Stoughton skips prediction

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

There's no chance Jeff Stoughton is going to make the same mistake he made at the 2006 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials in Halifax.

Not a chance.

The Manitoba skip won't be assessing Brad Gushue's odds of winning this morning's ultra-important Brier game between his team and Newfoundland/Labrador just as he did three years ago.

That's when he said the Rock rink had "no chance" to beat his experienced side in the contest to decide Canada's representative at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.

"I'm not guaranteeing any wins -- that's for sure," said Stoughton yesterday, with a chuckle. "All I'm saying is it should be a good game. They're a strong, young team, and we have to play to our potential to beat these guys."

The battle for the all-important third-place seed in the round-robin standings behind frontrunners Alberta and Ontario makes today's game a pivotal one.

Third spot keeps a team out of the tiebreaker and sends it straight to the playoffs.

"It is big, for sure," said Stoughton, who is making his seventh Brier visit. "All we want to do is to be able to play on Friday -- whether it's a tiebreaker or a playoff game, we just want to keep on playing. But we're going to have to win a couple of games."

Since the Trials and Stoughton's infamous quote -- and the Gushue rink's subsequent gold-medal victory at the Winter Olympics -- the two skips met in the 2007 Brier in Hamilton, where Stoughton's crew exacted a measure of revenge with a 6-4 victory.

Gushue went on to finish runner-up to Ontario's Glenn Howard, while Manitoba finished in third place after beating Alberta's Kevin Martin at the Canadian men's curling championship.

Since then, however, Stoughton says the reasons for wanting to one-up Gushue and Co. haven't been personal.

"I think the first time we played them, there was," said Stoughton, when asked about the motivation of vengeance.

"But after that, it's been good -- they're all good guys, we're good guys and we all get along. They're actually sitting beside us in the locker-room, so we happen to be sharing with them all the time.

"There's nothing more motivational now than just, 'Hey, we're at the Brier,' " Stoughton said. "We're going to have to beat them to keep going."

The two teams could end up playing in a tiebreaker or the 3-4 Page playoff game this weekend at the Dome.

"Whatever happened with the whole 'No chance' thing was a motivator for us," Gushue said.

"He just said something a lot of other people were thinking. I didn't take it personally."

Gushue's third Mark Nichols echoed his skip's sentiment.

"Jeff wasn't taking a shot at us. He said it how he thought it was going to happen," Nichols said.

"I'm just happy it didn't turn out that way. There's no hard feelings there. Jeff's a good guy, and he's always fun to play against."

There's a good chance he'll be desperate this morning, though, depending on the outcome of last night's late game against juggernaut Alberta.

A loss would have dropped the Manitoba champs to 5-4 and in danger of missing the playoffs.

"This game's going to be big," Nichols added. "They're probably going to come in with their backs against the wall, so they're going to come out firing and we've got to be ready for it."


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