After seven days of curling action from the Calgary bubble at Canada Olympic Park, 10 rinks are packing their bags for home while the remaining eight get set to battle in the championship pool.
It all starts Friday at 2:30pm et/11:30am pt on TSN 1/3 and streaming on TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct.
The top four teams in each of the pools will carry their records over to the championship round and will play four more games against teams in the opposing pool over the next couple days.
However, due to the expanded field at this year’s Canadian championship, there is no time for the standard four-team page playoff, meaning only three playoff spots are up for grabs.
An already difficult task just got a lot harder.
"It's a massive difference, actually. It makes it a lot more challenging to make it in and especially with the expanded field,” Jennifer Jones said on Thursday. “It's going to be difficult which makes you have to play well and you want to be playing well heading into playoffs anyway."
Every loss from this point on could be a major blow to your chances of capturing Scotties glory this year with three-loss teams probably needing to win out in championship pool play just to have a chance at the final three.
The top-ranked team will advance to Sunday night’s championship tilt while the second and third seeds will play in the semifinal earlier in the day.
Let’s take a closer look at the championship pool and which teams have the best chance at advancing.
Ontario (Team Rachel Homan)
Ontario’s Team Homan claimed victory over the defending champs Thursday afternoon, finishing first in Pool A.
The squad from the Ottawa Curling Club played one of their best games of the week against Kerri Einarson’s rink from Gimli, Man., collectively shooting 85 per cent.
“I think we’re right there. If we can continue with the way we’re playing and the way we’re hanging in games and fighting tooth and nail to the end. I don’t think there’s going to be any pretty games out here. It’s going to be a lot of grinding. Just whoever can outlast this long marathon. I think we’re right there and have the ability right now,” said the skip.
Homan has been one of the best skips all week inside the bubble, too, regularly shooting above 80 per cent. And that’s all the more impressive considering she’s eight months pregnant.
The 31-year-old has never missed the playoffs in each of her seven prior appearances at the Scotties. The three-time Canadian champion has lost in the final the past two seasons.
Team Homan will square off against former lead Lisa Weagle for the first time in the championship round since replacing her with Sarah Wilkes this off-season.
It appears Ontario is primed for another run.
Canada (Team Kerri Einarson)
The reigning champs are also in good position to advance to the playoffs with a near perfect record so far at the Scotties.
They picked up victories in each of their first seven games before running into Ontario in the round robin finale.
Team Einarson have hardly missed a beat in Calgary despite playing only one competitive game since their title run in Moose Jaw, Sask., last year before arriving at the Scotties this week.
The national curling championship will likely have to go through the No. 1-ranked team in the country one way or another.
Saskatchewan (Team Sherry Anderson)
Sherry Anderson, 57, has led her team of Scotties rookies into the thick of the playoff race and first overall in the Pool B standings.
Saskatchewan has gotten big wins over the young guns from Quebec and powerhouse Manitoba and have won four straight overall.
The oldest skip at this year’s Canadian championship is competing in her 10th career Scotties and is looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 when she played third for Stefanie Lawton. Anderson captured silver in 2002, losing to Colleen Jones in the final.
Anderson says now that they have crossed their first goal off this list by making it to the championship pool, they might as well keep going.
“I mean we're at the Scotties. We're here in a bubble, so might as well curl because that's all we got to do,” she said. “Now to get into the top three we have to keep going and I don't imagine we could have another loss, maybe one. You want to start building momentum and getting better and better with every game."
Saskatchewan will go as far as the veteran skip will take them, but the prairie province has nevertheless been one of the more intriguing rinks in Calgary.
Anderson has been one of the better quotes in post-game Zoom scrums, too, highlighted by her description of the unusual sounds heard at this year’s Scotties because of the empty stands.
Manitoba (Team Jennifer Jones)
Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones is in a good position as she pursues a record seventh Scotties title.
However, having to face both Homan and Einarson in the championship pool makes that feat even more difficult.
Jones has already set a Scotties record this week, passing Colleen Jones for the most wins all-time at the event with 153.
Weagle, the new lead on the team, says she’s starting to feel comfortable with her new squad after spending a decade with Team Homan.
"I'm feeling like every game, I'm getting more and more confident. I'm fitting in on the team and really finding my place. We really haven't played that many games together,” she said on Thursday. “I'm just building on my confidence and the team has been really great at helping me make my shot. I'm feeling really good. I'm enjoying it. I'm having the most fun I've ever had curling."
Will Jones add to her G.O.A.T legacy?
Quebec (Team Laurie St-Georges)
The year’s bubble Scotties has been the coming-out party for 23-year-old skip Laurie St-Georges and her rink from out of the Laval-sur-le-Lac and Glenmore curling clubs in Quebec.
Expectations weren’t sky-high for these Scotties rookies coming in, but they’ve quickly shown what they’re made of and have caught the eye of many curling fans in their home province and across the country.
A comeback win over Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt and an upset of Team Tracy Fleury were the highlights.
The self-proclaimed “curling addict” has said all week they don’t need fans in the stands to get pumped up because they have plenty of energy themselves.
"We're a pretty intense team. But I think we have a good intensity. It's not stressful to be out there. We're pretty calm," St-Georges told TSN.ca earlier this week.
They won’t be the betting favourites going into the championship round. Can they prove everyone wrong again?
In the mix
Alberta (Team Laura Walker)
Laura Walker’s rink out of the Saville Community Curling Centre in Edmonton have already claimed some sort of redemption at this year’s Scotties by making the championship pool. They missed out last year after winning their first three games.
But, Alberta is looking for more.
“I think our goal is to stand atop the podium and to win this event. I don’t think we’re going to be truly satisfied unless that happens,” said the skip. “Yes, it’s a bit of a monkey off our back to be in the championship round, but we’re not satisfied at this point by any means.”
Still, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Team Walker to make the final three.
Alberta have had their moments this week but struggled to find consistency.
They’ll need to find their A-game in the championship pool because three losses means there’s little room for error.
Wild Card 1 (Team Tracy Fleury)
After starting off hot with three straights wins, Team Tracy Fleury, skipped by Chelsea Carey, fell off a bit the rest of the way, dropping three of their last five.
Still, Wild Card 1 must be happy with their position given that Carey had never played with this team before this year’s Scotties.
"We came in here with Chelsea as a new player, so things are going to take a while to click. I feel like we're learning every game and taking good things from each game," said third Selena Njegovan.
Team Fleury might have to beat both Team Einarson and Team Homan over the next couple days to have a shot at advancing.
Wild Card 3 (Team Beth Peterson)
After starting off slow with a 1-3 record, Team Beth Peterson of the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club in Winnipeg reeled off four straight victories to punch their ticket to the championship pool.
The Scotties rookies needed to beat Northwest Territories in their last game, stealing singles in both the 10th end and extra to make the final eight.
The 26-year-old skip says she has more to give.
“I can say with confidence that I still haven’t brought my best game and I think as a team we haven’t brought our best full 10 ends,” said Peterson. “I know that’s in our pocket and I think we’re going to be really competitive in the championship pool.”
Team Peterson are on a hot streak coming in and will need to keep it that way if they want to be in the playoffs.