Park finding Safeway Championship difficult

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

SELKIRK -- This may come as a surprise but Kevin Park has found his first Safeway Championship rather taxing.

"It's been a real grind," Park said yesterday. "It seems like we've been here for a month ... We played one game a day, then you're waiting around for so long. But all the teams are tough."

Park, of course, was recruited from Alberta to play third for Charleswood's Jeff Stoughton, the No. 2 seed, as Stoughton set his sites on qualifying for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. To get to the Canadian Curling Trials quicker, Stoughton figures he must win the Brier. But, to get to the Brier, he will have to win his seventh Manitoba with Park at his side.

UNBEATEN

"The format is entirely different (than Alberta's)," said Park, 44. "It's tougher mentally because one loss puts you behind the 8-ball whereas in Alberta, you're in a round robin and three, maybe even four (losses) sometimes gets you a tie-breaker. You can't get away with that here."

Stoughton remained the only unbeaten team here after clipping West Kildonan's Reid Carruthers 5-3 in the Page playoff one-versus one game at the Selkirk Recreation Complex last night.

Stoughton will play in his eighth Manitoba final, aiming for a record seventh crown when he takes on the winner of the Carruthers-Kerry Burtnyk semifinal.

"It's nice to know that we've been there before," Stoughton said. "And it's what we've been driving for all year, to get to that Brier and we're one win away."

That is why he picked up Park to replace Ryan Fry, who defected to Newfoundland.

"He's a great shotmaker and he can make any shot we want him to make and that's why he's here," Stoughton said. "I think he's enjoying it. He's a little nervous so that's good. That makes you concentrate on becoming a better player."

Park said he was not that nervous heading into his first provincials in a strange province.

"I mean, we built a foundation to work on over the year so we just have to trust that things will work out," he said. "The communication's been great. We've probably played about 75 games now so, it's working well."

Well enough to put them in the one-versus-one playoff.

"It's good," Stoughton said. "We're one step closer."

DREAM TEAM: Park was named the all-star third by the Manitoba Curling Media Association. The rest of the squad is skip Reid Carruthers, second Rob Fowler (Stoughton) and lead Denni Neufeld (Mike McEwen).

"Awesome," Carruthers responded. "It's too bad we lost the game because it's kind of drowning out my high from winning the all-star award. But it's a team thing."

BITER: There is a chance that Team Canada's Jennifer Jones could defend her title this year and not wear Team Canada colours at the 2010 Scotties, which conflict with the Olympics. Should the winner of this year's Scotties also win the Olympic trials, this year's runner-up will be Team Canada next year, the CCA announced.


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