Canada’s biggest curling event of the season so far – the 2022 PointsBet Invitational – is set to start on Wednesday at Willie O’Ree Place in Fredericton.
The inaugural event is bringing 32 of curling’s best Canadian teams – 16 men’s and 16 women’s – to Atlantic Canada for an all-or-nothing March Madness-style single-knockout bracket.
The 16 teams in each gender comprise the top 12 ranked teams on the revamped World Curling Team Ranking System. Also competing are the reigning women’s and men’s champions from the 2022 New Holland Canadian Juniors (Team Emily Deschenes and Team Landan Rooney) and the reigning women’s and men’s winners from the 2021 Everest Canadian Curling Club Championships (Team Tracey Larocque and Team Nicholas Deagle). Curling fans voted for the final men’s and women’s teams via an online poll: Team Suzanne Birt and Team Greg Smith.
Fredericton curling fans will have two teams in the mix as well. The local host committee selected two teams to compete at the PointsBet Invitational. 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts bronze-medallist Team Andrea Kelly is in the mix on the women’s side, while 2018 U SPORTS bronze-medallist Jack Smeltzer and his team will be part of the event in the men’s competition. Both teams represent the local Capital Winter Club in Fredericton.
There will be no shortage of other high-calibre teams in the mix, including the reigning Canadian men’s and women’s champions in Team Brad Gushue (St. John’s, N.L.) and Team Kerri Einarson (Gimli, Man.).
Team Gushue had an eventful 2021-22 curling season. It won the Tim Hortons Brier and earned Canada a bronze medal in the men’s competition at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. Gushue’s compatriots from the women’s event also compete in Fredericton, albeit on different teams.
Jennifer Jones heads up a new lineup with 2020 Canadian and world junior champions Karlee Burgess, Mackenzie Zacharias, Emily Zacharias and Lauren Lenentine. Jones’s old vice Kaitlyn Lawes is now heading up a new team backed back Selena Njegovan at vice, Jocelyn Peterman at second and Kristin MacCuish at lead.
Offseason lineup changes led to chain reactions of change up and down the Canadian curling ecosystem. Many of those new lineups will be on display for a nationwide audience, including a new-look Team Bottcher with Marc Kennedy, Brett Gallant and Ben Hebert; and Kevin Koe’s new squad of Tyler Tardi, Brad Thiessen and Karrick Martin on the men’s side.
Perennial Tim Hortons Brier favourites Matt Dunstone, Reid Carruthers, John Epping and Mike McEwen have new lineups. In contrast, mainstays Colton Flasch and Glenn Howard have familiar lineups from the last quadrennial.
Top-seeded Team Einarson is only one of the few to stick together on the women’s side. Tracy Fleury leads a new team as skip, with Rachel Homan throwing fourth stones. Chelsea Carey has re-jigged her lineup and is playing out of Manitoba, and Casey Scheidegger will put a new lineup on display; however, Scheidegger herself will not be competing at the event. Instead, her longtime lead Kristie Moore is taking the helm for the week.
The 32-team field contains 10 Olympic championships, 27 men’s and women’s world championships, 39 Scotties Tournament of Hearts championships and 41 Tim Hortons Brier championships. Those totals barely scratch the surface of the talent on display in Fredericton, with numerous junior, mixed, mixed doubles, university and college champions competing this week.
All 32 competing teams will receive $5,000 to cover travel and accommodation costs. Teams will earn more money for each successive win in the single-knockout tournament — $3,000 for a Sweep 16 win, $6,000 for an Elite Eight win, $12,000 for a Final Four win and $24,000 for the victorious women’s and men’s teams, meaning the two winning teams will each collect a total of $50,000.
Here’s a look at the first round of the Sweep 16 games. The first round starts on Wednesday at 2 p.m. (all times AT):
Wednesday, 2 p.m.
#1 Team Kerri Einarson (Gimli, Man.) vs. #16 Team Tracey Larocque (Thunder Bay, Ont.)
#8 Team Kelsey Rocque (Edmonton) vs. #9 Team Christina Black (Halifax)
#5 Team Jennifer Jones (Winnipeg) vs. #12 Team Andrea Kelly (Fredericton)
#4 Team Chelsea Carey (Winnipeg) vs. #13 Team Selena Sturmay (Edmonton)
Thursday, 2 p.m.
#6 Team Casey Scheidegger (Lethbridge, Alta.) vs. #11 Team Kerry Galusha (Yellowknife)
#3 Team Tracy Fleury (Ottawa) vs. #14 Team Suzanne Birt (Montague, P.E.I.)
#7 Team Hollie Duncan (Toronto) vs. #10 Team Penny Barker (Regina)
#2 Team Kaitlyn Lawes (Winnipeg) vs. #15 Team Emily Deschenes (Halifax)
Wednesday, 7 p.m.
#6 Team Glenn Howard (Penetanguishene, Ont.) vs.#11 Team Félix Asselin (Montreal)
#3 Team Matt Dunstone (Winnipeg) vs. #14 Team Greg Smith (St. John’s, N.L.)
#7 Team Colton Flasch (Saskatoon) vs. #10 Team Karsten Sturmay (Edmonton)
#2 Team Brendan Bottcher (Calgary) vs. #15 Team Landan Rooney (Whitby, Ont.)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
#1 Team Brad Gushue (St. John’s, N.L.) vs. #16 Team Nick Deagle (Bridgewater, N.S.)
#8 Team Team John Epping (Toronto) vs. #9 Team Mike McEwen (Toronto)
#5 Team Reid Carruthers (Winnipeg) vs. #12 Team Braden Calvert (Winnipeg)
#4 Team Kevin Koe (Calgary) vs. #13 Team Jack Smeltzer (Fredericton)
Fans can follow along with the entire bracket, available here.
The women’s and men’s finals will be on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively.
All games are scheduled for 10 ends and have a modified thinking time structure. Each team has 19 minutes of thinking time to play each half of the game. Both teams start the game with 19 minutes of thinking time. After end five, the times reset back to 19 minutes for the second half of the game. Teams cannot carry over time from the first half to the second half.
Ties games will result in teams throwing a single draw to the button to determine the victor instead of a traditional extra end. Each team will choose one member to throw the rock. The team that would have had the hammer in the extra end (did not score in the 10th) will throw their choice of turn and throw second. The team that wouldn’t have hammer (did score in the 10th) throws the opposite turn and throws first.
A Celebrity Invitational game is set for Friday night, following the women’s Elite Eight draw at 8 p.m. The men and women behind 33 Canadian championships, 11 Olympic medals, a world hockey championship, a Memorial Cup and a Juno Award will hit the ice for two fun four-end games.
PointsBet Canada is awarding up to $1 million to any fan who can predict the perfect bracket and is also giving away plenty of prizes in the free-to-play Sweep 16 Bracket Challenge. Click here for more information and fill in your bracket today.
For the full 2022 PointsBet Invitational schedule, click here.
Live, up-to-date scoring can be viewed by clicking here.
TSN/RDS, the official broadcasting partner of Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will televise all of the action from Fredericton. Click here for the full broadcast schedule.