CHESTERMERE, Alta. — Ready for round No. 2? The Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling season continues with the Boost National, starting Tuesday at the Chestermere Recreation Centre.
Following a thrilling start to the 2021-22 GSOC campaign two weeks ago with the Masters, the Boost National is sure to offer just as much exciting action with 16 of the top men's teams and 16 of the top women's teams from around the world in action.
Broadcast coverage begins Thursday at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT on Sportsnet (see below for the full broadcast schedule).
Before the first rock is thrown, here's a rundown of everything you need to know ...
What's at stake?
The Boost National is one of the four majors in the GSOC and carries a combined prize purse of $300,000 CAD. Bonus points for the Pinty's Cup, awarded to the season champions, are also up for grabs.
Winning teams at the Boost National receive $33,000, 12 Pinty's Cup points plus berths to the season-ending KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup (May 3-8, 2022; Olds, Alta.) if they haven't qualified already.
The Canadian Olympic trials are also just around the corner and for teams gearing up for that event, the Boost National will serve as their final opportunity to see how they stack up against the opposition.
What's new for 2021?
A couple of changes have happened to the Boost National since the event was last held in 2019.
The most significant is the format as, like the Masters, the Boost National has shifted from pool play to triple knockout.
The triple knockout consists of three brackets — A, B and C — and teams must win three games before they lose three games in order to qualify for the playoffs. All teams start in A with winners moving along in their current bracket and losses dropping them to a lower bracket. The C-side is where elimination is on the line as another loss means they're out of the tournament. Two A teams (3-0 records), three B teams (3-1 records) and three C teams (3-2 records) advance to Saturday's quarterfinals.
The semifinals are set for Saturday evening with both championship games slated for Sunday.
The no tick, free guard zone will also be in effect during the eighth and extra ends for all games. Teams cannot touch rocks that are sitting on the centre line in the free guard zone until the sixth rock of those ends. This rule was added for intrigue as statistics showed teams that hold the hammer in the eighth and/or extra ends win an overwhelming amount of time.
Who are the favourites in the men's division?
Bruce Mouat and his Scottish squad were the favourites heading into the Masters and guess what? Team Mouat, who won the Champions Cup and Players' Championship back-to-back last season, were victorious again capturing a third consecutive GSOC men's title.
Mouat joined a short list of skips who have completed a hat trick and now looks to join an even shorter list of those who have won four or more consecutively. Only Kevin Martin, who won five in a row in 2007, has achieved that feat. There's no doubt Mouat has the potential to "connect four" considering the way his team has been playing lately as they went undefeated 6-0 through the Masters.
Brad Jacobs and his crew from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., enter as the defending champions after winning the 2019 Boost National in Conception Bay South, N.L. Jacobs looked poised to complete a career Grand Slam at the Masters but came up short against Mouat in the final. You know Jacobs hates losing more than he loves winning (and he really loves to win), so be on the lookout for his team to be hungry to finish the job.
Brad Gushue and co. from St. John, N.L., were flying high again until running into the equally red-hot Team Jacobs in the semifinals. Although they qualified through the A-side, they didn't bring their "A game" to the semifinals and conceded 9-4 after six ends. Still, it was their first loss of the season, and best they got it out of the way sooner than later.
Calgary's Kevin Koe and Edmonton's Brendan Bottcher will have the home province crowd on their side. Team Koe lead Ben Hebert calls Chestermere home while second John Morris worked in the town as a volunteer firefighter when he first arrived in Alberta. Expect them to feed off of that energy, especially if the arena really starts to get rocking.
While the pressure will be on teams looking to do well heading into the Olympic trials, Scotland's Ross Whyte could be another bracket buster. Whyte qualified for the playoffs in his GSOC series debut two weeks ago at the Masters and could do it again with nothing to lose. The only pressure is to prove the Masters was no fluke.
Who are the favourites in the women's division?
Tracy Fleury and her East St. Paul, Man., team successfully defended the Masters women's title and vaulted to the top of the WCF world team rankings. They tend to fly under the radar but will be in everyone's sights now.
Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones and Alina Kovaleva from Russia both started 0-2 before winning three straight through the C-side to qualify for the playoffs and knocked off the undefeated A-qualifiers in the quarterfinals. Although Kovaleva fell to Fleury in the semifinals, Jones made it one step farther losing to Fleury in an extra end during the championship game. Another incredible run through the C brackets would be tough to replicate but the key will be not to drop into the C-side in the first place.
Ottawa's Rachel Homan and Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland were the aforementioned A-qualifiers knocked out by Kovaleva and Jones, respectively, in the quarterfinals. Both teams are in fine form and should appear in the playoff picture again.
Consistency was a problem at the Masters for Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., and Sweden's Anna Hasselborg as both struggled at times. Team Einarson qualified through the C-side at 3-2, but were easily dispatched by Team Fleury in the quarterfinals after also losing to their Manitoba rivals in the B-qualifiers a day earlier as well.
At least Einarson made the playoffs as Hasselborg went 2-3 and did not qualify. Hasselborg is the defending champion here and should deliver a more familiar performance.
How to watch the Boost National
Full event and weekend passes plus single draw tickets are available for the Boost National online at boost.goigniter.com.
Please note: proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 is required to attend the event. A negative COVID-19 test will not be accepted as an alternative. Also, masks must be worn while indoors unless while eating or drinking.
Thusday, Nov. 4
• Triple Knockout: 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT (Sportsnet)
• Triple Knockout: 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT (Sportsnet West & Sportsnet ONE)
• Triple Knockout: 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT (Sportsnet, East, Ontario, Pacific & Sportsnet 360)
Friday, Nov. 5
• Triple Knockout: 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT (Sportsnet)
• Triple Knockout: 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT (Sportsnet East, Ontario & Pacific)
• Triple Knockout: 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT (Sportsnet, East, Ontario & Sportsnet 360)
Saturday, Nov. 6
• Women's Quarterfinals: 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT (Sportsnet)
• Men's Quarterfinals: 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE)
• Men's and Women's Semifinals: 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE)
Sunday, Nov. 7
• Men's Final: Noon ET / 9 a.m. PT (Sportsnet)
• Women's Final: 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT (Sportsnet)
Note: Broadcast schedule subject to change.