Curlers don’t normally celebrate when the opposition steals a point, but you can forgive Newfoundland and Labrador skip Greg Smith’s exuberance when his last shot in the 10th end of a Brier round-round game Monday morning in Regina came up too short to count.
That gave Thomas Scoffin and the Yukon a steal of one, but Newfoundland’s front end of Ian Withycombe and Andrew Taylor had swept hard, hard enough to get their skip’s rock to be second shot, ensuring their team, which also includes third Matthew Hunt, a 7-6 win.
That prompted a yell of joy from Smith because it was the first victory for his rookie rink through three games in Regina. And it certainly fit the personality of the 21-year-old, whose energy, excitement and, at times, gambling shot-making has caught the attention of those taking in this Brier.
“Despite beheading a broom in frustration after a missed shot cost him the game Saturday night, Greg Smith of Newfoundland-Labrador has (the Brier) crowd eating out of palm of his hand,” tweeted Winnipeg Free Press assistant sports editor Jason Bell, who has covered more than a few Briers.
“He's loud, charismatic and just plain fun to watch. And the 21-year-old skip can make shots.”
The decision over the Yukon was more than a first-ever Brier win for Smith and Co. It was also the first for a Newfoundland rink not skipped by Brad Gushue in 12 years.
Gushue is in Regina, but as skip of Team Canada, and through three games, was living up to the mantle of defending champion. He, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker were 3-0 after an 8-4 Monday morning victory over another Brier veteran, Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories.
It was also Gushue’s 114th Brier win, the most ever by any skip in the history of the Canadian men’s curling championship. He moved past his 2006 Olympic teammate, Russ Howard, who had 113 wins skipping teams from Ontario and New Brunswick, and Alberta’s Kevin Martin.
“I wasn’t even aware of it until last night, and I was a little bit nervous when we were tied up and down one (against the Territories),” Gushue told the media after the Monday morning game.
“But it’s nice to achieve. Obviously, I’ve been here lots, but what I’m most proud of is that each time we’ve been here, we’ve been competitive. And to be up there with Kevin and Russ, it’s pretty elite company. Two guys I’ve idolized and looked up to … and had the honour of playing with over the course of my career. To be up there with those guys is pretty cool.”
Gushue’s first Brier win came in 2003.
“I do remember it,” said Gushue. “We played Doug Harcourt from Saskatchewan, in Halifax. We were tied up coming home, he had one biting the eight-foot on the centre-line. I made a real nice draw to the back of the four-foot, and he just missed the runback. I remember it pretty vividly, and obviously I’ll remember this one, too.”
The record win came in Gushue’s 175th Brier game, which is second-most ever, behind only Glenn Howard, who has made 218 appearances as third for his brother Russ and skip of his own Ontario entries.
Glenn Howard also holds the most wins by any Brier curler at any position — 159 — and Brier appearances — 18. This is Gushue’s 15th Brier, which is a record among skips.
With files from Curling Canada