Sweeting vs Homan. McEwen vs Jacobs.
Rivalries that are sure to delight and excite curling fans over the next three years, up to and including, the 2017 Canadian Olympic Trials.
The men's and women's finals at the 2014 Canada Cup of Curling, in Camrose, Alberta, featured these two sets of rivals. The women's final - between reigning Alberta champion Val Sweeting and reigning Canadian champion Rachel Homan - provided a tight script through to the final end. The men's championship - featuring Olympic champion Brad Jacobs and 2014-15 money leader Mike McEwen - was over way early.
MCEWEN BLASTS OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS
For Team McEwen - the team that almost wasn't - this season has been an absolute dream. Consider that their 8-3, eight end win over Team Jacobs boosted their season winnings to over $100,000.00 and we're barely reaching the halfway point. They've won six of seven events played. The only time McEwen's foursome hasn't won a tournament they've been involved in this season, they finished second.
In this one, they took two with the hammer in the first, then stole three in the second when Jacobs' final shot - which, realistically, was an attempt to hold McEwen to one - came in a little too hot and settled down too late. Although a McEwen mistake in the third almost led to handing that 3-spot right back, a deuce was what Jacobs secured. When McEwen responded with two more in the fourth, that it was over was palpable.
McEwen keeps on rolling. Right now, it's hard to imagine that he and teammates B.J. and Denni Neufeld and Matt Wozniak, won't be at the Brier. Finally. Unless... they're peaking too soon.
"For sure. Absolutely," was McEwen's grinning response when TSN's Cathy Gauthier asked whether his team can still get better. "It was a little ugly, even though the scoreboard was very much in our favour."
McEwen's big week here cemented an invitation to take part on Team Canada at next month's Continental Cup, in Calgary.
SWEETING BEATS HOMAN, FORMER TEAMMATE
For Val Sweeting, a 6-3 win over rival Rachel Homan is a stamp of approval for her team going forward, with new vice Lori Olson-Johns in place following months of instability. With two major wins in just over a month, Team Sweeting has rocketed up the standings, jumped to the head of the class in earnings among Canadian women's teams ($59,950.00) and - like Team McEwen - earned a place on the Team Canada Continental Cup roster.
It's an amazing story line. Sweeting loses the 2014 Scotties to Homan. Sweeting's teammate, Joanne Courtney, leaves for Homan's squad. Sweeting adds seven time New Brunswick champ Andrea Crawford. Crawford abruptly leaves the team just before The Masters begins at the end of October. Sweeting wins that event, anyway, with Cathy Overton-Clapham at vice, as Olson-Johns wasn't available to join the team at that point.
"It’s all worked out in the end," Sweeting told me last week as she reflected on the turbulence she and teammates Rachelle Brown and Dana Ferguson had faced. She was sure Olson-Johns would be a good fit and the veteran (two Alberta championships as a vice for Cathy King in 2005 and 2006) looked like exactly that in the final. Whether Olson-Johns remains on the team for a full Olympic cycle remains to be seen but for now, Sweeting's rink looks set and formidable.
“A great team game, probably our strongest game all week, start to finish and from lead to skip,” Sweeting said in a media scrum following the win. Homan had made some pistols to keep her team in it early. Some near misses in the later going helped Sweeting score a deuce in the ninth end and then steal another in the tenth.
You can expect these two teams to go toe-to-toe a lot over the next few years and with an experienced (and decorated) Team Jennifer Jones in the mix, the stage is being set for a remarkable three years of big time rivalries in Canadian women's curling.
Ditto for the men's side, with McEwen and Jacobs set to wage war after war after war. While McEwen has a leg up right now, and has for most of this season, you can be certain the Olympic champions from The Soo will have an answer.
Right now, however, there is just no stopping the McEwen bullet train.