This was Grand Slam number 3 for the season, The National. I do wonder who decided to name these four events so very long ago. Masters, Open, National, Players sound ok, but really don't have any meaning for me. I suppose it's more distinctive than numbering or letters to indicate each event. Perhaps they could have named each after famous curlers/characters from a 100 years ago? For Example, The Burns Spiel, named after Gold Medalist at the 1932 Olympics William Burns. Ok, granted, it's not much of an idea, but I still think this could have used some work once upon a time....
Quarterfinals: Jeff Stoughton versus Brad Jacobs
Jacobs catches a break in the 4th when Jeff makes a poor attempt at a double and actually misses so poorly they cross the face and roll away leaving a steal of one. Tied at 3-3 in the 6th end, Brad gives it right back and more with a missed draw resulting in a swing of 3 points (Stoughton steals 2) moving his odds to win from 63% to 15%. Thats why skips get all the glory, because the game can hinge on one or two of their shots in a game. The next one comes in the 7th when Brad rolls out on his first on an attempt to sit two.
In the tenth end, Mark Nichols makes the two ticks and Jeff has an open draw to the four foot for the win. Skills with the tick shot gets stronger every year. I exect the percentage by top teams must be in the 80+% range (just speculating, I'm sure someone has this data).
Semi-Finals: Kevin Martin vs. Mike McEwen
In Part I, I mentioned Jeff Stoughton hadn't won one of these Grand Slams in a while. Turns out, neither has 17 time winner Kevin Martin (at least by his standards). He hasn't won since 2010-11 Season, 3 years ago. There aren't any missing police reports of Mrs. Martin with a golf club coming after Kevin in his Cadillac Escalade, Thanksgiving 2011, right?
Second end, Mike McEwen makes possibly the best draw I've seen all year (or most other years)
McEwen is Yellow
Third end, Martin comes well short on a draw-tap.
Fourth, John Morris gets an unfortunate wick on his own, rather than McEwen shot stone, where he would have been sitting two and in great shape. Kevin gets a break, but then is heavy on his soft hit and ends up forced to one.
5th end, great draw followed by great draw. McEwen gets one and its 4-2.
6th end looks like the old Procurl video game (or this online game). Everyone chasing to get their draw into the button. Not great when you have hammer and need more than 1. (Was every rock in play?) Mike makes the mistake on his first that he had foreshadowed, but Kevin makes a horrible follow up. Another great draw against 3 for Kevin, to stay in the game.
7th end, BJ looses all his yellow on a strange run back attempt and leaves Martin sitting four. See if you can follow my drawing..
McEwen is Yellow
Tough draw on Mike's last and he surrenders a steal of one. 4-4 heading to the last.
8th end, tied. A missed tick on leads first leads to an entertaining finish. Interesting call on Mike's last, choosing to attempt an angle hit versus a double, but he makes it.
Mike McEwen's team threw something like 97% on their draws, played a fanstastic game, but still had to make a delicate shot for the win.
That draw weight didn't follow them to the final however and Jeff Stoughton came away with victory in the finals.
In the second end, up one without hammer, Mike is in some trouble after a great hit and roll by Stoughton's third Jon Mead. Luckily, the centre guard is one of McEwen's red rocks and he makes a raise take-out, but his promoted stone rolls out of play. Jeff makes a draw around Mike's off-centre guard, but only sits top eight foot. Rather than play the raise hit again, Mike instead decides to draw. Unfortunately the rock hangs out and the fails to finish fully buried, leaving a piece open and Jeff a soft hit for two. Correct call? The raise is likely made 80% of the time (Mike's chance may even be higher), but most likely the result will be a blank if he is succesful. I like this call because it brings the chance of a steal or a high probability of a force to one. If Mike knows the ice and the weight, it's the correct call.
In the forth, Jeff attempts a hit and roll on his first but rolls too far. Mike has a good opportunity and makes a great draw, but about a foot too deep and allows Jeff a chance to freeze on top. Mike attempts a difficult draw-tap through a port but is held to one. Tied 2-2 after 4.
The fifth end, a sloppy one, is the turning point of the game. Mike's team has chances early but, on what appeared to be a stratigth spot, they are unable to execute hits effectively on seconds last and thirds first. In fact, on third BJ Neufeld's first shot rather than make a double he kisses a Stoughton stone fully behind cover top eight with staggard rocks in front. On Jon Mead's first he actually misses by coming very deep, sitting third shot. BJ is light on his next and actually corner freezes his own, assisting Stoughton because a future raise is now not possible. Jon is fine with his next and now Mike faces two Stoughton rocks in the four foot and no raise option. McEwen is forced to attempt a desperate hit and roll (red line below) from the wings, never a rock you want your skip throwing on his first shot. I don't really like the call, by missing he left himself even less with his last shot. Having said that, there weren't many other options available. Possibly tapping BJs previous stone and trying to split the red rocks onto either side (green line below), in the open, may have been an option.
Stoughton is Yellow
Mike's shot is too thick (again it ran straight) and Jeff makes a draw to the four foot with his in turn. He comes a hair deeper than he wanted and there is still a chance for Mike to make a hit and roll into a small pocket and get out of this end. This time he misses the rock completely and Jeff is left with a draw for four. Game over.
I am looking forward to a rematch of these two rinks in the upcoming Manitoba Provincials. Rogers will be there, and elsewhere, covering more curling than you've ever been able to watch in one year, all in one weekend. My intial thoughts were "is it too much curling on TV?" but I'm starting to come around to more is better.
Until next time...