprecision I expect) that Team Canada will win the gold, Saskatchewan will win the silver, and Ontario the bronze. But of course the predictive value has a substantial margin for error (confidence interval in stat-speak). As the saying goes for most sports, "Any given team on any given day...."


A Rude Question

How on earth did the team from Newfoundland/Labrador qualify for the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts? They were clearly outmatched by the rest of the field in ability, and it seems a miracle they won even one game in the tournament. Did they just get lucky in the provincial playdowns, or does NF/L have no one better to challenge them?


Heading Into the Play-offs

After the round robin, the play-offs are set.... mostly.... for the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts. Saskatchewan lost to BC but still finished in first place. The Holland rink from Saskatchewan scored 4 in the 3rd end to lead 5-1, but then Scott stole points in the last five straight ends to win 8-5. Holland curled only 58%, which was reminiscent of some of her play early in the provincial playdowns. Saskatchewan meets Team Canada in the 1-2 playoff, and at least has two shots to get back on track after some seriously lacklustre performances near the end of round robin play.

With the win against Saskatchewan, Kelly Scott's BC rink finishes the round robin with a record of 7-4 and, as a result, qualifies to play in Friday afternoon's tie-break against Nova Scotia, who also finished with a 7-4 record. That was a long, hard comeback for BC both in their last round robin game, and hanging in after getting off to a poor start for the tournament.

Meanwhile, in TSN's featured game, Team Canada under Jones got off to a big start (as Alan posted) when Kleibrink, skip of Alberta, missed several shots early on, and Alberta was unable to recover. The loss eliminated Alberta from the playoffs and guaranteed Team Canada second place in the round robin.

And, finally, Ontario's finish against Quebec was rendered irrelevant by the other outcomes. Since Ontario had defeated both BC and Nova Scotia, even if they lost and finished tied with those teams, Ontario would have finished in third place. But Ontario stole one in the 10th end and defeated Quebec to finish in clear third position with an 8-3 record (the same as Team Canada, but Team Canada has second place, having defeated Ontario in the round robin).

At this point, with the fading and spotty performances of Ontario and Saskatchewan, coupled with the strong performance of Team Canada, both Ms. Eclectic and I tend to agree that Team Canada looks to be in the strongest position, going into the playoffs. At the same time, all the teams in the playoffs are good and could end up on hot streaks: Nova Scotia pulled off some late wins under pressure to qualify, and BC came on with both luck and strength also to qualify. And both Ontario and Saskatchewan have shown considerable ability and dominance at times in the round robin. So even if Team Canada wins (again), it will not be easy for them.


Scotties Draw 17

Two matches matter for what follows. TSN is featuring Canada-Alberta, both looking for playoff spots, and also playing is Saskatchewan-British Columbia, where BC is fighting to stay alive. Saskatchewan is in the Page 1-2 playoff whatever. Oh and Ontario can do well by beating Quebec so this is a highly relevant evening.

Team Canada take two in the first end. In the second, Kleibrink, drawing, comes up way short and allows a steal of two.

I will check back in on occasion but this seems over.

After three ends it is Canada 5-0. Oh dear.

In four, Kleibrink gets two. So I will not quit watching.

Wow - Saskatchewan is up 5-1 over BC. We may well not see Kelly Scott later this week. Meanwhile, Ontario and Quebec are quibbling. 2-1 QC.

Hmm. Maybe I am utterly wrong. At the last shot of the fifth end Jones faces finve Alberta counters. Her brilliant runback lets her team take one.

Sorry I am fading away to sleep. We would be lucky if Doc can at aleast summarize at the ehd or the day/


Scotties Draw 16

We are getting into elimination territory. TSN is featuring Canada versus Nova Scotia, both able to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, with Ontario winning this morning, PEI has lost its shot at the playoffs.
The teams have traded singletons with the hammer for three ends, with skip shots on both sides not quite forcing the single, but the final shot not making the double. Canada, with the initial hammer, is up 2-1.

In the fourth end we now have a NS rock apparently just outside the rings, but, needless almost to say, Jennifer Jones gives it one careful look. In then it does not matter as NS take one to tie it up 2-2.

In the fifth end we have yet another biter that might or might not be in! Canada has put some wonderful rocks also barely into the front of the house behind the cover of a pair of center-line guards. And Nova Scotia has been stripping them and the guards to a degree. Lawes puts a beauty behind cover in the front of the eight-ffot. It is fun watching her banter with Jones - it seems a bit like mother and daughter, and I doubt that Cathy Overton offered Jones that relationship in recent years. Smith comes up short in a freeze attempt. Jones puts another beside it. Smith misses a runback to leave Jones a draw to the house for three. She has now decided to stop missing those hosts and is up 5-2 after five.

In six, a Jones freeze comes up short, letting Smith draw to the button for two. 5-4. This is a better match than I had hoped it would be especially after the fifth end.

Canada blanks seven; meanwhile BC, trying to hang on to a playoff possibility, pulls back into a tie with New brunswick. Eight is blanked too.

In nine we get a conga line of rocks from both teams after a bunch of freezes; it is fun to watch Jill Office bust up such conga lines, as she did here. She leaves a couple in play but the battlefield is cleaner. Amusingly, on skip rocks, Jones invites her coach to the ice by saying "Time, or whatever", which I admit I find an amusing reference to the shifting rules from year to year; it also delighted me as it shows me a sense of humor in Jones, whom I always picture as a sort of corporate lawyer on the ice. Smith's last rock misses an angle freeze, leaving Jones an open hit for four; and she makes it. 9-4. And handshakes.

Both teams remain in the running for the playoffs (or tiebreakers).

TSN switch to the BC match against New Brunswick, in the tenth end at 4-4, and New Brunswick with the hammer. We appear to be on second third rocks (I always love writing that). Heading to skip rocks we have two BC rocks side by side in the front of the button, with a NB rock just behind on the T-line. Scott puts up a center line guard. Kelly clears the guard in a Plan B. Scott makes a shot I do not get, leaving Kelly an open hit for one and the win. Kelly misses enough to allow BC to win and maintain the hope of a playoff or tiebreaker spot.

I note that the arrival of the coaches on the ice is wonderfully described by Linda Moore as an 'intervention'. I love the implications.


If In Doubt, Measure!

At the conclusion of the second end of the match between Nova Scotia and Alberta, there were two rocks that were pretty close, but to nearly everyone's eyes, it looked as if the Alberta (yellow) rock was shot rock. But Nova Scotia wisely asked for a measurement, recalling that BC lost a point earlier in the tournament by misjudging whether a rock was in the rings.

It turned out the measurement showed the Nova Scotia rock was noticeably closer to the pin.

Makes me wonder about the accuracy of the painting of those rings in Charlottetown.


Wednesday: Two Interesting Turn-abouts

Wednesday was a day of two interesting turnabouts at the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts Canadian Women's Curling Championship.

The major turnabout was with the Ontario rink, skipped by Rachel Homan. Ontario lost both its games on Wednesday, dropping a 7-4 decision to Team Canada in the morning and then losing 10-6 to Manitoba in the afternoon. In both these games, Homan curled poorly (only 64% in the morning and 71% in the afternoon) and was clearly struggling, both in terms of shot-making and in terms of her mental outlook. Those losses dropped Ontario's record to 6 wins and 3 losses, putting them in a four-way tie for second place. Ontario looked like a super-dominant team at the Scotties, but their losses on Wednesday dropped them back into the real world of the fallible. How, and whether, they rebound in Thursday's games against NW/YT and Quebec will be very interesting to watch.

The other turnabout on Wednesday involved the two wins by Manitoba, skipped by Cathy Overton-Clapham. Going into the day's action, Manitoba was tied for last place with a pathetic 1-6 record. But they took on two of the leaders on Wednesday and emerged victorious. The entire Manitoba team seemed to curl much better on Wednesday, defeating Ontario 10-6 in the afternoon and capping the day with an emotional win over Team Canada 8-6 in the nightcap. In those two games, Cathy-O curled 88% and 93%, respectively.

It was clear that Manitoba had the support of the crowd, who near the end of the match against the Jennifer Jones rink which had fired her last April, were chanting "Ca-thy O! Ca-thy O!" etc.

The on-ice civility of the Cathy-O and Jones teams (yes I did sneak back now and then to watch a bit of the game) was heart-warming and inspiring. Ms. Eclectic and I differ considerably in our assessments of the situation between those teams, but we were both quite pleased with the politeness and civility that imbues at least the surface in the world of curling.

The loss by Team Canada also dropped them back to a record of 6-3, tied for second place with Ontario, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. And speaking of Nova Scotia, they handed Saskatchewan its only defeat so far, a game in which Amber Holland's rink curled no better than they did in several of their games during the Saskatchewan playdowns. With those four teams tied for second and with BC right behind them at 5-4, today's curling will certainly be fun to watch. Unfortunately because of other plans, I'll likely miss both the afternoon and evening draws.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Scotties Draw 13 - Saskatchewan - Nova Scotia

Again I will be here only glancingly, but you will get results faster it seems than on CurlCast for the few you get!
I note that Doc has a request to TSN, with which I concur. However, I have to confess, that the reason I agree is I want to know each time I return to TSN from some other station the number of rocks available to each team. Now the reason I want this is so that I can go watch something else most of the time (like a crime show) and return opportunistically to TSN and see exactly the state of the match. People who are watching steadily, or at least those with a pretty good memory (and perhaps Doc and I are both past that a bit) have no need of the rock count. Still, I agree, TSN, please keep that rock count up on screen! (Though I know this is more in my interests than that of your advertisers.)
As for the score, after five Nova Scotia are up 4-3 after forcing Saskatchewan to take one in the fifth.
I will be back.

UPDATE: Nova Scotia blank six.

Meanwhile Ontario draw for a single but trail Manitoba 6-4 after six and are clearly continuing to struggle.

The seventh end is almost impossible to describe - I am glad I did not commit myself to it, but with the last couple of shots left we have the wildest conga line of rocks in front of the button. Who knows what will happen? Well, and now one back of the button - Nova Scotia gave Saskatchewan an opportunity. And they sort of take it, an attempt to stifle Smith. After her first shot she has a house full of her rocks but shot is Holland. Holland's last rock leaves Saskatchewan counting one, with a geometry that seems crazy to me. Wonderfully it seems the best Smith-Dacey has is getting one. Russ Howard comments that knowing Mark Dacey (team coach), he is not going for one. I think looking at it the angles are really awful. Holland has created a wonderful problem. Smith-Dacey take one, which seems lucky, but clearly is also a measure of the Saskatchewan rink's skills.

I was worrying about personal stuff and so am now back to an eighth end that is just too hard to describe. Suffice it to say this has NOT been an open end. Nova Scotia seems to have two counting stones in a mess of a house and playing field of guards. Smith-Dacey goes too deep into likely irrelevance. Holland tried for a draw and gives up a steal of two to Nova Scotia! Yikes!

Of course the Saskatchewan motivation is deeply reduced at this point.

Meanwhile Ontario loses, to Manitoba of all teams in this championship!

Saskatchewan take one in nine.

Seems Saskatchewan has quit, as TSN is on another match. I was off working on expedia.

TSN is now on the Alberta - New Brunswick match. It was pretty exciting until New Brunswick missed their survival shot and lost to Alberta.


Quiet Note to TSN

In the past, I've probably whined and complained more than most about the television coverage of the Scott and the Brier and Worlds. So far at the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts, I have only a minor request of TSN:
Is there a chance you could move your second line of information (rocks remaining and time remaining) down below the main line of information and keep it on the screen permanently (or at least show it whenever you show the score, rock colours, etc. in your primarily line of information)? There's no good reason to have that information available only rarely, and having it available all the time would greatly enhance my viewing pleasure.

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The Rest of Today's Games

Amber Holland and her Saskatchewan rink remain undefeated at the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts, soundly (and not unexpectedly) defeating NFL in draw 12. As Alan said, Team Canada dominated Ontario in their game, with Jennifer Jones curling 90% and again Rachel Homan curling only 68%. But the win by Team Canada seemed to involve more than just curling percentages; they just seemed in control of the game almost the entire time.

This afternoon TSNs feature game will be between undefeated Saskatchewan and 4-3 Nova Scotia, skipped by Heather Smith-Dacey, currently in 5th place but looking a bit stronger than a fifth position might otherwise indicate.

This evening will be the match between Team Canada and Manitoba. I will not be watching this game. I don't know why, but I think it will just be the media hype that turns me off. I'll read the summaries and look at the scores on Curlcast now and then, maybe, but I cannot stomach all the attempts to pump up the nature of the controversy (about which I've already written too much, probably).

Ontario-Canada in Draw 12

That is sensibly the featured match on TSN (between the second and third place teams) and it sure has been chippy so far, with a lot of small misses from both teams.
Ontario has a lead of 3-2 at the five-end break, thanks to a steal in the fifth.
Homan, curling at 65%, is clearly making a few errors, and Miskew has a low percentage; Jones' percentage is good but she is making small misses, and her third is leaving her challenging shots so far.

In six, Ontario leaves Canada a draw basically to the house for two. This, after Jill Offcier removed a pile of Ontario rocks from play with her two shots. Jones makes the shot.

In seven, rather than take her one, Homan tries what looks insane to me. Fortunately for her she misdirects her guard. 4-4. (Along the way, Kreviazuk emulated Jill Officer by getting rid of a swarm of Canada rocks; unfortunately for Ontario, they sprouted up again as the end proceeded.)

Meanwhile Saskatchewan win over Newfoundland-Labrador and guarantee themselves a playoff position.

In eight, Ontario misses allow Canada to fill the house and take over the control zone stone by stone. All Homan has left on her last stone (having cleaned up a bit on her first) is more cleanup, which does not go as planned and she leaves Jones a draw to the house for three. Which she of course makes.

I suspect the way Canada has played the last few ends, my attention will drift, as I have a teleconference call I must alos follow.

Assume Canada have pulled up into a second-place tie with Ontario unless otherwise informed.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

All the Good Players Were Already Taken?

In a TSN interview, Cathy-O said that when she started to form her new team, most of the other teams were already set. What does that say about her opinion of her current teammates?

In an interview aired at the same time, Jennifer Jones said "something had to happen".

I'm not surprised.

Holland Defeats Homan in Battle of the Undefeated

At the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts, two teams went into this afternoon's play with 5-0 records: Rachel Homan of Ontario and Amber Holland of Saskatchewan. The rink from Saskatchewan won 8-5, as Ontario resigned after scoring only one in the 9th end.

Things started quite well for the Ontario rink as Saskatchewan blanked the first end and then Ontario stole a point in the second end. But then on a great shot from Homan, following three misses in a row by the Ontario rear end, Saskatchewan scored 3 in the third. They followed by stealing two more in the fourth end for a 5-1 lead, and the momentum was clearly on their side from then on.

The glaring difference between the teams quite clearly was the poor shot-making by Rachel Homan, skip of Ontario. She curled just 68% while every other curler on both teams curled in the 80s or 90s (not counting Sherry Middaugh's two rocks in the ninth end for Ontario, one of which she hogged). From the third end on, Homan seemed down on herself, a bit dis-spirited, and just out of drive and the usual moxie. It will be interesting to see if she bounces back for this evening's game.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Tough times for EclectEcon and Ms. Eclectic

As regular readers may remember, I picked Rachel Homan's Ontario rink to win the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts, and you have to admit they have looked good so far, devastating weak competitors (NL and PEI) and edging good ones (Alberta).

The other team that is doing well so far is Amber Holland's rink from Saskatchewan. Because I'm living in Regina this year and because I followed the provincial playdowns there, and because Ms. Eclectic is originally from Saskatchewan, I am also cheering for that team to win. It's fun to see the two teams I'm cheering for do so well.


Scotties 2011 - Draw 6

TSN have decided to feature Ontario-PEI, though I would rather have seen Alberta-Saskatchewan.
Nonetheless, it is good to see this young Ontario Homan rink. After blanking the first end, they score two in the second end.
Ontario steal one in each of the following two ends. The fourth end finish is remarkable - Gaudet is forced to draw to keep the steal to one!

UPDATE: Four for Homan in the 7th end. I am sure I will not be back to this post! 8-1 Ontario.


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do?

What is the real story about what happened with Team Canada? The announcers during the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts tell us that Cathy Overton-Clapham was cut or was fired. As of this writing, Wikipaedia says it was a team decision:
... the team decided to part ways with third Cathy Overton-Clapham, replacing her with the younger Kaitlyn Lawes in time for the 2010/2011 curling season.
Apparently, Cathy-O was surprised... sort of...
Clapham said in a recent interview that she was blindsided by the team and the team could not look in her eyes to tell her so she knew something similar to this was being stirred up.
I'm not sure what "something similar to this" means (gotta hate those indefinite antecedents!) and there is no reference provided for that statement. According to other reports, Jones wanted to have a younger team (Cathy-O is 41; her replacement, Kaitlyn Lawes, is 22). But that seems like a red herring; I would think that for Jones, performance is much more important than age. I can also imagine, though, that control issues might have been important.

It seemed to me over the past couple of years that the Jennifer Jones - Cathy-O partnership was becoming strained. Cathy-O seemed to disagree more vocally with some of the decisions of Jones, thought the clash (to the extent it existed) was subtle and restrained. I certainly wasn't sure I saw it.

Ms. Eclectic and I have talked about this situation quite a bit over the past couple of days while watching the Scott. She thinks Jones was impolitic at best if indeed Cathy-O was blind-sided. I tend to agree with her, but I'm not sure just what to believe, since Cathy-O's behaviour while on the Jones team seemed less-than-ideal, too.

No matter how you come down on this topic, though, keep in mind that changing team members is something that happens all the time. For example, Kleibrink has a completely new front end after their Olympic appearance of 2006. Kelly Scott has a new lead from her championship team of 2006. Similarly, there have been changes on such men's teams as Martin, Ferbey, Gushue, et al. I expect other teams have gone through similar changes, and when you look at the list of Jones' team members over the years, it doesn't look as if she changes members on a whim:

2008–09 Jennifer Jones Cathy Overton-Clapham Jill Officer Dawn Askin
2009–10 Jennifer Jones Cathy Overton-Clapham Jill Officer Dawn Askin
2010-11 Jennifer Jones Kaitlyn Lawes Jill Officer Dawn Askin

Early on, there were some questions raised in curling circles about their dropping Cathy Gauthier at the end of the 2005 season, and then the removal of Dana Allerton in the middle of the 2006-7 season.

Is it something about Jones that makes these team changes that arouses such media interest (including ours), or it news because she is the skip of Team Canada? I suspect a bit of both.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Have I Just Wakened in Heaven?

The Scotties Tournament of Hearts is underway and TSN (the generic TSN encompassing TSN2) is apparently broadcasting three draws each day!
Faithful readers will know Doc and I have whined and moaned about the lack of coverage of morning draws in the past.
This morning I watched a wonderful battle between the Manitoba rink of Cathy Overton and the BC rink of Kelly Scott. Overton seemed in command of the match but then lost control of the ninth end and gave up a steal of three, which pretty much ended a very tightly fought match.
Now we are treated to Saskatchewan's Amber Holland rink against the seemingly perpetual Team Canada rink of Jennifer Jones.
Saskatchewan steal one in the first end. I'll be back with occasional updates.

END #2
: There seems to be some difficulty with the reading of the ice. Both thirds make awful shots. Saskatchewan leaves Jones facing four for her final shot and force her to draw, as accurately as one would expect, for one.

I am sure this is inappropriate but Kim Schneider and Amber Holland have me thinking about glasses. Holland's three-quarter rimless look pretty good. And I normally cannot stand the sight of what I consider those Euro-weenie narrow glasses, but Kim Schneider seems to me the ultimate model for them.
Curling is such a slow game that the broadcasters end up wandering frequently into inanity; the Saskatchewan team's commitment to a prescribed nutritional program really sent them off; Linda Moore even assured us you should not eat protein within three hours before a match. I am pretty sure nobody really KNOWS that.

END #3: This was one insane roller-coaster. Early Saskatchewan looked in really bad trouble, with the house filling with Canada rocks behind cover. A couple of shots later the cover is all gone (some removed by Canada!) and Saskatchewan is looking pretty good for two. We are now on skip stones. Holland wrecks on one of her own rocks, going after a Jones rock that came up pretty short. Jones misses on her last shot, leaving a nice doubling angle on her two counting rocks; Holland takes advantage and gets her two.

Meanwhile BC is up 2-1 over Alberta after three; it seems Scott is in yet another mortal embrace like this morning's.

END #4: That Holland rink is fun to watch; they are so aggressive, and it marries beautifully to Jones' aggression. It makes for a wildly up and down match, especially with two skips having trouble getting the ice right. Jones' first rock wrecks on a guard, and then slides to the button under some cover - I might regard this as a miracle if I had not just seen Suzanne Gaudet have the same experience drawing against five against Quebec a few minutes ago. Holland removes the Jones rock (so not THAT much cover). Jones needs now to draw for one. And is WAY light - two more for Saskatchewan! now ahead 5-1.

I might now become less assiduous in updating. (And in the deadly embrace, Alberta - Kleibrink - take two and go ahead now by one - Maybe TSN could switch over to that match.)

END #5
: Talk about roller-coaster - at one point I thought Jones was in line to score three, in an end featuring mostly badly missed shots, which would almost make a battle out of it. In the end she was forced to draw to the house against what might have been two Saskatchewan biters. She hit the button (no mean feat so far in this draw).

END #6
: In yet another insane roller-coaster, Holland takes one to lead 6-2. The great thing about the Jones rink historically is that they can wriggle out of disasters in ways I have rarely seen with any other rink. So one cannot let up.

END #7: Jones is once again forced to take one. There were some improbably bad shots again, and an improbably good one by Kim Schneider, which provoked an entertaining discussion from Russ Howard on how fearless her shot was, and how hard it is to be that fearless as you age and become more aware of all the ways things can go wrong. It was actually quite brilliant.

END #8: Some pretty good shotmaking by the skips in the end, but Saskatchewan score three, and Jones throws in the towel, or the handshakes. I would not be surprised to be watching these two teams next Sunday again.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Slightly Short is a Great Miss

We are quoting Russ Howard in the fifth end of the first draw at the Scotties, New Brunswick versus Prince Edward Island.
I love both rinks. The first time I decided to watch a Scotties draw Gaudet was the star of the morning. The first Scotties I covered as media was Andrea Kelly's first year there and both are fearless.
PEI went up 3-0 in the first end and my attention wandered (there was the simultaneous problem of Milos Raonic trying to make the final at an ATP tournament). I actually quit but now to my amazement Kelly leads by two after five ends, having stolen two in the fifth end.

UPDATE #1: Not surprisingly, New Brunswick has less of an interest in complicated houses. In the sixth end GaudetBirt misses badly on an attempt to take one, giving New Brunswick a steal of two, so it is 8-4.

I am likely not to report further on this match.

UPDATE #2: I did go back to watch and saw mostly misses by both teams in the sixth end. It is now 8-6 New Brunswick but this is not a pretty story for either of those teams.

UPDATE #3: Well, New Brunswick gets a a win but it was sure not a tribute to either team. Let's hope we see more auspicious pplay tonight.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Line-up for the 2011 Scott Tournament of Hearts

There is a good summary of the lineup, including references to all the teams' prior accomplishments, at this site. As a summary, here is a list of the teams that will be competing next week:
  • Territories/Yukon: Kerry Koe Galusha
  • BC: Kelly Scott
  • Alberta: Shannon Kleibrink
  • Saskatchewan: Amber Holland
  • Manitoba: Cathy Overton-Clapham
  • Ontario: Rachel Homan
  • Quebec: Marie-France Larouche
  • New Brunswick: Andrea Kelly
  • Nova Scotia: Heather Smith-Dacey
  • PEI: Suzanne Gaudet Birt
  • Newfoundland: Stacie Devereaux
  • Canada: Jennifer Jones
Even though there is a lot of experience in the field, there are no outstandingly strong teams that look as if they will dominate the tournament.
  • Jennifer Jones could repeat, but she did not look great at the worlds last year, and it will be interesting to see how she does without Cathy O as vice-skip.
  • And, of course, it will be fun to see Cathy O skipping on her own.
  • Kelly Scott is usually a strong contender and will likely be in the play-offs again this year.
  • Shannon Kleibrink, with a new front end after the 2006 Olympics, finished well in the Alberta championships this year.
  • But my money is on the young upstarts from Ontario, who were world junior champions last year [correction: as Mark reminds me in the comments, they were silver medalists]. Rachel Homan and her rink took people a bit by surprise in the Ontario playdowns and could well, despite their youth (or maybe because of it) surprise even more people by finishing well at the Scott.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

And It's Martin out of Alberta!

7-4 over Koe.

Ontario Playdown Final - Scores

Rogers and Cogeco have been kind.

End #1
: With Balsdon's rink missing a couple of shots, Howard scores 3, having had 3 scorers from about the middle of the end.

3-0 Howard
(Meanwhile we find out it is Martin vs. Koe to get out of Alberta. Surprise!)

END #2: Balsdon misses a freeze to one of two unguarded Howard rocks in the house. Hart clears it. A second try also bounces off, with some hope of a Howard jam. No such luck, as that rock gets picked. Next Balsdon rock removes one of the Howard rocks and rolls beside the other. Howard nose-hits it, leaving Balsdon the choice between a double to blank (somewhat risky) and the draw; he chooses the latter.

3-1 Howard

END #3
: After letting the house get a bit scary, Balsdon gets a nice clean-up shot to lie three. (I notice the Cogeco announcers seem to get very confused remarkably often about who has the hammer.) After an exchange of hits, Hart misses a double attempt (gets one though). Sorry, lost my attention. Howard is forced to draw for 1.

4-1 Howard

END #4: Balsdon moving from centre guards to corner guards (sort of). Guards up on each side, Howard with a rock behind one and anotnher on the button. Howard doubles away the guards, and clears the shooter. Balsdon comes around the Howard rock in the front 12-foot. Howard hits his rock and clears the Balsdon rock. Balsdon's freeze attempt slides by the rock on the button. Hart clears it away (a VERY good touch shot). Balsdon is now looking at four Howard rocks. Another freeze attempt misses. Hart misses an attempt to remove the Balsdon rock, moves his own off the button. Balsdon hits and sticks to one Howard rock. Howard now looks at doubling. gets one. Balsdon's remaining rock is shot. Balsdon tries to come around the Howard rock out front and does not curl enough. Howard looks at another double. And makes it! Balsdon draws for his one.

4-2 Howard

END #5
: (Marilyn Bodogh seems to think half of ten is four.) Balsdon back to a centre guard, Howard goes in behind it, and Balsdon goes in almost behind Howard (Howard rock is in the front 8-foot, Balsdon's back four). Howard misses an attempt to remove it, and buries Balsdon's rock in the back eight-foot. I note Howard appears still to be fighting a cold. Balsdon now comes into the front 12-foot behind the front guard. Howard peels the front guard. Balsdon replaces, Howard peels. Another guard. Howard deviates now, and Hart puts a beautiful shot on the button, just missing both the Balsdon rocks out front. Balsdon puts a rock in the front eight, just in front of (offset) Howard's front rock. Hart punches it out and rolls over to a nose freeze in front of that Howard rock. Balsdon puts another rock beside the one he has in the front twelve. Howard puts another rock in the four-foot, now counting three. Balsdon decides on a high-risk attempt at a triple (well at least getting them out of the middle), and asks "Can you throw for me?" He does move them to where they are biting the eight-foot. If Howard can remove Balsdon's rock in the eight, now counting third (though Howard thinks maybe fourth), he could score five. He would rather just add another rock to the mix and let the counting start. At least three. Looks like three to me. Out comes the measuring device. A four goes up

8-2 Howard

You can assume I won't be back barring some amazing events.

OK back just to report that they shook hands at the end of eight ends (I believe as early as possible), which made Marilyn Bodogh's comment at the end of the fourth end that we were at the halfway point correct. Rather than being worthy of my snark above, she deserves praise for prognostication.


Ontario Playdown Final

Well, after that bunched up finish in the round robin we have basically had three blowouts to get to Howard vs. Balsdon in the final.
My listings say it will be televised live, but then they said the same thing about this morning's semi-final, and only the last half or so appeared.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ontario Tankard Update

I actually watched bits of the Howard-Epping match finishing the round-robin last night, and, yes, even on tape delay.
It was quite interesting; I watched the seventh end, where Epping's rink, ahead by one, stole one, with what seemed to me eight perfect shots. I think the Howard rink missed one shot.
I came back for the tenth end, with the score at 5-5 and Epping with the hammer. Epping's rink had an early pick, but the Howard rink really did not take as much advantage as I would have expected. Howard could have had a steal but his last rock was a little heavy; Epping's final rock then seemed a bit heavy and not to be curling but finally became shot by a small margin, giving Epping's rink the win.
As a result Howard and Corner finished the round-robin at 8-2, and Balsdon and Epping at 7-3. This is rather a different profile from what I recall in plast Tankards, where the Howard rink has dominated more, a point Paul Savage particularly made on Cogeco TV at the end of the match.
So Howard and Corner meet in the first Page this afternoon, and Balsdon and Epping in the second this evening. It appears that London's local Rogers station will broadcast both matches live!
I plan to be there!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Is With All the Early Resignations?

As I intermittently follow the scores of the provincial curling championships in Ontario and Alberta, I am struck by the inordinately large number of early resignations.

Why do teams resign so early? Is it to save their own energy for later games? Is it to avoid the extreme embarrassment of even larger trouncings? Is it to let the victors rest a bit more in preparation for later matches?

This may be short-sighted of me, but if I were losing big-time to one of the top-seeded teams, I'd want to keep playing. I'd want the extra experience and the additional challenge. I guess it doesn't work that way in provincial championships, though.


Alberta: The times, they are a-changin'

Randy Ferbey is leaving the Brad Gushue rink to return to Alberta, curling with former teammate David Nedohin but with a new front end. And Cheryl Bernard has announced that her team will break up after the season is over.

In Ferbey's case, it appeared to have been conflict that led to the split:

“I’m done with them as of Oshawa,” he said of the last tour event a week ago.

“For me, I was done with them after Oshawa. For them, if you read between the lines, it was before. They quit on me."

But in Bernard's case, it appears to have possibly been more of a mutual decision:

Bernard ... spoke of wanting to go out on top and not dragging her team through to a fractured end where it was just going through the motions.

“I didn’t want it to be a like an old married couple where there’s no spark,” the Calgary skip said. “If we thought we could bottle and keep what we had for four more years, we might stay together. But I think we’re all in different places right now.”

Addendum: Even if Ferbey is right, that certainly wasn't a very politic thing for him to have said.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ontario Tankard and Alberta

I want to second both of Doc's recent points.
The Rogers coverage of the Ontario Tankard is an extreme disappointment; so far the only draws I am seeing televised are the last ones of the day, and they are on tape delay (and I never watch tape delay, except at fast forward very occasionally). We have had better coverage in past years; is it so hard to get a broadcast team to Grimsby?
And yeah, Alberta is a rough playdown. That is a main reason the Brier can hardly be regarded as a totally high-class event. Weak teams from weak provinces get there while great teams from strong provinces watch it on TV from home. The provincial aspect is a nice conceit, but seriously compromises the event's quality as a competition.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

But the Curling I REALLY Wish Were Being Televised....

is the Alberta provincial championships, beginning tomorrow. Wow! Look at the talent that must fight it out there:
  • Kevin Koe, last year's champion
  • Kevin Martin, last year's Olympic gold medalist
  • Randy Ferbey, past champion (who also curls with Brad Gushue in other events)
  • Don Walchuk (with Don Bartlett at lead), both well-known and well-regarded curlers.
Those are just four of the teams that will be vying for the championship and the right to go to The Brier in March.

The tournament is an elimination-style tournament, which is quite different from those we see in most other provincial championships. For details, see this.

Geez, if someone knows how to watch this over the internet, please, please let us know!


Disappointing Coverage of the Ontario Tankard

As regular readers of this blog know, the Saskatchewan Curling Association did a fairly decent job of making it possible for fans to follow events at their provincial championships in the past few weeks. They provided webcasts, and they had reasonably up-to-the-hour results for each of the sheets of ice for each draw.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see such fan-friendly treatment by the Ontario Curling Association. I'm not on Rogers or Comcast, so I am unable to see any of the televised draws (wouldn't you think that Rogers or Comcast would make their telecasts available over the internet?). And the OCA website is just plain lame. How about putting a heading-link for "results"?

However, I did manage to find this site which has some links to current information about what is happening at the Ontario Tankard. And finally, from that site, after much search, I located this site, which does, in fact, provide up-to-date scores for each end on each sheet of ice.

Holy Crow! Now that I've been there I see that Howard scored SEVEN in the 3rd end against Higgs to lead that game 11-2, at which point Higgs resigned. Sure would like to know the details of THAT game!