Stoughton roaring and ready to go

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:07 AM ET

STEINBACH -- Time has at least started to heal the wound of losing that Olympic trials final to Newfoundland's Brad Gushue.

As such, Charleswood's top-seeded Jeff Stoughton is approaching this year's Safeway Select with a renewed vigour.

"There's no doubt that time has helped, and the win in Winnipeg at (last month's Grand Slam event) was a huge factor in getting our game faces back on," Stoughton said before practising at the T.G. Smith Centre yesterday. "This is the rest of our year right here. A couple of Slams left and, hopefully, the Brier and the worlds. That's what we want to finish the year off with."

Last year at this time, the approaching trials were still preying on Stoughton's mind.

"It mattered that we lost, but in the big scheme of things it wasn't our main focus," he readily admitted. "We just didn't play to our abilities last year, and that's why we lost."

HELL YEAR: Valour Road skip Renaud Gagne called it the year from hell. After his team abandoned him, forcing him into MCT playoff situations to earn his very first trip to the Select, Gagne suffered a knee injury and cannot play this week. James Kirkness will replace Gagne at skip.

'THIS WAS IT'

"My year was pretty much done," Kirkness said. "We weren't going to play in mixed this year because my sisters have some (travel) plans. So this was it.

"To have this kind of opportunity was great."

Kirkness is still uncertain as to the future of his own men's team.

JITTERS: Former Manitoba junior men's champion Reid Carruthers qualified for the men's provincials in his first year out of juniors.

"The biggest high was probably winning the juniors," he said. "Obviously, winning the provincial title was a pretty overwhelming. Getting to come here was right up there, though."

Carruthers opens against Valour Road clubmate Ryan Fry, the No. 3 seed.

"I'm definitely going to feel nervous," admitted Carruthers, 21. "I've never played in front of a big crowd before. Getting to play in an arena is a whole new experience for us. I know everyone's going to be pretty nervous. But generally, our team plays a little better when we're under a little pressure."

Carruthers was hoping that Fry would be tired after winning an international spiel in Japan.

"There was no money on the line, just pride," Fry said. "We were able to play really well and won the tournament, which was good.

"It was a long trip home (Monday), but we're feeling pretty good."

BITER: Vic Peters, the fifth man for Valour Road's Dave Smith here, has been invited to the next Grand Slam in St. John's, N.L., where he is hoping to qualify for the Players' Championship.


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