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Mitchell, Smith get their mixed signals straight in winning Newfoundland and Labrador doubles curling title

Greg Smith and Mackenzie Mitchell hug after winning the provincial mixed doubles curling championship Sunday afternoon by defeating the team of Brad and Hayley Gushue (background) in the final of the event at the Re/Max Centre in St. John’s — Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Greg Smith and Mackenzie Mitchell hug after winning the provincial mixed doubles curling championship Sunday afternoon by defeating the team of Brad and Hayley Gushue (background) in the final of the event at the Re/Max Centre in St. John’s — Keith Gosse/The Telegram

They rally to defeat Gushue daughter-dad team in provincial final at Re/Max Centre

Mackenzie Mitchell came to appreciate Greg Smith’s gambling style as the two hooked up for the provincial mixed doubles curling championship this past week at the Re/Max Centre in St. John’s.

She didn’t adopt Smith’s well-known penchant for smacking gum during games, however.

Lozenges were her thing.

“I’ve been on Halls all week,” said Mitchell, the first-year Memorial University student who combined with Smith to win the provincial title Sunday, defeating the daughter-dad team of Hayley and Brad Gushue 7-5.

“I lost my voice after one or two games and I only got it back today.”

While it took all week to find her voice again, she and Smith found their game a bit earlier. Nevertheless, it didn’t happen right off the bat.


"It just kind of clicked. It was the first time we ever curled together, so it was matter of getting used to each other, especially each other’s way of throwing. Different shots, different strategies and we just had to combine them and we eventually got it to work.” — Mackenzie Mitchell


They had a middling start, losing as many as they won through the first six games of the round-robin of the 10-team event, but those games also saw her grow more familiar with mixed doubles strategy and with her playing partner.

Mitchell, skip of the reigning Newfoundland and Labrador junior women’s champions and runners-up to Erica Curtis’s rink in the provincial Scotties final, had only played mixed doubles once before, when it was an end-of-the competition add-on for non playoff teams at the recent Canadian junior championships.

And the native of Irishtown on the province’s west coast knew Smith mostly as someone who also played out of the Re/Max Centre.

“I knew him a little from (his days in the junior ranks) and from around the club, but we weren’t super, super close, although we are now,” she said.

After the 3-3 start, Mitchell and Smith won six straight games, including a tiebreaker, to get to the semifinals.

“It was kind of a rough at the beginning,” said Mitchell, “but then it just kind of clicked. It was the first time we ever curled together, so it was matter of getting used to each other, especially each other’s way of throwing. For example, Greg throws a ton more weight than I do.

“Different shots, different strategies and we just had to combine them and we eventually got it to work.”

Smith is known for taking chances is his shot selection, and although Mitchell admits she’s someone who often opts “to bail out before you get in trouble,” she admits her partner’s willingness to toss the dice paid off.

‘We took some chances this week and it worked out, thanks to Greg,” she said.

She and Smith had to beat Katie Follett — normally Mitchell’s third — and her brother Sam in their final round-robin game just to get into a four-team tiebreaker, where they faced the Folletts once more and won again. That advanced them to the Sunday morning semifinal where they took on another sister-brother team (and one that included a former teammate of Mitchell) in Sarah and Ryan MacNeil Lamswood of Stephenville.

Mitchell and Smith won that matchup 7-1, sending them up against the Gushues, who had finished first in the round-robin, earning them a direct bye to the Sunday afternoon final.



The Gushues had been the story of the week, and why not? Here was an Olympic, world and two time Brier Canadian men’s champion skip teaming up with his 12-year-old daughter for the first time and in her first competitive event … and succeeding, this even though he had said, pre-competition, that they “had no real expectations” going into the week.

And foe the teenagers who made up the majority of the players in the provincials, the opportunity to play Brad Gushue — something not usually afforded local curlers, except those who compete in the Tankard — was thrilling.

And a bit nerve-wracking.

“It isn’t easy. He usually doesn’t miss,” said Mitchell.

In the final, the Gushues jumped out to a 4-0 lead, thanks in large part to a lovely tap shot by Hayley to score three in the opening end.

But Mitchell and Smith came up with two in the third end and stole three more in the fourth to take a lead they held the rest of the way.

“One thing I’ve learned about mixed doubles is that you can be down by five and still win,” said Mitchell.

“We were behind early, but we got it in our heads that we weren’t out of it. (We) managed to score a couple and then got a good end going (in the fourth) and things worked out in our favour.”

The win means Smith and Mitchell will be Newfoundland and Labrador’s representatives in the 2020 Canadian mixed doubles championship March 17-22 in Portage la Prairie, Man.

Twitter: @telybrendan

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