Most top U.S. curling teams descended on Minnesota over the weekend for the mostly American St. Paul Cash Spiel, giving us a good opportunity to see how the teams stack up face to face.
The answer? Heath McCormick’s new High Performance team is No. 1. McCormick — with HP veteran Chris Plys and recent juniors Corey Dropkin and Thomas Howell — made a great start to the season, taking second in the Oakville Fall Classic for 30.7 Order of Merit points, the top U.S. men’s performance of the season so far.
This week, McCormick rolled rather convincingly through St. Paul, winning all seven games by at least three points.
Second place went to a High Performance team missing its skip — Kroy Nernberger led the team in place of Craig Brown and knocked out John Shuster in the quarterfinals. That’s their second strong showing of the season, and that’s enough to move them past previous No. 1 Shuster in my generally subjective rankings.
Todd Birr, still kicking at age 48, upset Brady Clark in the quarterfinals.
The biggest surprise the other direction: Pete Fenson struggled and didn’t make the quarterfinals. And the lone North Carolina team got more wins (1) than both Arizona teams (0) in the 20-team field (17 U.S., 3 Canadian).
So the rankings show McCormick moving up to No. 1, followed by Brown (Nernberger), Clark, Shuster and Birr. Also moving up: St. Paul quarterfinalists Stephen Dropkin and Bill Stopera, though they’re still behind Fenson (who has to put it together at some point) and Hunter Clawson, who has been concentrating on junior tournaments with no Order of Merit points so far.
Also this weekend, Alex Leichter played in an event in Ottawa in which he was 2-1 in pool play but didn’t make the quarterfinals for reasons not quite clear from the site.
Women: Most American teams were also in St. Paul, where Cory Christensen won for the second straight year. The 21-year-old skip shook off a group-stage loss to Jessica Schultz and beat Jamie Sinclair in the semis and Nina Roth 7-6 in the final. Schultz won a tiebreaker for the other semifinal slot, while her 2006 teammate Cassie Potter was 2-2 in group play. High Performance juniors Madison Bear and AnnMarie Dubberstein won one each.
So Christensen is now No. 1 in the rankings, closely followed by Roth, Sinclair and Schultz.
Brown, Fenson, Shuster and Mike Siggins (Arizona) are heading to the Canad Inns Men’s Classic in Manitoba.
Jamie Sinclair and Cassie Potter are also Manitoba-bound for the Atkins Curling Supplies Classic.
Brady Clark and Cristin Clark will travel from their Washington homes to the Hub International Crown of Curling in Kamloops, B.C.
Brandon Corbett is in action at the Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel in Ontario.
The only webcast I’ve found so far — TESN will be at the Atkins Curling Supplies Classic.