Curling Tour Expansion

wctlogo-2It’s the start of another Olympic cycle and more often a countries’ qualifying process is tied to the point team earn on the World Curling Tour.  The Order Of Merit is the points scheme by which international teams are compared against each other.  Maybe more importantly are the emerging regional tours.  As an example this weeks event, the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard is both a WCT and Ontario Curling Tour event.  The teams range from Olympians like Brad Jacobs and Niklas Edin to “been knocking of the door for awhile” teams like Greg Balsdon and Wayne Tuck to the “new teams this Olympic cycle with experienced players” like Reid Carruthers and Adam Casey.  Finally, now that I’m writing this from a USA Curling perspective, the Americans.

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WCT – Olympic Watch – Week 8

The final event of week 8 will finish on Monday, I thought I’d take the time to highlight some of the activity around the men’s Potential Olympic teams.  So far, only four teams have been announced for the team that are in the Olympics; Rasmus Stjerne (DEN), David Murdoch (GBR/sco)(this team is listed as Tom Brewster at www.worldcurl.com), Niklas Edin (SWE) and Sven Michel (SUI).

An Olympic preview saw the Dane Stjerne, 4-0 through is round robin pool, lose to the Swiss team of Sven Michel, who was 3-1 in the round robin, 6-5 in the Round of 16 at the Swiss Cup Basel.

Murdoch & Brewster also went through the pool play 4-0 only to face countryman Logan Gray in the quarter-final. Gray came out on top 5-4 in an extra end also at the Swiss Cup Basel.

Edin took the week off.

Other countries that have qualified directly for the Olympics, RUS, CAN, NOR and CHN have various methods to selecting the team that will play.

It is expected that Ulsrud will represent Norway.  He won the Swiss Cup Basel with 8 straight wins and an 8.98 PF/G and 4.24 PA/G.

Russia has two team touring this year, Andrey Drozdov and Evgeniy Arkhipov.  Both competed in the Swiss Cup Basel and  both went 3-1 in the round robin and both lost in the round of 16.

China could be a wild card.  Rui Liu has the veteran team but two other teams have shown up at the WCT events this season, Dejia Zou and Fengchun Wang.  Interesting that Fengchun “Charlie” Wang has shown up as it was understood he was retired as a player and took up coaching.  It has been common to see Hongchen Li, a current coach, play with some junior players just to help give them some experience at some local Chinese events and this might be the case with former Olympian and Colin Campbell award winner Charlie.  Wang had lost this week to Shane Park in a quarter final match at the Avonair Cash Spiel in Edmonton, Alberta.  Liu was in Vernon, BC this week and has qualified through the B side and will face Jeff Richard of Kelowna, BC in the Monday quarter final.

This season will see the first Olympic Qualifying Event in Füssen, Germany. Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and USA will all battle for two spots in the Olympics.

The USA must first select their representative via a Trials competition 10-17 Nov in Fargo, ND.  On the men’s side, Heath McCormick, Pete Fenson, Brady Clark, Tyler George and John Shuster will compete for that spot.

Clark was in Veron and qualified for the Monday quarter final.

McCormick, George and Shuster were battling it out at the St. Paul Cash Spiel. McCormick struggled in the round robin finishing 1-4.  George and Shuster both went 4-1 and met in the semi-final with George taking a tight one 4-3 in the Trials preview.  George then lost the Final to Scott Ramsay out of Winnipeg, MB.

Japanese rep, Morozumi, struggled in Vernon going 1-3.

Thomas Dufour is expected to represent France and this team went 2-2 at the Swiss Cup Basel.  Dufour lost a tight game to Oskar Eriksson of Sweden 7-6.  Eriksson ended up in final against Ulsrud.

Czechs, Finns and Germans also each had 2 teams in the Swiss Cup Basel.  Both Finns were 2-2 and the Germans went 1-3 and 0-4.  Both Czech sides qualified for the round of 16 and both lost.

USA Curling Watch – SFM Importance

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Just finished a bit of research headed into the Week 8 St Paul Cash Spiel.  The importance of good performances impacting the Strength of Field Multiplier is highlighted below.

Three teams in this event have a lot at stake this season. Tyler George, John Shuster and Heath McCormick will play in the USA Olympic Team Trials.  It is important that they play well leading into that event. George and Shuster have earned 15.0 and 7.55 OOM Points respectively this season.  Their rankings have increased from start of the year from 37th to 29th for George and 31st to 30th for Shuster.  McCormick on the other hand started at 83rd and has since dropped to 91st.

How does this impact the SFM?

Comparing the rankings of the entered teams from Week 1 to Week 8, the SFM has increased from 1.5 to 1.55.  Basically based on George and Shuster cracking the Top 30. (Steve Irwin dropped out of the Top 80) Not a big change? Maybe not but consider the 5th-8th place finishers, they stand to get 2.325 points instead of 2.25.  That 0.075 difference would have been enough for Scott Ramsey ranked 151 at the start of the season to move to 150 and inside the threshold for contributing to the SFM.  It is something that the Ontario Curling Tour has proven over a two year period.  As a comparison the St. Paul Cash Spiel last season was 1.05, a 0.95 in 2011 and 0.65 in 2010.  Year over year, the field has gotten stronger and the teams have benefited.  McCormick’s team would with a win add 7.75 to its 9.259 that they carried over from last season. That could get him back to the 60’s, pending of course what happens in the other events this week.

USA Curling Watch – Week 8 Preview

This week on the USA Curling Watch, I’m following the men.  Specifically I was looking for match-ups of the teams qualified for the Olympic Team Trials.  It looks like 4 of the 5 Trials teams are in action.

The St. Paul Cashspiel will see Tyler George (29th), Heath McCormick (92nd) and John Shuster (30th), will take on a pretty good field in a round robin format including 13 other American rinks.

The west coast based Brady Clark (35th) has made the short trip to Vernon, BC for the Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic.

It looks like Pete Fenson has the week off having picked up 5 OOM points at the Point Optical in Saskatoon last week moving up 4 spots to 33rd.

Another team to watch for is the Rochester based Alex Leichter in the Ingersoll Clash.  Some good teams in this event and it will be interesting to see what the strength of field multiplier will be.  It could bring some points to this 163rd ranked east coast team.

Looking ahead to the men having to qualify for the Olympics in an event in Fussen, Germany (against CZE, FIN, FRA, GER, JPN, KOR and NZL) the European stop this week is the Swiss Cup Basel.  Look for some live action streamed on Laola 1.  The Czechs, Fins, French and Germans have teams in action along with the hosts of the Sochi games, Russians.  The Japanese have a team in Vernon however Clark and Morozumi are on opposite side of the draw and would not likely meet until the Championship Rounds.

If future news, it was reviled that Tyler George’s crew will be going to the Masters of Curling event in Abbotsford, BC.  This is a Grand Slam event and promises both a strong field, great ice conditions and big points if you can play well.  18 OOM points for the quarter-finalists would be a big add to George’s current 15 this season.  It is a World Cup format so it will be interesting to see how these top teams are peaking leading into the Trials and the Olympic Qualifying Event.

USA Curling Watch – Week 6 Recap

So, after spending a year in the USA, I had a chance to get back to my old stomping ground for the Shorty Jenkins Classic.  It was a great opportunity for me to continue my work as an Ice Tech and meet some more Tour players.  It also gave me a chance to tell the story of the Cincinnati Curling Club.

From the USA Curling perspective there was an opportunity to see Tyler George, Pete Fenson and Erika Brown in action against a very tough field.  The Order of Merit points (OOM) is a World Curling Tour ranking to compare teams and events.  Most tour events has a Strength of Field Multiplier (SFM) which gets maxed at 5.00.  This was the case for the men in this event in an Olympic season.  One of the men’s players joked that there was only three teams missing; Koe, McEwan and Ulsrud.

Tyler George went into the event with 30.4 OOM points and having made the quarter-final his team earned 15 points. A solid performance with wins over Epping, Hemmings, Menard and Dacey. All great teams with tons of experience.  The losses came against a guy named Glenn Howard (6-4) and an Olympic champ in Gushue (5-2) in the quarter final.

Erika Brown and Pete Fenson may have been a bit disappointed in their 1-4 records.  It is still early in the season.

A quick opinion piece.  There are changes being proposed to the structure of getting teams to USA Nationals and Qualifying them for the Worlds.  I’m not going to get into all the details here, however, it is important that these teams perform well at these events and get more OOM Points.  It feeds the system.  When Tyler George’s team, for example, now ranked 29th comes to a local US event or a tier 2 event, he’ll bring a 0.25 to the SFM and make that event a bit stronger.  All the teams who then earn points at that event will get more points than if he wasn’t either at the event or as successful at the tier 1 events.  Most teams around the world are focused on the points; CTRS in Canada and OOM in other countries.  The two are very similar structures.  To get to the bigger Slam events you need to be in the Top 18.  Bigger money and exposure for the players, sponsors and the sport are all at stake.