Stoughton hoping for shot at Friday game

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:23 PM ET

LONDON — A 9-2 Brier record feels like the American dollar these days.

It ain’t worth what it used to be.

Manitoba skip Jeff Stoughton knew he missed a glorious chance to watch blissfully detached as Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin duked it out on TV Thursday night in the round-robin finale at the John Labatt Centre.

Instead, Stoughton and his crew had to sweat it out all evening to see if the two-loss week they carved out here was good enough for Friday night’s 1-2 game, which comes with that all-important curling version of a bonus life line attached to it.

Stoughton should’ve sailed into that safe harbour after an 8-4 victory over Quebec in the afternoon, but he threw it away with an epic ill-timed double-jam shot that allowed Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue to score three in the eighth for a shocking 8-5 morning win.

That loss overshadowed what could’ve been a dandy day Stoughton, who — let’s keep this in perspective — is still in contention for his third career Brier win.

“If we beat Newfoundland, we would’ve been home-free right there but I gave it away,” Stoughton said after the Quebec win. “It was of our own doing. I never expected it to double-jam. If I knew that, I would never have thrown it.

“But I threw it and we ended up looking like idiots and they looked like geniuses.”

He was even more direct about it when the wounds were fresh

“That was a bonehead shot,” he said. “I wish everyone had been a little more adamant that we could double-jam it. I never thought we could.

“If someone had said we could I never would have thrown that shot. It was the dumbest shot, a junior-B group pieces of crap. It was stupid and gave them an easy three. I guess I threw it too good because it hit the perfect spot — for them.”

The alternative was to hit and roll, give up the deuce and be tied with the hammer in the ninth.

Instead, he stewed about it a little bit, had some lunch, then cracked open a nail-biting game against Francois Gagne’s team with a tricky deuce in the eighth.

“Better eight,” Manitoba second Reid Carruthers said. “We bounced back from the morning loss and that was big for us. That’s what we needed.”

Nobody wants to back into the playoff round. With the giants out there looming, every little bit of edge helps.

“You think about it now and if you told me I would be playing on Saturday, I’d be fine with that,” Stoughton said. “We’re alive and that’s the biggest thing and I fee like we have a real good shot here.”

The Buffalo Boys opted for a relaxing dinner while Howard and Martin set to battle.

“We’re heading to a decent restaurant for once,” Stoughton said, “and that’s not a slight against London at all.

“Time constraints.”

Stoughton knows all about it. He’s 47-years-old now. His third Jon Mead, who has played so well this week, is 43. With Mike McEwen’s rise, the window to win is closing.

Stoughton lost the final in 2009. It’s time to take advantage of this great opportunity. They’ve been on the radar all week, especially after the 6-0 start.

“We’re on a pretty good roll,” Ontario third Richard Hart said, “but I think Manitoba is the team to beat. We got them, but they’ve played so well here as a team and Jon (Mead) is obviously a great shot-maker.

“I think Jeff feels very comfortable playing with him.”

Stoughton isn’t surprised the Big Four — him, Martin, Howard and Gushue — are playoff-bound. He doesn’t think it’s necessarily the best thing for curling.

“But I predicted it,” he said. “I could tell the way things were going a few years ago, four or five teams would separate themselves. You hear of Kevin Martin’s team practising four hours a day and I don’t have that time.

“I don’t have four hours a week. We’re hanging on by our fingernails trying to compete and I think it says something that we’re able to get where we are by throwing rocks for 45 minutes on our lunch breaks.”

The return of the magnificent Mead from the Wayne Middaugh proved to be a major boost. So was the injection of youth with the 26-year-old Carruthers.

“I’m super-excited to be in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s my first Brier and I’m starting to feel those nerves. I knew we had a chance to do well from the way our season went.

“That gave us a lot of confidence coming in.”

It’s an energy that has been built up over time, not something that can be unhinged by one shot.

And as bad as Stoughton felt about the Gushue double-jam in the morning and the opportunity lost, it hasn’t cost him the Brier.

It just produced some rather unnecessary nail-biting.


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