Jeff Stoughton’s Winnipeg entry was the obvious top seed in the Olympic curling pre-trials opening draw.
So the team was the odds-on favourite to grab the initial men’s berth to the Tim Hortons Roar Of The Rings Canadian Curling Trials at Edmonton next month from the competition at the CN Centre.
And the short-odds favourite came through in spades Thursday night, emerging triumphant 8-7 in an A qualifying extra-end final battle with Pat Simmons of Davidson, SK.
Stoughton, runner-up to Brad Gushue at the 2005 Trials in Halifax, required nothing more than a draw to the eight-foot circle for the win in the 11th frame.
“You figure the whole end you’re going to have to draw the full four,” said the veteran Winnipegger. “It’s just a matter of which turn. Robbie’s (Fowler’s) double peel opened it up and we’ve been on the tee-line all game so I wasn’t worried too much about the last one.”
Supporting Stoughton are third Kevin Park, second Fowler and lead Steve Gould.
It was a match during which each skip purposely tossed away a last rock with the enemy locked in for a steal. The teams exchanged deuces through five ends before Simmons stole the sixth and seventh. But Stoughton squared it with a deuce in the eighth, stole the ninth and held his foe to a tying single in the 10th.
“It was only three games but we really had to play well those three games, grind it out, to get it there,” said Stoughton. “We were looking at the draw and saying, ‘ohmigawd, we don’t want to drop down into B or C, there’s so many good teams down there it’ll be mayhem. It’s great to get it over with and now we can look forward to Edmonton.”
Simmons moaned about “opportunities” that got away.
“It was a good game, I guess, but we weren’t quite as sharp as we have been. It boiled down to them playing one more good end that we did. They deserved it and it’s not the end of the world for us, either.”
On an adjacent sheet, Wayne Middaugh’s Toronto team stole the last three ends in a B qualifying quarter-final to oust Bob Ursel of Kelowna, 6-4.
Middaugh will play Simmons this morning at 8:30 a.m. in B semis while Mike McEwen of Winnipeg takes on Ted Appelman of Edmonton.
Ursel drops to his last life in a C2 qualifying semi-final tonight at 6:30 p.m.
In Thursday night women’s action, Kelly Scott of Kelowna rebounded from an A qualifying final loss to hammer Marie-France Larouche 8-2 in the B semi-finals while Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay defeated Amber Holland of Kronau, SK, 6-3.
Scott and McCarville will contest the B women’s qualifying final today at 1 p.m. (PT), live on TSN.
The Stoughton team will warm up for Edmonton with a trip to a cashspiel in Brantford next weekend.