Brad Gushue’s dream of playing in a hometown Tim Hortons Brier will come true on March 4, while the field for the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is nearly complete.
That’s the result of a series of provincial men’s and women’s curling championships that concluded on Sunday across the country.
Gushue’s St. John’s team — vice-skip Mark Nichols, second [PEI native] Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker — captured its provincial title on Saturday night and will be an overwhelming hometown favourite when the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier kicks off on March 4 at Mile One Centre in St. John’s — the first time the Canadian men’s championship has been played in St. John’s since 1972.
Meanwhile, the story of the provincial Scotties playdowns was arguably more about the team that didn’t qualify — five-time Canadian champ Jennifer Jones — than who did.
Jones was knocked out of a playoff game in the Manitoba championship for the first time since 2004. Her team lost to Darcy Robertson in the semifinal at the Charleswood Curling Club.
Robertson would go on to lose 8-6 to Michelle Englot in the final later Sunday. It was Englot’s first Manitoba title after skipping Saskatchewan in seven trips to the Scotties. Englot’s team is rounded out by vice-skip Kate Cameron, second Leslie Wilson-Westcott and lead Raunora Westcott.
Another familiar face is coming back to the Scotties representing Alberta after a lengthy absence. 2006 Olympic bronze-medallist Shannon Kleibrink and her team from Okotoks — third Lisa Eyamie, second Sarah Wilkes and lead Alyson Thiessen — stole one in the sixth end and two more in the seventh for a 6-4 win over Edmonton’s Val Sweeting. Kleibrink, the 2008 Scotties runner-up to Jones, is making her fifth trip to the Scotties, and first since 2011.
Here’s a look at how the fields are shaping up for the 2017 Scotties, Feb. 18-26 in St. Catharines, Ont., and the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier, March 4-12 in St. John’s, where they will join the two Team Canada squads from Calgary, skipped by Chelsea Carey at the Scotties and Kevin Koe at the Tim Hortons Brier.
- British Columbia — Marla Mallett from the Golden Ears club in Maple Ridge won the B.C. Scotties on Jan. 22, beating former teammate Diane Gushulak in the final. It will be Mallett’s fourth Scotties appearance, and her first since losing the 2009 final to Jennifer Jones at Victoria. Mallett will be joined in St. Catherine by vice-skip Shannon Aleksic, second Brett Richards, lead Blaine De Jager, alternate Kristen Recksiedler and coach Gerry Richard.
- Saskatchewan — Penny Barker’s team from Moose Jaw went the tiebreaker route to a first provincial title for all four players. Barker, third Deanna Doig, second Lorraine Schneider, lead Danielle Sicinski and coach Merv Fonger won its final five games to book its trip to St. Catharines, capping the run with a 10-7 win over North Battleford’s Robyn Silvernagle in the final.
- Ontario — Play in the Ontario Scotties, which is being held in conjunction with the Ontario men’s championship, begins on Monday in Cobourg.
- Northern Ontario — Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville will be looking to improve on the silver medal she won a year ago in Grande Prairie, Alta., where she lost the final to Calgary’s Chelsea Carey. McCarville, who prevailed over Tracy Fleury in the Northern Ontario final, has the same lineup as last season — third Kendra Lilly, second Ashley Sippala, lead Sarah Potts, alternate Oye-Sem Won Briand and coach Lorraine Lang.
- Quebec — Eve Bélisle’s team from Mount Royal knocked off defending champ Marie-France Larouche in the final game. Bélisle, backed up by third Lauren Mann, second Trish Hill, lead Brittany O’Rourke, alternate Pamela Nugent and coach Jeff Wilson, will be skipping in her third Scotties, and first since 2010.
- Nova Scotia — A steal of five in the seventh end propelled Mary Mattatall to her sixth Nova Scotia championship, and her first since 2005. Mattatall was a 10-4 winner over defending champ Jill Brothers in an all-Halifax final. Her team is rounded out by third Andrea Saulnier, second Jill Alcoe-Holland and lead Marg Sutcliffe.
- New Brunswick — 1998 world junior champion Melissa Adams captured her first New Brunswick women’s title on Sunday, a 9-6 triumph over Sarah Malais of Saint John. Adams scored four in the sixth end to take control of the game. She’ll head to St. Catharines with vice-skip Jennifer Armstrong, second Cathlia Ward and lead Katie Forward.
- Prince Edward Island — Robyn MacPhee is headed to her eighth Scotties, but just her second as a skip, after winning the provincial title in Summerside. MacPhee, with vice-skip Sarah Fullerton, second Meaghan Hughes, lead Michelle McQuaid, alternate (and older sister) Rebecca Jean MacDonald and coach Les Rogers, beat Veronica Smith in the title game.
- Newfoundland/Labrador — Stacie Curtis’s team successfully defended its title on Saturday night in its hometown of St. John’s. Curtis was an 8-4 winner over Shelley Hardy in the title game. The Curtis lineup is rounded out by third Erin Porter, second Julie Devereaux and lead Erica Trickett.
- Northwest Territories — Kerry Galusha’s team from Yellowknife is back for another crack at the pre-qualifying round after falling just short of qualifying for the main field a year ago in Grande Prairie. Galusha is backed up by third Meagan Koehler, second Danielle Derry, lead Sharon Cormier, alternate Shona Barbour and coach John Epping.
- Yukon — Sarah Koltun will be making her third Scotties appearance, and first since 2015 at Moose Jaw, Sask. Koltun’s team from Whitehorse — third Chelsea Duncan, second Patty Wallingham, lead Jenna Duncan, alternate Helen Strong and coach Bill Tschirhart — will be in the pre-qualifying round. Koltun holds the record for most appearances at the Canadian Junior Women’s Championship, with eight.
- Nunavut — Geneva Chislett’s team from Iqaluit is back at the Scotties after the territory made its debut last year in Grande Prairie. It didn’t take long for Chislett to make history as she skipped Nunavut to an 8-7 win over B.C. in its opening game of the pre-qualifying round, but she lost her next two and didn’t make it into the main field. Chislett’s team is rounded out by third Denise Hutchings, second Robyn Mackey, lead Jenine Bodner, alternate Sadie Pinksen and coach Donalda Mattie.
- British Columbia — The belairdirect B.C. Men’s Curling Championship begins Feb. 8 at the Abbotsford Curling Club.
- Alberta — The 2017 Boston Pizza Cup Alberta men’s championship gets underway on Feb. 8 in Westlock.
- Saskatchewan — Play begins Wednesday in the 2017 SaskTel Tankard in Tisdale.
- Manitoba — The 2017 Viterra Championship men’s provincials will kick off on Feb. 8 in Portage la Prairie.
- Ontario — The 2017 Recharge With Milk Tankard is underway in Cobourg, running in conjunction with the Ontario Scotties.
Northern Ontario — 2014 Olympic champ Brad Jacobs headlines the field for the Travelers Northern Ontario men’s championship, which begins Feb. 8 in Thunder Bay.
- Quebec — Jean-Michel Ménard won his 11th provincial title, and ninth as a skip, in dramatic fashion on Jan. 15. On the brink of elimination, Ménard’s team from Lévis rattled off seven straight victories, capped by a win over Martin Ferland in the final. Ménard, the 2006 Brier champ, will be backed up by third Martin Crête, second Éric Sylvain, lead Philippe Ménard, alternate Pierre Charette and coach Robert Ménard.
- Nova Scotia — Jamie Murphy won his fourth Nova Scotia Deloitte Tankard title, and defended his title in the process on Sunday in his hometown of Halifax. Murphy scored two in an extra end to beat Dartmouth’s Stu Thompson 9-7. Murphy, third Jordan Pinder, second Scott Saccary and lead Philip Crowell will be in the pre-qualifying round in St. John’s.
- New Brunswick — The 2017 Pepsi Tankard runs Feb. 8-12 in Saint John.
- Prince Edward Island — Eddie MacKenzie claimed his fifth P.E.I. men’s title on Jan. 22, beating Phil Gorveatt 8-2 in the title game. The MacKenzie squad added Gorveatt as its alternate; he joins third Sean Ledgerwood, second Matthew Nabuurs, lead Robbie Doherty and coach Al Ledgerwood on a team that will be in the pre-qualifying round.
- Newfoundland/Labrador — Gushue capped his undefeated run on Saturday night with a 6-2 win over Adam Boland; his first assignment at the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier will be in the opening draw against Alberta.
- Northwest Territories — Jamie Koe’s Yellowknife team was perfect in the Northwest Territories championship to earn a trip to St. John’s, giving Koe an 11th Brier Purple Heart. Koe’s team features Chris Schille at third, Brad Chorostkowski at second, lead Rob Borden, alternate Greg Skauge and coach Terry Shea.
- Yukon — Whitehorse’s Craig Kochan, an Ontario transplant, earned his first Brier Purple Heart by beating a former world champ, Brent Pierce, in the process. Kochan, backed up by third (and last-rock thrower) Jon Solberg, second Ray Mikkelsen and lead Darrin Fredericksen, won the Yukon title with a 7-6 win on Jan. 26. Alternate Wade Scoffin and coach Larry Snow round out the team, which will be in the pre-qualifying round.
- Nunavut — Jim Nix, a Nova Scotia import, will guide the Nunavut team in St. John’s, looking to get out of the pre-qualifying round. His team is rounded out by third Edmund MacDonald, second Greg Howard, lead Darryl McGrath, alternate Howard Rick and coach Donalda Mattie.
To purchase tickets for the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, go to: www.curling.ca/2017scotties/tickets/
For tickets to the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier, go to www.curling.ca/2017brier/tickets/