Role Reversal: Kevin and Karrick Martin set for a different Brier adventure

Karrick Martin at the 2015 Canadian Open. (Anil Mungal/Sportsnet photo)

St. John’s – It’s not like there hasn’t been a father and son combo at The Brier before, one playing while the other coaches.

It’s just that this year, the coach in question happens to be one of the greatest skips the game has ever seen, coaching his son as he steps onto Brier ice as a full-time member of an Alberta championship rink.

Standing underneath the stands at Mile One Centre, Kevin and Karrick Martin are still wearing their Alberta colours after taking part in the Ford Hot Shots competition. With a little time to kill before the evening’s player reception, they’re up for a little pre-event conversation, talking about their reverse roles at this Brier; Karrick as player, Kevin as observer. Well, a little more than observer, really. Kevin Martin is coaching his 27-year-old son, a role he’s been taking on, unofficially, his whole life but, officially, for about six weeks now.

“I thought I might as well bring him along to watch since he brought me along to watch,” deadpans Karrick and the two share a good laugh over that.

RELATED: BRIER 2017 – CONTENDERS, CHALLENGERS AND LONG SHOTS

Kevin, of course, went to twelve Briers as Alberta champion and won four of them. Karrick, the lead on Team Bottcher – along with teammates Brad Thiessen (second), Darren Moulding (third) and the skip, Brendan Bottcher – is coming in as a de facto Alberta champ for the first time (he did join his father as an alternate after Martin’s team won the 2013 provincial championship).

That Karrick is making his full-fledged debut at a Brier in Newfoundland & Labrador is something of a delightful coincidence. His name, dad reveals, is “Irish-Gaelic for a strong, rocky place,” adding “that’s pretty cool,” when the connection to this place and time is pointed out. There was no familial tether to the name, the Old Bear says. Just that he and wife Shauna liked the sound of it.

Names were being bandied about because it was just a few days prior to this Brier that Karrick revealed that he and his wife Brittany are expecting their first child, this August.

“Any names being considered?” I ask him as I nod toward his dad.

“Haven’t thought about it at all,” says Karrick, grinning. “Worried about the Brier right now.”

That is the right answer, it turns out. Coach Martin wants his son and his teammates dialed in for what is ahead. They’re a young team and outside of Karrick’s role as an alternate a few years ago, they have no previous experience at nationals. And The Brier is a very different kind of undertaking, especially considering that Team Bottcher won Alberta through that province’s triple-knockout format, playing a grand total of five games. Now comes the grinder of round-robin play, eleven games, and a highly-pressurized chase for a playoff spot against terrific competition.

“Karrick and the team have played in a lot of Grand Slams, which are four day long events,” explains the soon to be Grand-Bear. “This is a little different. Events that are long, they’re different. They’re different in how the rocks react from the start of the week to the end. The ice is different from the start to the end. And just the way you need to rest yourself and get prepared for such a long event.”

Therein lies the advantage Team Bottcher hopes to have over plenty of other first year Brier teams from the past, many of which had to hit the ice without the benefit of the knowledge of someone who’s been there, done that. And done it, and done it, and done it.

Kevin Martin at the 2011 Brier. (Michael Burns/Curling Canada photo)

If Karrick is feeling sentimental or unsettled by the reversal of roles at this Brier, it certainly is not betrayed by his demeanor or his answers. Rather than feeling strange that his dad will be sitting at the team table while he’s out on the ice, he’s insistent. “If anything, it gives the team a bit more confidence having some experience and that’s always good,” he says.

“It doesn’t change anything for me,” he continues. “You just work hard and see how good you can get.” He shrugs. “All you can do.”

For a great part of his own journey through a dozen Briers, Kevin Martin had longtime coach Jules Owchar along for the ride, charting rocks like no one else and endeavouring to keep what can be a complicated game as simple as possible. It’s something that Martin is handing down to Team Bottcher as they map out their own way.

“Jules always said ‘just shoot 90,'” the coach says when asked about the pearls of wisdom he has to impart. “And if you look at the end of the week stats and your team is in the top three in the stats, you will be in the playoffs. There’s no magic. If your team is a top percentage team, you’re not 2 and 9 (wins and losses). If you shoot middle of the pack, you’re not in the playoffs.

“This is real simple stuff. That’s the way this game works at this level.”

It’s a philosophy that Karrick seems to have welcomed wholeheartedly. “I’m just gonna go end by end and try to make both my shots. Shoot a high percentage,” he says.

So it will be a “this shot, this end” kind of mindset that Team Bottcher will take into this Brier, as a way of warding off any jitters or second thoughts about the way a game is unfolding, the way the week is unfolding. Keeping the emotional waters calm will be key for them if they hope to turn their first foray at nationals into a surprise playoff spot. While dad will play an integral role in that process, so will the chip off the ol’ block. Karrick’s been immersed in this atmosphere before, after all.

“I know a couple of our guys are bouncing off the wall coming to their first Brier,” says Karrick. “I’ve been around it so much that for me it’s another event. I’m excited but I’m not quite the same as some of the guys being their first time here.”

Asked what kind of coach his father makes and whether Martin Sr. has any moments of fiery histrionics when he’s trying to get the team’s attention, Karrick slowly shakes his head. “He just tells us and we usually listen.”

“I’m not a very pushy, slam-the-broom-down type of a guy,” Kevin adds.

“The last six weeks he’s been around coaching the team, it’s helping me and it’s helping the team,” Karrick continues. “It shows in the results.”

Those results included climbing the ladder in Alberta, and beating a game veteran Ted Appelman team in the final, a win Kevin Martin called “huge.” Turns out Karrick may have been feeling more pressure in that one than he will this week, given that Brittany had already booked vacation time for this Brier last summer, on the assumption that she and her husband would be here. “If not here, we were going somewhere,” Karrick grins.

So here he is, the son of one of the sport’s living legends, playing for a national championship in a place that is, in a sense, his namesake.

“Oh for sure, it’s awesome,” says dad, letting a little parental pride bubble to the surface.

“Karrick’s been putting a lot of time and effort in the last few years. You try to teach kids that hard work matters and then to actually have it work, that’s a good thing.”

It’s that hard work that has placed the kid on the map, just eleven Alberta Championships behind the old man. Can he see a day when he matches the Old Bear?

“Oh, for sure,” he says, smiling. And dad smiles too.

 

 

 

Brier 2017: Contenders, challengers and long shots

Alberta skip Kevin Koe, third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing and lead Ben Hebert will attempt a repeat at the 2017 Brier. (Curling Canada/Michael Burns photo)

Well, this should be epic.

Really and truly epic. And I’m not even talking about the curling itself. After an absence of 45 years, the Brier is returning to Newfoundland & Labrador. Mile One Centre will be packed for many of the draws, and the home province has a legitimate contender for the crown. No pressure, boys, but after that sensational Scotties final, you’ve got something to live up to.

Here’s my look at how the Brier field shapes up.

CONTENDERS

These are the four teams (in no particular order) I feel are most likely to be in the playoffs when the round-robin is complete.

Can the storybook ending happen? Can Newfoundland & Labrador’s Brad Gushue win his first Brier right in St. John’s as that city plays host to nationals for the first time since 1972? It’s as likely an outcome as any other. Gushue will be fresher than ever before after missing the first half of the season with a hip/groin injury and he dispelled any notion that he’d have trouble shaking off rust when he shot 100% in the final of January’s Canadian Open. During Gushue’s absence, third Mark Nichols jumped in at skip and the team didn’t miss a beat, remaining at the top of the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit standings. In eleven events this season, this team has not missed the playoffs once, winning three finals and losing another two.

Brad Gushue is shooting for his first Brier championship as his home province plays host for the first time since 1972. (Anil Mungal/Sportsnet photo)

Having the luxury of already earning a berth in the Olympic Trials, the defending champions, skipped by Kevin Koe, came into this season with not much to prove or to earn. They’ve fallen out of the top ten on the World Curling Tour’s men’s list (year-to-date standings) and missed the playoffs altogether at the Canada Cup as well as three Grand Slam events, earning a quarter-finals berth at another slam competition, The National. They did win a couple of early events against good fields and also won big at The Skins Game, last month. Koe has shown an ability to turn it on in the midst of a down season or even a down week before, and so it’d be tough to bet against him and his Team Canada running mates doing that again here.

Northern Ontario comes into this Brier with purpose, having failed to nail down an Olympic Trials berth at the Canada Cup, an event for which they’d planned to peak. Even though skip Brad Jacobs and his 2014 Olympic champion team are in pretty good shape, points-wise, when it comes to earning a berth, Jacobs has professed a desire to nab that spot in the easiest way possible and there’s a straight line to those trials, right now, with a Brier win coupled with a podium finish at Worlds. The Canada Cup notwithstanding, this team has enjoyed a pretty good year on the circuit, winning The National, losing to Nik Edin in extra ends at The Masters and finishing in the semi’s at The Canadian Open.

Mike McEwen and BJ Neufeld will attempt to give Manitoba its first Brier championship in six years. (Anil Mungal/Sportsnet photo)

Manitoba, skipped by Mike McEwen, hadn’t had a stellar year up until the Manitoba championship. As one of the teams that had really mastered the art of directional fabric sweeping the previous two years, perhaps there was a needed adjustment period for them after this season’s clamp down on brooms. They missed the playoffs at the Canada Cup and The National, though they did get to the quarter-finals of three slams. At provincials, they seemed to find the range, beating Reid Carruthers in the final and posting a 7 and 1 record. “This is the best we’ve played in a long time,” McEwen told the Winnipeg Sun. Manitoba’s fates can be bolstered by the play of third B.J. Neufeld, who is one of the game’s best clean-up artists when he is on a roll.

CHALLENGERS

British Columbia, skipped by three-time Brier champ John Morris, is the most likely team from this category to leap into a playoff spot if any of the four contenders hit the ditch. Morris and vice Jim Cotter got together again this season and it’s a pairing that has done well in the past, as the two – along with teammates Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky –  surged all the way to the finals of the Olympic Trials in 2013. This same line-up won silver at the 2014 Brier, with Cotter throwing final rocks and that is the modus operandi they’ve been using again this year, with Morris throwing third stones. They’ve won two events this season and made at least the quarter-finals in three Grand Slam events. Not a stretch to say they ought to have been placed in the “contenders” category.

Quebec’s Jean-Michel Ménard and his well-seasoned rink are rarely an easy mark at the Brier and are most always alive for a playoff spot as the proceedings reach midweek. They face the challenge of rising to the occasion after a long layoff between this competition and their own provincials, as usual. They’ve won four of the eight events they’ve played in but missed the playoffs in the other four, those being spiels filled with top drawer teams. A lot hinges on them just getting hot at the right time. Ménard won the whole thing in 2006 and last saw the playoffs in 2014.

This is not the same Ontario team that was perennially placed in the “contenders” category over the years but with skip Glenn Howard and third Rich Hart on the back end, all the right calls will be made and with a young, strong front end they’ll be able to squeeze every inch out of a draw. They made a playoff appearance at the Grand Slam’s Tier 2 Tour Challenge, where they lost the final to Greg Balsdon. At the Masters, they went winless. Scott Howard remains at lead but second David Mathers is new this year, joining a team that went 4 and 7 at last year’s Brier.

Ontario’s Glenn Howard makes his 17th Brier appearance. (Michael Burns/Curling Canada photo)

LONG SHOTS

Jamie Koe’s Northwest Territories team is the same crew that went 3 and 8 at last year’s nationals. Those strong Koe curling blood lines course though the skip’s veins and he always makes you earn it honestly. Brendan Bottcher’s Alberta crew is still rising and while their coach, Kevin Martin, gives them a strategic leg up, it’s still early for a young team that won a jittery Alberta final. This Brier will likely serve as a learning experience. Saskatchewan’s Adam Casey is appearing in his sixth Brier, but his teammates are all rookies. New Brunswick’s Mike Kennedy brings the same squad that went 3 and 8 last year in Ottawa.

Nova Scotia (Jamie Murphy), Prince Edward Island (Eddie MacKenzie), Nunavut (Jim Nix) and Yukon (Craig Kochan) will play the pre-qualifier, with one of them advancing to the main draw.

PREDICTION: Gushue wins over Jacobs. The locals run up and down George Street draped in provincial flags. Not just the locals, actually.

Homan’s bombs help Ontario win 2017 Scotties

Ontario’s Emma Miskew, Rachel Homan, Joanne Courtney and Lisa Weagle celebrate their win at the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. (Andrew Klaver/Curling Canada photo)

Laser focus. Laser shooting.

It seems a bit simplistic to boil such a wild, wonderful game down to just a couple of elements. Nevertheless, the lingering sense that remains after Ontario’s temperamental win over Manitoba at the 2017 Scotties is that of skip Rachel Homan’s steely gaze and sharp shooting.

Capping the night with a short angle runback to score two and and take an 8-6, eleven end win over Michelle Englot’s equally impressive team, Homan was mostly gold on the evening, beginning the night with a remarkable double take out in the second end to score three and then bailing her team out in the tenth with an even more difficult-to-make double, holding Manitoba to a score of two and sending the affair to an extra end.

And no one complained about that, really, outside of, perhaps, the Manitoba fans who’d rather have seen a three come out of nowhere, to give their team the victory.

Ontario’s win at the 2017 Scotties in St. Catharines was a masterpiece of curling, as long as you agree that both the Mona Lisa and anything painted by Jackson Pollock are all masterpieces.

There was more to this game than Homan’s heroics, and the sum of those parts made for a dramatic game with momentum swings galore. Some of those parts were highlight reel material. Some were lowlights and mistakes that meant opportunities squandered. However – as is the case with all sports – even small mistakes in curling often lead to interesting scenarios and in this game, there were many, many of those.

In the fifth, for instance, Ontario lead Lisa Weagle opened with two perfect tick shots, a skill she handles with such outlandish perfection that people often call those kinds of shots a “Weagle.” Ontario’s third, Emma Miskew, flashed a peel shot but then rebounded with a superb come around tap. Homan’s last rock attempt came up way light, after Englot had stuck a perfect come around dead buried in the back four-foot. It was a game like that.

Englot, whose delivery always looks a little shaky, with her slide foot twitching beneath her and her body wobbling ever so slightly almost every time she glides from the hack, nevertheless just makes shots. Just. Makes. Shots. Down by a score of 3-1 and facing four in the rings with her final stone of the third end, she planted one at the top of the button to score one and then sunk stones perfectly in both the fifth and seventh ends to steal two more singles, emerging from the seventh with a 4-3 lead. When her deadly accurate line and weight finally betrayed her in the eighth, it was on two toughies, the second of which Homan tried to replicate in order to score a three-spot, nipping a guard and settling for two.

Team Manitoba skip Michelle Englot in the Gold medal game at the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. (Andrew Klaver/Curling Canada photo)

In an ironic twist, the hard throwing Homan laid in a sublime freeze on the button in the ninth end, forcing Englot to attempt a couple of highly difficult pick shots, neither of which proved successful. It was late in the game, with shots like that forced upon her, that Englot’s shooting percentage started to suffer. Still, with her final rock of the extra end, the 53-year-old Saskatchewan native reverted to form, settling a perfect draw in the back of the four foot, in just the spot third Kate Cameron had pointed to and described as the perfect position. It was, forcing Homan to make the tricky raise take-out on her winning shot.

Speaking of Cameron; What can you say? The 25-year-old Scotties rookie showed off nerves as solid as the stainless steel slider she has attached to the bottom of her throwing broom. A budding superstar, with a hell of a coming out party. They didn’t win on this night but can you not say that you fully expect to see Englot, Cameron, Leslie Wilson and Raunora Westcott at next December’s Olympic Curling trials?

But back to Team Homan, who ultimately owned the night. Miskew, Weagle and Joanne Courtney – who shot 92% and chipped in with her usual tireless and shot altering sweeping – had to rebound from two staggering losses to the same Manitoba team in order to earn the crown.

Homan’s second end score of three was telling. Trailing one-nothing, she had an easy draw for a single and you might have forgiven her and her team for taking the easy route, particularly considering they were up against a rink that had beaten them in both the round-robin and again in a playoff game on Friday night. After sizing it up, Ontario decided to go for it and if that didn’t tell you enough about how Homan was feeling on this night, reading her lips just after she made the shot did.

In 2013, Rachel Homan and her foursome (with Alison Kreviazuk at second instead of Courtney) emerged as a new wave curling team, surprising the field with tons of firepower and some unorthodox strategy. In 2017, there was no such surprise, unless it was the way  the team handled the down-weight game from time to time. “That’s the improvement I’ve seen this season,” said TSN analyst Russ Howard, during the broadcast. “The soft stuff.”

Homan’s freeze in the ninth end is testament to that.

However, all tolled, Ontario’s 8-6 Scotties win was fashioned mostly by those well-known Homan bomb shots. Shots that got them the lead early and then bailed them out with a championship on the line in the tenth.

And one more to win it in the eleventh.

Scotties 2017: Contenders, challengers and long shots

Chelsea Carey’s Alberta crew is aiming for a repeat performance at the 2017 Scotties. (Andrew Klaver/Curling Canada)

The 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts has arrived, with a cluster of contenders looking for the crown in St. Catharines, Ontario. Those contenders include a would-be repeat champion, a skip looking for her third national title, and three veteran skippers who would like their long sought-after first championship.

CONTENDERS

These are the four teams (in no particular order) I feel are most likely to be in the playoffs when the round-robin portion of the Scotties is complete.

The defending champions, Chelsea Carey’s Team Canada rink, have already proven their worth with last year’s run to a championship. It’s true that they are ranked merely 19th in the World Curling Tour’s (WCT) Order of Merit Standings (year-to-date) and have only one win, besting a small field at the Hokkaido Curling classic, in Japan. A less than stellar season includes quarter-final finishes at The Masters and National as well as out-of-the-playoffs finishes at the Canada Cup and the Tour Challenge. In this field, though, a playoff spot should be in the cards and this is a team that should get better as the week goes on.

Ontario, skipped by Rachel Homan, returns to nationals after being shocked at provincials in 2016. Homan has the top-ranked team at this event, sitting third in the WCT year-to-date standings. They have three wins to their credit this season as well as silver medal finishes at the Canada Cup and The Masters. In eight events, they’ve only missed the playoffs once, that being at last month’s Canadian Open. You don’t need me to sell you on this team, though, right? Homan is seeking her third win at The Scotties.

Northern Ontario skip Krista McCarville is looking for more at the 2017 Scotties. (Andrew Klaver/Curling Canada)

Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville is back, looking to improve upon her team’s silver medal from a year ago. Perhaps you could be forgiven for under-rating them last year as McCarville was returning to action after a year away from competitive curling. They flew a little under the radar despite having a pretty impressive season leading up to The Scotties. They’re lightly played this season and have just the one win but this is a team that has the goods. Last year, they were a stealing machine on the way to the final and you can expect them to once again put all kinds of pressure on opponents when they do not have hammer.

Manitoba, skipped by Michelle Englot, is the tenth-ranked team in the WCT’s year-to-date standings. Englot, a seven-time Saskatchewan champion, took over a very good squad when Kristy McDonald decided to step back from the game for at least this season, leaving third Kate Cameron, second Leslie Wilson and lead Raunora Westcott looking for a skipper. Bringing in Englot has paid off and it showed early, as the foursome made the final at the Grand Slam’s Tour Challenge, last November, falling to Val Sweeting. They knocked off Jennifer Jones in the page playoff game at the Manitoba Championship, then defeated Darcy Robertson in the final, after Robertson upset Jones in the semi.

While the above are my four predicted playoff teams, there are a couple of rinks just below that could find their way in should one or more of the contenders falter.

CHALLENGERS

Alberta, skipped by Shannon Kleibrink, is the most dangerous team in this category and you could sure make a case that they ought to have been plopped down with the “contenders.” Kleibrink has been suffering from back troubles and those ailments saw the team call on Heather Nedohin to skip a couple of games at the Alberta Scotties. While Nedohin won those games as a sub, Kleibrink was back to win the page playoff as well as the final and was up to her old tricks in doing so, earning raves for her ability to make something out of nothing when things were looking dire. Nedohin – a Scotties champ in 2012 – will skip some games in St. Catharines and even if Kleibrink was unable to play at all for some reason, this team would chug along just fine. Their second, Sarah Wilkes, is a superstar in the making.

Shannon Kleibrink will try to win her first Scotties in, this, her fifth appearance. (Curling Canada)

British Columbia is skipped by 2009 Scotties silver medallist Marla Mallett, who is appearing in her fourth national championship. Her third, Shannon Aleksic, is appearing in her fifth. They won a tour event back in September, emerging in a field that included Carey, Kleibrink, Sweeting and Kerri Einarson.

LONG SHOTS

Prince Edward Island’s Robyn MacPhee and Quebec’s Eve Bélisle skip teams at the top of this grade. MacPhee is skipping in her first Scotties but has oodles of experience at other positions, with this being her eighth Scotties appearance, overall. Bélisle is skipping at her third Scotties while her third, Lauren Mann, skipped a Quebec team at the 2015 nationals.

Saskatchewan’s Penny Barker came through what most observers have called a down year in that province’s women’s curling scene. Nova Scotia (Mary Mattatall’s crew will be a sentimental favourite – they range in age from 56 – 61) and Newfoundland & Labrador are in this group, while Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and New Brunswick will tangle in the pre-qualifier stage, with one moving on to the main draw.

Prediction: Team Homan gets back to the top of the Canadian curling mountain, with a win over Team Carey in the final.

Grand Slam of Curling: Gushue thrives, Scheidegger arrives at the Canadian Open

Team Gushue salutes the crowd at the Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, SK on January 7, 2017. (Anil Mungal/Sportsnet)

The results of the 2017 Grand Slam of Curling’s Canadian Open gave us both an answer and a question.

The answer: Yes, Brad Gushue is just fine after missing half a season with an injury. The question: Is Casey Scheidegger ready to win an Alberta championship?

GUSHUE PERFECT IN WIN OVER EDIN

Brad Gushue’s 8-3 (seven ends) win over Niklas Edin came with the winning skip firing a perfect 100%, his second such personal score in three games (the other was a paltry (ahem) 92%.

The 36-year-old skip displayed a perfect touch on a tricky draw in the 6th end, scoring three and salting things away as he and his teammates forged a five rock lead.

“Just showing no signs of any kind of weakness,” said analyst Kevin Martin, describing Gushue’s game.

While Gushue was letter perfect in the game, counterpart Niklas Edin wasn’t quite that, although he did make a couple of beautiful last-stone shots in both the third and fifth ends to score singles and keep the proceedings from getting out of hand earlier. However, a miss on a double in the second end opened the door for a Gushue four, and Edin and his mates were chasing the rest of the way.

“I felt really good this week,” Gushue told CBC just after the win. “I didn’t think we’d be back to this point this quick but I knew we’d get back here. I thought it would take a little more time,” he said.

Gushue has never seemed more comfortable with a team than he does right now. He’s never seemed happier on the ice and it comes across in spades during games. Maybe that’s because he’s returned to elite curling with such ease after a frustrating hip and groin injury kept him off the ice for longer than he thought it would. Or maybe it’s because after years of rotating a series of teammates in and out of the line-up, he knows he’s truly hit upon his best chance ever at finally winning a Brier, getting a shot at a World Championship and getting back to an Olympic Games.

“I like our relationship right now,” he said of vice Mark Nichols, during a mid-game interview on CBC. With Nichols – who’d superbly filled in for Gushue as skip while his teammate re-habbed through the beginning of December – and front enders Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker, Gushue seems to have confidence overflowing, with calm communication and reciprocated respect in obvious evidence between he and his teammates.

It’s all boding well for a team that heads for provincials with a backyard national championship on the horizon. 2017 might be their time to climb all the way to the top of the world, and Gushue’s forced vacation might end up being a key component to that possibly happening.

For Gushue, that St. John’s Brier (barring what could only be termed a ridiculously monumental upset at provincials) might be his best shot yet at nabbing the tankard. His half-season rest might prove beneficial at that time.

“I’m gonna be a lot more fresh this spring than I have been the last couple of years,” he told CBC.

“And I’m hungry.”

And already shooting smoothly and surgically, just a couple of events into his season.

Casey Scheidegger throws a stone during the Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, SK on January 5, 2017. (Anil Mungal/Sportsnet)

SCHEIDEGGER’S BREAKTHROUGH SEASON NETS A FIRST SLAM TITLE

Casey Scheidegger’s 5-4 win over Silvana Tirinzoni in the women’s final was helped along by a sub-par performance by Tirinzoni, capped by a light attempt on a draw attempt in the eighth, giving Scheidegger the decisive steal point.

But that tells just part of the story. Scheidegger, herself, shook off whatever nerves may have been present for her and her team – they were playing in their first ever grand slam final – and drew perfectly buried behind a long guard, sitting just biting the four foot, shrinking the scoring zone for Tirinzoni’s final shot.

“I’m in a little bit of shock but we’re thrilled,” she told Sportsnet afterward. “We’ve worked so hard this season. It’s finally like a breakthrough for us.”

Scheidegger’s win could be termed a bit of a surprise, sure. But not a shocker, if you look at the season they’d been having leading up to the competition. They’d previously won three events on tour, defeating both Jennifer Jones and Eve Muirhead in the finals of early season spiels.

In beating Kerri Einarson, Jones and Val Sweeting on the way to the Canadian Open final, Scheidegger and teammates Cary-Anne McTaggart, Jessie Scheidegger and Stephanie Enright showed that they should absolutely be considered legitimate threats at the upcoming Alberta Scotties, in St. Albert. Scheidegger, the 28-year-old skip (29 at the end of January) who won a provincial junior championship in 2009, has made six straight appearances at the Alberta Scotties, making it to the playoffs just once.

However, considering the year they’ve had so far, it seems it’d be unwise to bet against them making a TV appearance at the provincial championship in 2017 (Joan McCusker and I will have the call of both the semi-final and the final, on Sportsnet, on January 29th).

Team Scheidegger’s rise – the skip credits working with national team coach Paul Webster as a key reason for it –  has them in great shape as the provincials come up around the bend. “We always felt like we can compete with these teams and so we’re just kind of now proving it,” said Scheidegger told Sportsnet.

Sweeting and the other contenders in St. Albert now have that to think about.