Canadian mixed doubles curling playoff picture set as 12 teams aim for national title

LEDUC, Alta. — At the beginning of the competition 32 teams from across Canada hit the ice in Leduc, Alta. with dreams of being crowned 2018 mixed doubles national champions. Now the field has been trimmed to 12 teams as the playoffs begin Saturday afternoon.

There are some very familiar faces and some not-so-familiar faces heading into the sudden death rounds of mixed doubles curling.

The defending champion duo of Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers took top spot in Pool D with a 6-1 record and earned a direct ticket to Saturday night’s quarter-final game.

“This was the goal. Now we’ll just keep trying to roll through the playoffs,” Courtney said. “We hadn’t played together since September so we had to find our groove again.”

Cathy Overton-Clapham and Matt Dunstone as well as Janet and Hugh Murphy also advanced to the playoff round out of Pool D with 5-2 records.

In Pool B, the Manitoba team of Kadriana Sahaidak and Colton Lott went 7-0 — the only team to go undefeated. Sahaidak and Lott also earned a direct spot into Saturday’s quarter-finals by virtue of placing first in their pool. Just behind them in the standings was the team of Chelsea Carey and Colin Hodgson, who finished 6-1 and are into the playoffs.

A curling marathon

“It’s a marathon,” Carey said. “It’s the Ironman of curling. It’s exhausting. I eat, I sleep, I come back to the rink. We have a little bit of a break now so that’s a much needed rest.”

Then there’s Pool C, loaded talent and star power. But it wasn’t Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing who took top spot in the pool, rather the Saskatchewan duo of Chaelynn Kitz and Brayden Stewart who seemingly came out of nowhere to place first.

“I was intimidated when I looked at the pool we were in,” Kitz said. “We came in here the underdogs and we’re riding that right now.”

There was a four-way tie at 5-2 in Pool C. Kitz and Stewart got top spot by beating Jones and Laing in the round robin. Val Sweeting and Tim March as well as Jocelyn Peterman and Derek Samagalski also finished with 5-2 records and are in the playoffs.

Stewart admits to having had very low expectations for their team when they saw who they were up against.

“I thought if we could win one game and play all eight ends in the rest we’d be happy. That was our goal,” he said.

New team finds magic in Leduc

In Pool A, the relatively new team of Laura Crocker and Kirk Muyres seem to have found some magic in Leduc. They placed first in the pool with a 6-1 record and are directly into Saturday’s quarter-final.

Crocker normally plays with her fiancée Geoff Walker, but he’s in Las Vegas with Team Gushue for the men’s world curling championship. Crocker and Muyres have played in one tournament prior to this — just over a year ago. They won that event.

“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever played with,” Crocker said. “Kirk is the type of teammate where you can feel the confidence he has in you every shot.”

Just behind Crocker and Muyres in Pool A were the duos of Kaylynn Park and Charley Thomas as well as Robert and Emilie Desjardins. They’re both into the playoffs.

Thomas says seven games in less than three days has been exhausting on all the players.

“It’s sudden death and it’s all a mental game now. Seven games in 50 hours is a lot,” he said. “I don’t care who you are or how good of shape you’re in, you’re going to be sore.”

How the playoffs work

The top four teams in each pool will sit around all Saturday and await their opponents in the quarter-final games later tonight.

The eight teams who finished below them will play a qualifying game to advance to the quarter-finals:

  • Murphy/Murphy vs. Park/Thomas
  • Carey/Hodgson vs. Sweeting/March 
  • Jones/Laing vs. Desjardins/Desjardins
  • Peterman/Samagalski vs. Overton-Clapham/Dunstone

The winners of each of those qualifying games will either meet, Courtney/Carruthers, Sahaidak/Lott, Crocker/Muyres or Kitz/Stewart in the quarter-final matchups at 10pm ET Saturday night.

The semifinals take place Sunday morning with the championship game set for 2pm ET Sunday afternoon. The winner will represent Canada at the mixed doubles world championship late April in Sweden.

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