|Manitoba skip Jeff Stoughton curls against Ontario during the final game at the Brier. (REUTERS/Geoff Robins)
LONDON, Ont. – Manitoba’s longest drought at the Canadian men’s curling championship is finally over, thanks to the man who won its last title in 1999.
Jeff Stoughton and his team of Jon Mead, Reid Carruthers and Steve Gould beat Ontario’s Glenn Howard 8-6 in the final of the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier Sunday night before a full house of 8,261 at the John Labatt Centre and will represent Canada at the Ford world championship April 2-10 in Regina.
Stoughton made a double with his first shot in the 10th to run Ontario out of rocks and win his third Brier title; he also won in 1996 and took the world titles that year and in 1999. Mead was with him in 1999 and Gould was a teammate back in 1996. It’s Carruthers’ first Canadian championship and Manitoba’s leading 27th crown, two more than Alberta.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my team,” Stoughton said. “This is what we came here for and they were just awesome all week. We made a lot of shots, that’s all it takes. It’s a simple game.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. We’ve been close a couple of times, but this one we just felt we were going to win.”
Mead was named the Hec Gervais Award winner as the Brier MVP and deservedly so in his skip’s eyes.
“He was outstanding. He was the all-star for the whole week in my mind and he proved it again tonight.”
For Carruthers, who was the alternate for Kerry Burtnyk at the 2008 Brier, the title showed he made the right choice back in the fall.
“I had to make a tough decision going into the season. One option was to apply for a fulltime teaching position, the other was to play for Jeff. And coming off a knee injury, there was a question mark as to whether I’d even be able to play, but with lots of hard work with the physiotherapist, I made it,” he said, still a bit stunned by what had just happened. “To get to the Brier is one thing, to win on the final day is an unbelievable feeling.
“And even if we’d lost today, I wouldn’t have regretted my decision. I didn’t want to be 35 or 40 years old a teacher, watching these guys I’d played with and say to myself I could have been there.”
For Howard, The killer blow came in the sixth end when Howard came up short on a draw to the four-foot against two, giving Stoughton a steal of two and a commanding 6-2 lead.
“I’ve got to give Jeff Stoughton and his boys credit. I don't think anyone was going to beat them today,” he said. “We got a really bad break in the sixth end. The ice got really straight and I threw a shot that curled a foot-and-a-half less than it was supposed to. My hit-and-roll didn’t curl and Jeff said to me, ‘What the hell happened there? You threw perfect weight and it didn't curl.’ I said, ‘I don't know.’ ”
“It’s disappointing when you throw a good shot, but then we were going to be one down without and they played amazing tonight, those guys. My team played great and it came down to that one shot and I don’t know what happened.”
It was Howard’s fourth runner-up finish in six years.
“What’s that, seven now?” he said, adding his second places as third with brother Russ. “I hate it. I absolutely hate it. I don’t have any fun coming second. I’d rather come 12th. I don’t like coming second, but we got beat by a good team.”
Howard said his grind of Saturday – a tough win over Kevin Martin of Alberta, followed by another test in the semifinal against Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador – had no bearing on Sunday’s effort.
“We played a terrific game and just got outplayed. They had us in trouble all game.”
The new Canadian champions receive $144,000 from Sport Canada over a two-year period and an additional $40,000 for training and competition expenses from the Own the Podium program.