Sudbury curlers wasted little time getting right back into the groove as all four teams which advanced to the championship final of either the Cameron's Brewing Mixed Doubles Cashpiel or the Oakville Under-25 Kickoff included content from the Nickel City.
In mixed doubles play, the team of Keira McLaughlin/Tanner Horgan upended the tandem of Kira Brunton/Brett Lyon-Hatcher for the win while the women's final of the U25 tournament would see Isabelle Ladouceur (Jamie Smith, Lauren Rajala/Katy Lukowich) topple Abby Deschene (Britney Malette/Mya Smith/Marie-Elaine Little) by a final count of 8-1.
For McLaughlin and Horgan, the victory was somewhat unexpected, perhaps adding an extra dimension to their respective 2021-2022 schedules.
"We haven't curled together in any real events, but we do it all the time in practice," said McLaughlin, who moved from her hometown of Fredericton to Sudbury in March of 2020 to spend more time with her boyfriend (Horgan), while also signing on with the signing on with the Deschene open women's team that also features M-E Little and Zoe Valliere.
"It's a good little practice tool to play some mixed events. Seeing how well we did with the mixed doubles, we are going to look at entering more events," noted McLaughlin, who added that the women's and men's teams for her and Horgan remain the #1 priority.
One of the really interesting components of mixed doubles play is that fact that at an elite level, fans are likely to see partnerships of curlers who are also couples away from the rink, battling it out with perhaps the other 75%-80% of the field that are simply good friends and curling acquaintances competing together.
"It probably does help that we spend so much time together," said McLaughlin. "We practice together a lot. We see each other slide, we know how well each other can throw certain shots."
All of which is offset, at least to some extent, by the inevitable challenges that are inherent in any kind of team sport.
"You definitely have to be more accepting of more misses, just because there are less players to sweep and call line," acknowledged McLaughlin. "I think we have very different personalities on the ice: we have a couple's mode and an on-ice competitive mode."
"Both of us kind of switch into that competitive mode and it doesn't come off the ice with us. And it did help that we were winning a lot of games," added the 21 year-old fourth year Laurentian University student (Computer Science) with a laugh.
Their lack of game experience in mixed play did not slow down the McLaughlin/Horgan duo in the least as they strung together seven straight triumphs, beating, in succession: Emilie Desjardins/Robert Desjardins (7-6 - extra end), Kelly Tremblay/Pierre Lanoue (10-2), Lauren Cheal/Greg Cheal (6-5), Leslie Inglis/Riley Fung-Erns (6-3), Kaelyn Gregory/Joey Rettinger (8-2 - QF), Desjardins X two for a second time (6-5) and capping it off against Brunton (Sudbury native) and Lyon-Hatcher.
For their part, the latter were nearly as impressive, posting a record of 5-2 thanks to wins over Gregory/Rettinger (6-5 - extra end), Adrienne Belliveau/ Jordan McNamara (10-1), Lisa Weagle/John Epping (10-6), the Cheals (9-2 - QF) and Lauren Wasylkiw/Shane Konings (8-3 - SF), dropping their first battle against Wasylkiw/Konings 6-4 in an extra end in round robin play.
All in all, the winning duet had little to complain about.
"It was a pretty good weekend," said McLaughlin. "The first game was tough, especially for Tanner. I came out sort of hot and kind of got worse as he got better. By the end of the weekend, we were at a pretty decent level."
"We still have a lot of room for improvement, but for the first weekend of the year, it was a great weekend."
Sudbury will play host to the 2022 Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Championships from March 22nd to the 27th, with all games taking place at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.