Nervous night for Stoughton

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:17 PM ET

HALIFAX -- You might say Manitoba skip Jeff Stoughton has finally conceded that his opponent in today's Canadian Curling Trials final does indeed have a chance.

Prior to the trials, Stoughton suggested that Newfoundland's Brad Gushue would have no chance after parachuting in Russ Howard to call the game and play second, believing it would mess the chemistry of an already good, young team. Gushue finished first with an 8-1 record, earning the hammer in today's showdown, to be televised by CBC at 11:30 a.m. The winners become Olympians.

'PROVEN WRONG'

"I've been proven wrong," Stoughton owned up yesterday. "I said what I said because that's what I felt at the time. It's not the first time I've been proven wrong.

"I mean, they've had a fantastic week and hats off to them. They came out strong, played strong from lead to skip and one loss for the whole round robin is a pretty great week for them. We'll see if we can give them one more."

Gushue will not use the comment as a rallying cry.

"He was wrong," he said. "It was just a comment that he made that a lot of people were thinking and he was just one of those people that said it. We didn't take it personally. It doesn't bother us and when we played him in the round robin, it wasn't what motivated us to beat him. It was for positioning and the chance to represent your country. It's going to be the same thing (today)."

Stoughton added that the veteran Howard will help settle Gushue down in such an important match. And Manitoba third Jon Mead believes that the way Howard is calling the games has helped them.

"Cripes, they're good," he said. "They've got great touch, which has allowed Russ to create angles to eliminate everything, like runbacks. If they can keep that touch and Russ can keep calling that game, they're going to be very, very difficult to beat."

Both skips admitted to being nervous with their Olympic dreams on the line.

"You sleep as much as you can," said Stoughton, 42. "I don't think anyone can get a great sleep but you try to get as much rest as possible and I think if you stayed up all night, you'd probably be fine for the game anyway. You toss and turn and everybody at our age has to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, then you go back and toss and turn."

Gushue, 25, said he has also been getting up in the middle the night -- the same time as Howard each night.

"Oh, I'm nervous," he said. "You're playing for an opportunity to represent your country and it's human nature to be nervous. You watch Tiger Woods and he's churning on the inside but making it work on the outside. And whomever does that (today) is going to be the most successful.

"It's a game and a flip of a coin. You've just got to go out there, have fun and see what's going to happen. It's not life or death. We're not going to take it that way. You're still going to see us have a lot of fun (today) and I don't expect (my teammates) to be too uptight."

Both their teams put on a show for the crowd in the round robin.

"It looks like Jeff and them are playing pretty solid and it's going to be a good game," said Gushue, conceding he will be a crowd favourite as an Atlantic Province rep. "They're one of the best teams in the world and we're going to have to be at our best to beat them."

But Gushue has come of age here this week.

"I expect them to be as good as they've been and if we're as good as we've been, it should be a great tilt," Mead said. "Our only hope is that Jeff gets to throw the last one."


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