ST. JOHN'S -- Jeff Stoughton got what he came for, but still left feeling a bit unfulfilled. Stoughton's Winnipeg foursome lost 7-5 to John Morris of Calgary in the Grand Slam of Curling's Players' Championship semifinal yesterday at Mile One Stadium.
That ended the team's hope of defending its title, and even though Stoughton earned an Olympic curling trials berth this week, it seemed like small consolation yesterday.
"The Olympic trials spot has gone to the back of our heads again, so it's just the disappointment of the moment," Stoughton's third Jon Mead said.
"In the grand scheme of things we've done a lot. It's hard to come into these things expecting to win all the time when the field is so good. To make it to the last four (teams), you've done pretty well."
Stoughton seemed to be in decent shape to advance to the final yesterday but his team struggled in the 10th end when the Manitobans trailed by a point and had the hammer.
Both of Mead's shots wrecked on guards, allowing Morris, who Stoughton beat in last year's Players' Championship final, to set up for a steal.
With the crowd still roaring about an outstanding raise-double takeout for the win by Edmonton's Kevin Martin in the other semifinal on the next sheet, Stoughton tried a circus shot of his own to go for the victory.
But Stoughton's angle-raise double attempt removed nothing, giving Morris a steal of one and the win.
Sportsnet analysts Marilyn Bodogh and Ed Lukowich, as well as members of the Morris team, openly wondered why Stoughton tried such a difficult shot when he could have played an easier double-bump for one point to tie the game.
"I didn't think he should play that shot," said Morris, whose third Kevin Koe made an outstanding double in the 10th to remove two partially-buried Stoughton counters. "I was glad he threw it though."
'WORTH THE RISK'
"We could have double-bumped," Stoughton admitted. "It wasn't a gimme either so we thought we could hit a quarter-rock, get the double and maybe get our deuce for the win. It was worth the risk."
Mead felt badly about his two missed shots in the 10th end of the semifinal.
"I didn't help anything out," he said. "Morris's lead man (Paul Moffatt), played great and they always had rocks in great positions. I think (Koe) really outplayed me at third and Jeff kept us in the game. If Jeff doesn't play a great game, we get waxed."
Stoughton went on to play Brad Heidt of Kerrobert, Sask., in the third-place game and the skips agreed to add a twist.
Leads, seconds and thirds were only allowed to play draws -- takeouts were disallowed -- putting almost all the rocks in the house. Skips were allowed to try any shot and it made for an entertaining eight-end game that seemed to be appreciated by the fans.
Mead said originally the organizers were going to cancel the third-place game "because the players hate it," but put it back in because it could have had an effect on the Canadian Team Ranking System standings, which determined a qualifier for the Olympic trials. Stoughton locked up that trials berth when Wayne Middaugh of Toronto was eliminated Friday, so the third-place game was unnecessary.
"We're the reason it's there and we were in it, so we wanted to do something to make it more interesting," said Mead, whose team won 5-4 and wound up winning $20,000.