PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — The field of 18 teams has been cut in half as the playoffs begin at the mixed doubles Olympic curling trials in Portage la Prairie, Man.
The teams of Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant and Laura Crocker and Geoff Walker went undefeated in round-robin play, posting perfect 8-0 records in their respective pools.
“First place is nice but if you’re looking at who you’re going to get in the next round, you’re not going to want to choose anybody,” Gallant said.
Olympic champions Jennifer Jones and Mark Nichols finished second in Pool A with a record of 6-2.
“We’re exactly where we wanted to be at the beginning of the week,” Jones said. “We wanted to get better each day and all in all we’re doing that.”
Dana Ferguson and Brendan Bottcher clinched second in Pool B, also with a 6-2 record.
The top two teams in each pool automatically qualified for the playoffs. After that, the next four best teams overall, regardless of pool, advanced.
There is still one spot left up for grabs. The duo of Nancy Martin and Catlin Schneider take on Chelsea Carey and Colin Hodgson in a single-game tiebreaker to determine who moves onto the playoffs. Watch it live at 9:30 a.m. ET only on CBCSports.ca.
The other playoff teams are Val Sweeting and Brad Gushue, Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris, and Jill Officer and Reid Carruthers.
How the playoffs work
Once the tiebreaker is settled, the eight playoff teams will battle in a double-knockout format that will trim the competition in half.
The four remaining teams will then compete in a Page playoff that will pit the top two teams against one another and the bottom two teams against one another.
The winner of the 1 vs. 2 game (Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on CBC TV and CBCSports.ca) goes directly to the final, while the loser plays the winner of the 3 vs. 4 game (Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on CBC TV and CBCSports.ca) for a spot in the final.
The championship game is set for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on CBC TV and CBCSports.ca.
Team Gushue well-represented
Gushue, Nichols, Gallant and Walker, who won the Brier and men’s world championship together last year, are all into the playoff round.
Earlier this year, when the team was mapping out its curling season, the players talked about the potential of going up against one another for an Olympic berth at the mixed doubles trials.
Now four of the eight playoff teams will include a member of Team Gushue.
“I know how good they are because I see it pretty much every day of the curling season,” Gallant said.
Team Gushue was disappointed after being knocked out of the team trials a month earlier in Ottawa. Now, their Olympic dreams are alive — with each man standing in the other’s way.
“If I could avoid them, I’d love to. But there are four other good teams in the final eight as well,” Gallant said.
Nichols is already ramping up the smack talk in anticipation of a team collision course.
“Everyone wants to go to the Olympics and there are no friends on the sheet for those games,” he said. “I don’t like to lose and I certainly don’t want to lose to Brett, Brad or Geoff.”
As for the skip, Gushue says he felt each member of his team had a 50/50 chance of winning it all going into the trials.
“I hope it’s me but if it’s not we’re going to be supportive of whoever it is,” Gushue said.