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Alberta claims gold at 2016 Canadian Mixed

Mick Lizmore and his Alberta teammates will get another chance to wear the Maple Leaf on their backs.

Team Alberta, 2016 Canadian Mixed champs, from left, skip Mick Lizmore, third Sarah Wilkes, second Brad Thiessen, lead Alison Kotylak. (Photo, Curling Canada/Sonja DiMarco)

Team Alberta, 2016 Canadian Mixed champs, from left, skip Mick Lizmore, third Sarah Wilkes, second Brad Thiessen, lead Alison Kotylak. (Photo, Curling Canada/Sonja DiMarco)

Lizmore’s Alberta squad from Edmonton completed a perfect, unbeaten week at the 2016 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship on Saturday afternoon at the Weston Golf and Country Club in Toronto with a 4-2 win over Saskatchewan’s Bruce Korte in the gold-medal game.

With the win, Lizmore, third Sarah Wilkes, second Brad Thiessen and lead Alison Kotylak will represent Canada at the 2016 World Mixed Championship, Oct. 15-22 in Kazan, Russia.

“It was pretty satisfying,” said a happy Lizmore, 28, a PhD student and instructor at the University of Alberta. “Heading into that last game, we were thinking to ourselves that we better put a good effort forth because it would be a shame to end the week with a loss. So we were pretty happy to put a good game together there. Bruce’s team played really well, but we were glad to get it done.”

All four Alberta players have played internationally for Canada. Lizmore and Thiessen played third and second respectively for Brendan Bottcher’s bronze-medal team at the 2013 Winter Universiade in Trentino, Italy. Wilkes was the third for Laura Crocker’s Canadian team at the 2013 Universiade, while Kotylak was the alternate for Kelsey Rocque’s gold-medal Canadian team at the 2014 World Juniors in Flims, Switzerland.

That experience showed up throughout the week in Toronto, and especially so in the gold-medal game as Alberta was in command the entire way.

Alberta sweepers Sarah Wilkes, right, and Brad Thiessen go to work during the gold-medal game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Sonja DiMarco)

Alberta sweepers Sarah Wilkes, right, and Brad Thiessen go to work during the gold-medal game. (Photo, Curling Canada/Sonja DiMarco)

“I think the experience definitely helped us, with Brad and I playing Universiade together and Sarah playing Universiade, and Ali with her junior experience,” agreed Lizmore. “I think we knew what to expect going into this week, and that couldn’t have hurt throughout the week.”

After blanking the first against Saskatchewan, Lizmore coolly hit for a deuce in the second end to take a lead he would never surrender. After two blanks, Korte was forced to a single in the fifth end, and Lizmore immediately responded with another deuce to go up 4-1.

Korte blanked the seventh, and had three rocks in the rings in the eighth, but Lizmore made a double takeout with his first delivery. Korte froze to the Alberta shooter, but Lizmore ended the game with an open hit to prompt the handshakes.

“It was a reassuring thing to score that deuce in two, and then keep things pretty safe and clean for the first four ends, really,” said Lizmore, who finished the game scored at 95 per cent. “That kind of set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Besides their international experience, all four Albertans had won national titles previously. Lizmore and Thiessen won the 2012 CIS Canadian university championship with Bottcher; Wilkes won back-to-back CIS gold medals as Crocker’s vice-skip; and Kotylak won the 2015 CIS title throwing lead rocks for Rocque.

The champs — two couples, as Thiessen and Kotylak are engaged while Lizmore and Wilkes are dating — will have 11 months to prepare for the second World Mixed Championships in Russia. At the inaugural World Mixed, this past September in Bern, Switzerland, Max Kirkpatrick’s Canadian team bowed out in the quarter-finals.

“That’s pretty unbelievable — it’s pretty special to be able to share this with Sarah, and also for Brad and Ali to be able to share it as well,” said Lizmore. “It’s something we never could have dreamed of.”

It was Alberta’s leading 11th Canadian mixed championship in the 53-year history of the event. Alberta and Saskatchewan arrived in Toronto each having won 10 previous times.

Korte’s silver-medal team from Saskatoon was rounded out by third Ros Stewart, second Kevin Marsh and lead Carolyn Marsh .

Meanwhile, in the bronze-medal game, Northern Ontario’s Colin Koivula romped to an 8-3 win over New Brunswick’s Charlie Sullivan.

Koivula’s team from Thunder Bay — third Oye-Sem Won Briand, second Christopher Briand and lead Amanda Gates — scored three in the second end, stole a single in the third, and then put the victory away with three more in the fifth.

Sullivan’s Saint John foursome included third Leah Thompson, second Paul Nason and lead Joanne Freeze.

The 2017 Canadian Mixed Championship is scheduled for Nov. 14-19, 2016, in Yarmouth, N.S.