There is just something about Jeff Stoughton’s squad this season that had been missing previously.
Heading to the Brier in most recent years, the main question was whether the Manitoba rep could beat the likes of Alberta’s Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin on curling’s biggest stage. Not to mention Ontario’s former world champ Glenn Howard.
But, with the return of third Jon Mead, the addition of second Reid Carruthers and a pretty successful campaign (No. 3 on the money list), Stoughton’s foursome will certainly not be intimidated when they face the world’s best at this year’s Brier, which starts in London, Ont., on Saturday.
“We have the awareness that, if we play our best games, we can beat them,” the Charleswood skip said after throwing practice rocks at the Granite Curling Club on Wednesday. “We’ve played (Martin) four or five times this year and only one was a blowout, and we beat them a couple of times.
“We have more confidence that we can beat any of those teams this year.”
Mead admitted that both Martin and Howard can be intimidating.
“Both have the kind of game that if they are at their best, they are very, very difficult to beat,” he said. “But if we play our best, we can stack up with them. If we can do that, we can beat Kevin and Glenn on any given day.
“We’ve beaten the best teams in the world this year and we beat one of the best (Mike McEwen) to get here. So, we feel like we can compete — and win it.”
In fact, the Brier could not have come at a better time for Carruthers, who will be competing in his first national men’s championship.
“Obviously, I’m very excited,” said Carruthers, who was fifth man for Kerry Burtnyk at the 2008 Brier. “Our team has been playing really well all year and I think we were peaking at the provincials. The field looks really difficult but there’s no reason why we can’t win it. I can’t wait to go. It’s going to be a blast.”
The team was scheduled to leave Thursday morning.
“Last year, Jon started talking about going back to the Brier and we all want to go to the Worlds,” Stoughton said. “(Lead) Steve (Gould) and I want to win another Worlds and Jon wants to win his first. And we want Reid to get his first Brier win.
“The whole year has gone according to plan so far … Our confidence level right now is, we can do it.”
Mead came back because he wanted his eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, to see him play at the Brier. And she will be watching her daddy on TV.
“She took the (Manitoba) trophy to school and they were all excited there,” Mead said.
CLASSY CONGRATS: McEwen may have been knocked for suggesting his team had a better chance to win the Brier but he did congratulate Carruthers for winning after undergoing knee surgery and stepping down from skip to second so successfully.
“It was very classy of him to do something like that,” Carruthers said.
TRIALS SITE LOOMING: The winning bid to host the 2013 Olympic trials will likely be announced next Wednesday. Although Curl Manitoba has entered a bid, no one has made plans to attend, said executive director Shane Ray. He added that the CCA received a very strong bid from Ottawa. CCA HQ is in Ottawa.
BITERS: Should the changes to qualifying for the women’s provincials go through as expected, Fort Rouge’s Cathy Overton-Clapham would get a bye as defending champ. But there would be no bye for the top CTRS team, currently Jennifer Jones … Overton-Clapham’s third/fifth Breanne Meakin will play third for Pembina’s Sam Good in the Mixed city zone playdowns at the Charleswood Curling Club this weekend. Former Canadian Mixed champion Sean Grassie of Deer Lodge has been named the No. 1 seed for those playdowns.
Tim Horton’s Brier
1. Kevin Martin, Alberta (2-1) … riding on Golden laurels
2. Jeff Stoughton, Manitoba (3-1) … has quiet confidence
3. Glenn Howard, Ontario (4-1) … hometown fave
4. Steven Laycock, Sask. (7-1) … seeking Sask. sweep
5. Jim Cotter, B.C. (10-1) … the dark horse
6. Brad Gushue, Newfoundland (15-1) … Rock crumbling beneath him
7. Brad Jacobs, Northern Ontario (20-1) … won’t surprise again
8. Shawn Adams, Nova Scotia (25-1) … Bluenose spoiler
9. James Grattan, New Brunswick (30-1) … young Howard magic?
10. Francois Gagne, Quebec (50-1) … needs aging
11. Jamie Koe, Yukon/NWT (75-1) … mushing in brother’s shadow
12. Eddie MacKenzie, P.E.I. (100-1) … will spud along