Skip feeling younger

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Jeff Stoughton wouldn't go so far as to say his new-look squad has given him a new lease on curling life.

The additions of third Ryan Fry and second Rob Fowler have made the 43-year-old former world champ feel a little bit younger, though.

"The youth of them is kind of nice, because they're excited," Stoughton said yesterday. "I was getting a lot of phone calls during the summer when I wasn't too in it, so they got me all pumped up, which is good.

"That's exactly what I needed."

Stoughton, who plays out of Charleswood Curling Club, had to replace half of his squad last spring when third Jon Mead decided to take the year off and second Garry Van Den Berghe retired.

Stoughton, just as contemporary Kerry Burtnyk did in his return this fall after a year off, went younger to complement lead Steve Gould.

And Stoughton's new pieces appear to be fitting in quite well. In its first bonspiel together -- the Manitoba Curling Tour's Asham 8-Ender Open over Thanksgiving weekend at Asham Arena -- the Stoughton crew has rattled off five straight wins and will play in tonight's final.

Stoughton, who beat Asham's David Bohn 7-5 in a quarter-final yesterday afternoon and Edmonton's Ted Appleman 8-4 in semifinal action last night, will face Burtnyk at 6:30 tonight for the $10,000 first prize.

Burtnyk thumped Asham's Sean Grassie 8-2 in last night's other semifinal.

Fowler, a Brandon resident who, coincidentally, used to play with Burtnyk, said the new quartet is already showing signs of promise.

"We all made a commitment back in the spring that if we're going to do this we need to prepare," Fowler said.

"So we've all been going to the gym and working out and doing the right things to prepare, and I think it's shown this weekend."

Another part of Stoughton's approach has also impressed Fowler.

"There's no question that Jeff's more committed to doing the little things on and off the ice, which I think in the long run will make a difference," Fowler said.

"Part of that's going to be practising lots over the winter and continuing to go to the gym and that type of thing."

Stoughton's business-like approach to the game certainly helps, but getting a boost of youth might also help him forget last year's heartache of losing in the final of the Olympic Trials.

"They're loose, they're having fun, and it's what I need as well," he said. "There's nothing wrong with bringing some young guys to your team to pump you up a little bit."


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