BEST OF THREE TEAM PLAY-OFF TO DETERMINE SCOTS FOR EUROS
Scotland's top three ranked men’s curling teams will go head to head this week for the chance to represent Scotland at the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships in Helsingborg, Sweden next month (15-23 November 2019).
Perth’s Dewar’s Centre will host the European qualifying play-off which gets underway tomorrow (10-13 October), with the format comprising a double round-robin and the top two teams progressing to a best of three game final.
Team Mouat are aiming to defend the European title they won last year at what was their first appearance in the Championships, Scotland’s debutants having ended the four year domination of current Olympic silver medallists and world champions Team Edin, beating the Swedes in the final.
“It means a lot to us, trying to get back to a European Championships for a second time and trying to defend that title, especially in Sweden on Team Edin’s patch,” said Bruce Mouat.
“We are trying not to put too much pressure on ourselves this week, but keeping the Team Scotland banner would be great. We have a good incentive as we know how great a feeling it was on the back of that European success. So, as much as there is expectation on our backs, we also thrive on that kind of pressure. We have had some really good events in our first and second year together and we are hoping to repeat the same in our third year.”
Mouat’s quartet has had a good championship record at the venue, winning back to back Scottish titles there for the last two years, as well as the Perth Masters at the start of this year. However, the skip who also led his men to Scotland’s first ever victory in a Grand Slam event in Canada two years ago, is taking nothing for granted.
“I think this will go all the way to Sunday. Whoever wins this time will have really proved themselves, as every single game at Perth this week is going to be tough, so I don’t expect it to be done early,” said Mouat.
Ross Paterson, like the other rival skip Glen Muirhead, has made three appearances for Scotland at a European Championships, the last of them on the same team as Muirhead when the event was hosted at Braehead in 2016. However, while Muirhead won a silver medal as a non-playing alternate on his last appearance in the event in Switzerland two years ago, this opportunity represents the chance for both men to skip at the Euros for the first time and Paterson knows his old team-mate will be as keen as he is to earn the success that has so far eluded them on the ice.
“I know Glen really well, we have a lot of history together having played on the same team for a number of years so I know how much of a competitor he is and he will be on his home ice rink this week,” said Paterson.
“There are interesting parallels; we both turned to skipping at the same time, we have the same level of experience under our belts and we know we are good enough to have European medals to our names, so to not have them by this stage in our careers is disappointing. I know that Glen will have that same fire in his belly as me and that is what makes this tougher, to come out of these games with just one team getting that chance.”
In their last competitive outing at the Swiss Cup last weekend, Team Paterson earned a place in the play-offs with a 100% record in the triple knockout qualifying format, before reaching the final where they lost out to Switzerland’s Olympic bronze medallists, Team de Cruz and Paterson knows that consistent form is required to go this distance this week at Perth.
“Basel showed us we can win the right games, at the right time,” he noted.
“We won six games on the bounce, so six hammers in a row and momentum was on our side, we controlled the majority of the games to qualify via the A road. We just fell a little bit short to a hot team who had with their backs was against the wall, because that was also a qualifying event for them in their bid to get to their Europeans.
“Now it’s our turn and we have another job to do this weekend. It is great that we have three teams of great quality and strength, so it is for that reason we have a play-off and that is all we ask for as players to have the opportunity to win the right to represent Scotland. It is the best honour anyone can get as an athlete, so you just have to go out and try and do your best and if we do our best then I know that we can qualify and that is a good position to be in.”
Two time former winner Eve Muirhead will lead Scotland’s women into action and will be looking to repeat their performance from 2017 in order to take the title from current European Champions Team Hasselborg who, like Niklas Edin’s men, have the advantage of playing in front of their own supporters.
It will be the fifth time that Sweden has hosted the European Championships, which also functions as the qualifier for the 2020 World Curling Championships, at which nations compete for qualifying points for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. The World Women’s Curling Championships will be hosted at the CN Centre in Prince George, in British Columbia, Canada from 14-22 March 2020.
©Images: Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart.