It appears the WCF (and possibly soon the CCA) feel the need to make a quick decision because, well, we are in the middle of November and a third the way into the season. Unfortunately, more time is needed and I hope this is not the final resolution. The WCF begins stating this ruling is in place until further notice but ends by commiting to continue to "work to establish a well-defined equipment policy". This last statement might lead someone to think their current policy is poorly-defined. Some think the ruling smells of corporate conspiracy. With Balance Plus being a sponsor of both the CCA and the WCF, it's reasonable that questions would be raised and fair to expect them to be answered. In any case, more to come I'm sure. Perhaps in 10 years an ESPN 30-for-30 documentary, released on Blu-Ray, digital download and 3D hologram, just before the 2026 Olympics.
Let's move on.
Mens Final: Brad Gushue vs Reid Carruthers
The Carruthers squad can look back at a few situations as missed opportunities to change the outcome of this game. In the second end, tied without hammer, Gushue was in trouble most of the end until Carruthers third Braeden Moskowy came deep on his second shot. Brad was able to draw in to possibly escape, but Reid then made a fantastic shot with his next, leaving 3 of his own tucked in behind a corner guard. Gushue was unable to tuck his last rock completely but a whisker rub on Reid's final shot gave Brad the steal, a 5 point swing. Rather than being up 4, Carruthers ended up one down. A very poor mistake as they had no need to be so close to the guard or their own rock in the house (the one they rubbed). Carruthers could have been an inch further out and still scored 3 points. The difference between 3 and 4 (We =87% to 94%) is not large enough to be too cute on the shot.
In the fourth end, some discussion from the broadcast crew on sweeping techniques, as they watch a single sweeper. A few good points raised that led me to think how much of the current controversy is over the technology and how much can be attributed to teams being innovative and doing things differently. In this game we saw teams corner sweeping hits with hair brooms in an effort to get them to curl. Kevin Martin bemoaned that he should have used one sweeper back in his day (which isn't really so long ago). Didn't mean to come back to this topic...damn you Mike Harris for bringing it up.
Another missed opportunity in the 5th end. After a centre guard, Gushue calls for their first rock in the house and out to the wings. Martin suggests they would prefer a "soft deuce", ie. one without much risk, but their primary goal is a blank. A slight faux pas by KMart as they can't have 2 primary goals. Again, this is based on thinking that holding hammer in the 6th is the best situation, and as I've said at nauseum, this strategy is over thought. But not much harm, unless your opponent puts up a second centre guard and then play moves to the centre. Carruthers however, doesn't want to get that aggressive and choses to hit and sit for one. After a miss and a pick, Gushue gets into some trouble but Reid comes light on his first and then faces this with his final shot.
Gushue is Red
It's unclear who is sitting shot, but by chosing to try the double (green line) Reid may believe it's Gushue. However, Harris, Martin and I all agree it's a strange call. Even with a made shot, Gushue is still likely to score his one. It could be a higher percentage shot for Reid to play a draw to the back four foot (blue line) and make Gushue's draw more difficult, also increasing the chance of a steal. In the end, Gushue drops an out turn draw to the back four foot to score two. The same draw that, if Reid had thrown, would have been a great result and perhaps changed the outcome of the game.
Down two in the 6th end, Carruthers puts up two corner guards, one on either side. We've seen some teams choose to put two on the same side, one long and one short. Still not sure which strategy I prefer.
Perhaps an error in 7th end or a change in strategy by Carruthers. As we return from commercial, lead Colin Hodgson is drawing around a lone centre guard. Perhaps his first was in the wrong spot (halfway between hog and top twelve) so they decided to come into the rings instead. In this situation, down one without hammer and 2 ends to go, two centre guards is a preferred position. However, a pick and a miss by Gushue third Mark Nichols puts Carruthers in a good position to force or even steal. Some discussion by Mike Harris about teams maybe preferring, under the 5 rock free guard zone, to be tied with hammer rather than two up without in the last end. Not enough data yet to prove out this theory but I would guess it is closer but still a small advantage to be up two. Under the four rock free guard zone, up two without hammer has a WE = 88%. Perhaps with the 5 rock rule we may see this drop a percentage point or two. Tied with hammer WE is historically 76% but per my article last season is closer to 80% and for some teams that are proficient with the tick shot, possibly higher.
Gushue gets his single and holds on in the final end for the win.
Womens Final: Rachel Homan vs Tracy Fleury
A great battle for the first ever Womens National Grand Slam. A couple of interesting situations.
In the third end, Homan is 1 up and could draw to sit two and force Fleury to a single (green line) but instead chooses to hit (blue line) and allow a blank.
Homan is RedKevin Martin suggess Rachel is concerned about leaving a possible shot for two. The decision might indicate that Rachel doesn't expect her draw weight to be accurate enough. I expect many other skips would have drawn to sit two in this situation, but in Womens the WE is actually about the same (58% vs 59% for tied with hammer). So perhaps Rachel does trust her draw weight, and trusts CWM and curling analytics even more.
In the 7th end another interesting situation. Homan lead Lisa Weagle attempted a tick on her first shot. She instead tapped the Fleury stone into the back four foot, leaving her rock as a centre guard. Tracy should have thrown a long guard in front of the Homan stone. Instead she chose to come into the rings. The probelm is, Free Guard Zone only stops a team from removing their opponent's guards. Homan was able to play a runback on Lisa's next shot. Of course, that runback left another centre guard and ultimately Homan got into a mess, eventually surrendering a steal of one point. Or was it?
Back to the title of this article. The Fleury team acted like pros in a difficult situation. After the final rock of the 7th end, Homan second Joanne Courtney cleared a Fleury stone that could have been measured. The TV monitor appeared to show it was likely not second shot, but we've seen those overhead cameras lie to us before. Heather Nedohin was certain she had lost to Jennifer Jones in the 2012 Scotties Semi-Finals, but ended up winning the measurement and went on to win the national championship. Team Homan also acted like pros in the situation. Rather than pouting about their mistake or brushing it off as no big deal (as I recall seeing a famous third in mens do in a similar situation many, many years ago), they properly gave the option to Tracy of deciding what her team wanted to do. It is ultimately the non-offending team's choice to decide the course of action. Tracy chose to take a single point and went on to lose when Homan scored a deuce in the final end. Not an easy situation that tradition and curling etiquette creates and many teams don't always take an empathetic position. I recall one instance from my early days in mens where a well known and well liked team from Manitoba made a tough choice against us in an important game. On our skips first shot we tapped a stationary guard with our broom while attempting a hit. Rather than put the rocks where they would have gone (we either would have made the shot or hit the guard and they would would split apart), our non-offending opponent chose to remove our stone from play and keep the guard in its place, actually tapping it back into its original position. Thankfully for us, our skip then made a runback for two points on his next shot and we went on to win the game and knock our opponent out of contention for the provincials.
Homan wins again. Her numbers this year are nearing Steph Curry and Golden State levels. I will enjoy watching them both for the remainder of the season.
Until next time...