Mead buoys Manitoba to Brier win

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 PM ET

LONDON — Jeff Stoughton and Jon Mead don’t know yet if they’re going to compete in the Olympic trials being held in their hometown of Winnipeg two years down the road.

But if they keep playing like they have this week in London, why the heck not?

Buoyed by brilliant shot-making by Manitoba third Mead, skip Stoughton became the first to book a Brier playoff berth by burying Alberta’s Kevin Martin 5-1 Wednesday night at the John Labatt Centre.

The 2010 Olympic champion conceded defeat in the eighth end with more rocks to play. Stoughton leads the pack at 8-1 while Martin and Ontario’s Glenn Howard are right behind at 7-2.

“We’re in and it’s not Thursday yet,” Stoughton said. “It’s nice. Our first goal was to get to eight wins and get into the weekend. Now, we can focus on trying to get to that 1-2 game (Friday night).”

They’ll make it if they knock off Brad Gushue’s top-notch Newfoundland squad Thursday morning and, in the afternoon, outlast Francois Gagne’s Quebec team, which snapped a six-game skid against Jamie Koe’s Territories team Wednesday night. They might even make it with just one win.

That 1-2 game has been historically huge for Stoughton. Both times he has made it (1996, ’99), he won his Briers.

“You get in that 1-2 game, you have two chances,” Mead said. “If you don’t get there, you have to win a bunch of games against the best teams in the world and that’s hard to do. Beating Kevin Martin twice in one year is hard enough; beating him twice in a week is even more difficult.”

But not as daunting when a rejuvenated Mead, who rejoined Stoughton for this run after playing cashspiels with Wayne Middaugh the last couple years, is on top of his game.

The 43-year-old left the Old Bear shaking his head.

“Jon played great,” Martin said. “He must’ve curled 100 % (and went for 97 % — Stoughton was 100 %). We had them in trouble, but every time we thought we had them, Jon would make a shot and they wouldn’t be in trouble anymore.

“He just played so well. Good for him.”

Mead couldn’t miss. He knows the significance of that hard-to-find feeling.

“I was able to hit all my shots and I’ve been around long enough to know that doesn’t happen every day,” Mead said. “Considering the stakes and the competition, I’d say it was one of my best games. When you’re playing the best team in the world, you’re going to have to be at your best.

“They play so well all the time, and if they’re off a half-inch here and there, you have to take advantage of those opportunities.”

All the Buffalo Boys contributed to the playoff charge. Martin said Stoughton didn’t have too many messes to clean up after Mead.

“Jon and Reid (second Reid Carruthers) made everything,” Stoughton said, “and Steve (lead Steve Gould) set up every end.

“It was a good team effort.”

It was a game played by a team aiming at the mountain top. In nine Briers, the 47-year-old Stoughton has only finished first in the round robin— in 1999 at Edmonton.

He’s only finished ahead of Martin once in six common Briers — in 2000 at Saskatoon when neither team made the final.

Martin missed a pickout double in the third end by just grazing the Stoughton rock he needed to start a pivotal chain reaction. The mistake gave Manitoba two and an early 3-0 lead.

“He missed it by a paper’s edge,” Stoughton said.

Stoughton drew to the four foot in the second end to open the scoring. He made it academic with a pair in the seventh, increasing the lead to 5-1.

Earlier in the day, Stoughton beat Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock 7-6, overcoming a 5-2 deficit with two in the seventh and a steal of two in the eighth.

He won it on a draw in the 11th end.

Stoughton has enjoyed some big days at past Briers.

This one, considering the position it has put him in here, will always loom large.


Videos

Photos