Eight Ends: All you need to know for the GSOC Champions Cup

Winnipeg skip Jennifer Jones delivers a stone during the WestJet Players' Championship in Toronto. (Anil Mungal)

CALGARY — The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling comes full circle to wrap up the 2016-17 campaign.

After starting in Okotoks, Alta., for the WFG Masters in October — it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago — it’s wheels up back to YYC for the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup starting Tuesday night at WinSport Arena at Canada Olympic Park.

Perhaps it’s a fitting venue with Olympic dreams on the minds of many heading into next season on the road to the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

Here’s our full rundown of what you need to know before the opening draw of the Humpty’s Champions Cup.

1st End: A (very) brief history of the Champions Cup

The Humpty’s Champions Cup is the newest of the seven tournaments on the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling circuit with the inaugural event held just last year in Sherwood Park, Alta.

Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones defeated Ottawa’s Rachel Homan to capture the women’s title in another classic showdown between the two while Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers needed not one, but two extra ends to solve Toronto’s John Epping in a thrilling men’s final.

What makes the Humpty’s Champions Cup unique is teams must win one of the select tournaments or a high-ranked tour event in order to receive an invite. A team could have a strong season and finish near the top in the points, but if they didn’t actually earn a title then they’re left on the outside looking in. Simply put: you have to win to get in.

Although Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) points are not up for grabs, there’s still a lot on the line with World Curling Tour Order of Merit points, which will affect the WCT rankings and if teams qualify for future Pinty’s GSOC events, as well as prize money.

2nd End: New faces set to shine

We’ll be seeing a few new teams at the Humpty’s Champions Cup due to the nature of qualifying for entry.

Sweden’s Isabella Wrana earned her spot as the world junior champion and is set to make her Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series debut. The 19-year-old Wrana follows in the footsteps of her older brother Rasmus Wrana, who has had a sensational rookie season of his own winning three Pinty’s GSOC titles with Team Niklas Edin.

Russia’s Victoria Moiseeva upset compatriot Anna Sidorova during playdowns for the European Championships and continued the stunning run right through to the title at that event too. Moiseeva stole in the last end to claim the trophy when Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg wrecked her final shot on a guard.

Scotland’s Grant Hardie is the lone newcomer on the men’s side. Hardie captured the Aberdeen International Curling Championship to earn one of the WCT/CCT spots based on the event’s high strength of field.

3rd End: Can Edin score four?

As mentioned in the previous end, Edin has captured three Pinty’s GSOC titles this season taking the WFG Masters, the Tour Challenge and most recently the WestJet Players’ Championship. Considering the WFG Masters was Edin’s first title in the series, and the first for a non-Canadian men’s team, it’s been quite the banner season for the Swedish squad.

Edin joined Kevin Martin, Brad Gushue and Rachel Homan as skips that have won three Pinty’s GSOC titles in a single season. One has to wonder if Edin can cap the season back in the winner’s circle with a record-breaking fourth Pinty’s GSOC trophy on the year.

Fatigue may be an issue with Edin playing in his fourth consecutive week. Edin went from settling for silver at the worlds in Edmonton to winning the WestJet Players’ Championship in Toronto to a runner-up finish this past weekend at the EURONICS European Masters in Switzerland and now in Calgary for the Humpty’s Champions Cup. That’s a lot of curling and a lot of time zones to bounce around.

Edin holds the No. 1 ranking on the World Curling Tour’s year-to-date standings and to finish 2016-17 at the top spot could be a motivating factor to grind through this one.

4th End: Men’s division lineup

Men’s Teams Qualifying Events
Reid Carruthers Humpty’s Champions Cup defending champ
Niklas Edin WFG Masters
Brad Jacobs Boost National
Brad Gushue Meridian Canadian Open
John Morris Princess Auto Elite 10
Yusuke Morozumi Pacific-Asia Championship
John Shuster U.S. National Championship
Kevin Koe Shorty Jenkins Classic (WCT/CCT)
Steve Laycock Direct Horizontal Drilling Fall Classic (WCT/CCT)
Peter de Cruz Baden Masters (WCT/CCT)
John Epping Challenge de Curling de Gatineau (WCT/CCT)
Greg Balsdon Tour Challenge Tier 2 (WCT/CCT)
Mike McEwen DEKALB Superspiel (WCT/CCT)
Grant Hardie Aberdeen International Curling Championship (WCT/CCT)
Tom Brewster Mercure Perth Masters (WCT/CCT)

5th End: Jones up for title defence

Not only is Jones the defending Humpty’s Champions Cup victor, she also enters this year’s event coming off of a win at the WestJet Players’ Championship.

Jones defeated Edmonton’s Val Sweeting, the Rogers Grand Slam Cup champ, to capture her record sixth Players’ Championship and seventh title in the Pinty’s GSOC series just over a week ago in Toronto.

The 2014 Olympic gold medallist looks to finish the season on another high note.

“The best part is we’re playing in the best events of the year at the end of the season, so it’s easy to get up for them,” Jones said following the Players’ Championship. “We loved winning that event and heading into the off-season on a win, so hopefully we can go out there and try to do the same.”

6th End: Women’s division lineup

Women’s Teams Qualifying Events
Jennifer Jones Humpty’s Champions Cup defending champ
Allison Flaxey WFG Masters
Val Sweeting Tour Challenge Tier 1
Kerri Einarson Boost National
Casey Scheidegger Meridian Canadian Open
Rachel Homan Scotties Tournament of Hearts
Jamie Sinclair U.S. National Championship
Victoria Moiseeva European Championship
Isabella Wrana World Junior Championship
Bingyu Wang Colonial Square Ladies Classic (WCT/CCT)
Anna Hasselborg Stockholm Ladies Cup (WCT/CCT)
Eve Muirhead Women’s Masters Basel (WCT/CCT)
Silvana Tirinzoni Stu Sells Oakville Tankard (WCT/CCT)
Jacqueline Harrison Tour Challenge Tier 2 (WCT/CCT)
Alina Paetz International Bernese Ladies Cup (WCT/CCT)

7th End: Carruthers minus Carruthers

They’ll still be called Team Carruthers, but that’s not Reid Carruthers calling the shots.

With their skip away, third Braeden Moskowy has moved up into the captain’s spot. Derek Samagalski and Colin Hodgson have also been bumped up in the lineup with new alternate/adviser Craig Savill making his Team Carruthers debut at lead. The two-time world and 12-time Grand Slam champ Savill joined the team late last month and is helping them prepare for the Olympic Trials taking place at the end of the year in his hometown of Ottawa.

Carruthers is competing in the world mixed doubles championship this week representing Canada alongside Team Homan’s Joanne Courtney. Sarah Wilkes (Team Kleibrink) is subbing for Courtney on Team Homan at the Humpty’s Champions Cup.

Other notable spares include:

Team Morris: Catlin Schneider is in again at second and Tyrel Griffith at lead with Rick Sawatsky out due to injury.

Team Shuster: Korey Dropkin fills in for second Matt Hamilton, who’s representing the U.S. at the world mixed doubles.

Team Einarson: Jennifer Clark-Rouire spares for second Liz Fyfe, who is expecting a baby.

Team Tirinzoni: Cathy Overton-Clapham takes over once more at third with Manuela Siegrist recovering from a knee injury.

8th End: Tickets and TV info

You don’t want to miss out on the last event of the season. Tickets for the Humpty’s Champions Cup are available online at Ticketmaster.ca or by calling 1-855-985-5000.

Can’t make it to Calgary? Sportsnet will have you covered starting Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. PT on Sportsnet ONE and online at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or gsoc.yaretv.com (international). Click here for the full broadcast schedule.

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