2017 Curling Continental Cup Preview

When: January 12–15
Where: Las Vegas
Who: North America vs. The World
Format: think the Ryder Cup. Each team is three women’s rinks and three men’s rinks, selected through various methods
How to watch: TSN (Canada), WatchESPN (USA)

Last year’s finish was … well, insane. Stuck at 29.5 points in the final three skins games, needing a total of 30, with five points left on table: three in the Kevin Koe-Niklas Edin match, one in the Jennifer Jones-Eve Muirhead game, and one in the mixed game. Muirhead won her final skin, leaving it up to Koe and Morris’ shots:

2017 TEAM WORLD

Sweden — Anna Hasselborg/Sara McManus/Agnes Knochenhauer/Sofia Mabergs
The #1 team on the WCT Year To Date standings, the runner-up at the European Championships, and semifinals in three of the four GSOC events they’ve played. In all, a 53–19 record on the season. So, a dynamite team.

Japan — Satsuji Fujisawa/Mari Motohashi/Chinami Yoshida/Yurika Yoshida
A solid resume: silver medalists at 2016 words, bronze at 2016 Pacific-Asia Championships. But they’re ranked 24th in the world and 45th year to date.

Switzerland — Binia Feltscher/Irene Schori/Franziska Kaufmann/Christine Urech
World champions in 2014 and 2016. This year they’ve finished in one semifinal and one quarterfinal in Grand Slams.

Sweden — Niklas Edin/Oskar Eriksson/Rasmus Wranå/Christoffer Sundgren
They’ve played 11 events and have only missed the semifinals once. Victories on the season include the European championship and two Grand Slams. They are 6–1 in championship finals this season. This is their third ContCup, though it’s Edin’s ninth.

Norway — Thomas Ulsrud/Torger Nergård/Christoffer Svae/Håvard Vad Petersson
Hard to imagine a Continental Cup without The Pants; it’s their eighth straight appearance. On the season Ulsrud was runner-up at Euros and finished in the semifinals of the Tour Challenge Grand Slam.

Denmark — Rasmus Stjerne/Johnny Frederiksen/Mikkel Poulsen/Oliver Dupont
Well, it was the silver medal at 2016 worlds that got them here. Otherwise it’s been a tumultuous year; they’re 30th in YTD standings and 27th overall but they were again relegated in the European championships to the B Group for 2017.

2017 TEAM NORTH AMERICA

Canada— Chelsea Carey/Amy Nixon/Jocelyn Peterman/Laine Peters
The 2016 Scotties champion has had a rough season. With a 24–30 overall record, outside of a victory in Japan they haven’t reached the semifinal in any event. For being #8 overall they are just #17 year to date and are coming off a three-and-out at the Canadian Open.

Canada— Jennifer Jones/Kaitlyn Lawes/Jill Officer/Dawn McEwen
Always good to have the reigning gold medal team on your side. Team Jones won the Canada Cup to qualify for this and are also the 2nd ranked team both year to date and overall. Jones’ team will be making her eighth Continental Cup appearance.

USA— Jamie Sinclair/Alex Carlson/Vicky Persinger/Monica Walker
All year I’ve had several doubts of the state of the US women’s curling program. Having said that, Sinclair earned the spot using the method USA Curling had, which was most OOM points back in November. They are currently 2nd in the country to Nina Roth but they’re a young team in Year 1 of their current form.

Canada — Jamie Koe/Marc Kennedy/Brent Laing/Ben Hebert
The reigning Brier champion hasn’t had great success in grand slams this year but made up for it in other WCT events to be 9th year to date, and still 3rd overall.

Canada — Reid Carruthers/Braeden Moskowy/Derek Samagalski/Colin Hodgson
Qualifying for this event by virtue of winning the Canada Cup, Team Carruthers has been one of the streakiest, hottest teams on the season, ranking #2 overall and #3 on the season.

USA — Heath McCormick/Chris Plys/Korey Dropkin/Tom Howell
A mild surprise as the top American team, but by far, they are — 19th in YTD points. So far they have four spiel titles in 10 events, earning a spot in the Canadian Open where they promptly went 0–3. McCormick rinks have always been dangerous teams that run hot and cold, like most teams.

KEYS TO VICTORY

Team World has a noted advantage on the men’s side because they have Niklas Edin and North America doesn’t. Thomas Ulsrud’s team knows this event well enough. Koe and Carruthers will be good enough to match up with them. Likewise, Hasselborg and Jones are gonna lead their respective sides just fine. Team Feltscher is a bit of a wild card, as is Team Carey. And the Danish/Japanese teams, as well as the American teams, are certainly the weakest links on each side. It’ll come down to how they do in the team competitions.

The mixed doubles draws are where it get interesting. Nobody on Team World has accrued any mixed doubles points this season, while North America has a few standouts: Korey Dropkin has won a national championship in this discipline, as does Jocelyn Peterman for Canada. Jamie Sinclair and Alex Carlson entered events and won points on the season for their respective teams. So has Jennifer Jones and husband Brent Laing together. But what I’ve noticed in recent years is that if you’re a good curler, you can be a good mixed doubles curler. The rules throw you off only slightly. You still need to be able to make draws, and everyone here can make draws. Which works out, since everyone will have to play mixed doubles at some point. Still, I’ll give a slight edge to North America for having more historical success in the format.

PREDICTIONS

I want to say North America wins because of the winning streak, because of the mixed doubles edge, and because they just have stronger teams in general. Makes sense, right? But it’s been that kind of season to say, to hell with it, Team World pulls it out.

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