Defending champion Jeff Stoughton edged fellow Winnipegger Mike McEwen, 5-4 to successfully defend his Manitoba Safeway Championship February 13 in Beausejour.
The result was similar to last year, when Stoughton held off McEwen, 9-8 in an extra end to win the provincial title. This year, though, McEwen had enjoyed tremendous success on the World Curling Tour and many thought this would be his year to represent the province for the first time at the Brier.
But the wily veteran Stoughton, representing the Charleswood Curling Club, proved best, advancing to the championship round with a 7-5 decision over former teammate Fowler, then qualifying for the final after beating Terry McNamee of Brandon, 8-3 .
Meanwhile, McEwen had to fight his way back into the championship round, before defeating Vic Peters, 5-4, then McNamee, 6-3 to set up the much-anticipated showdown.
It will be Stoughton’s ninth Brier appearance. He made his first trip in 1991, then won the 1996 Labatt Brier in Kamloops and the 1996 Ford Worlds in Hamilton. He also captured the 1999 Brier in Edmonton, before finishing second to Scotland’s Hammy McMillan at the Ford Worlds in Saint John.
In 2007 in Hamilton, he finished third after losing the semi-final to the eventual winner, Ontario’s Glenn Howard, while in 2009 in Calgary, he was the runner-up, losing to Alberta’s Kevin Martin in the final. Last year in Halifax, he failed to make the playoffs, finishing fifth with a 7-4 mark.
Third Jon Mead replaced Kevin Park this year, while second Reid Carruthers took over from Rob Fowler. Mead will be making his fourth appearance at the Brier, all as third for Stoughton, while Carruthers was the alternate for the Kerry Burtnyk team at the 2008 Tim Hortons Brier in Winnipeg.
Lead Steve Gould will be making his sixth Brier appearance as lead for Stoughton, although he was also the alternate for Stoughton’s team in 1999, after winning the 1996 Brier with him.
Manitoba has won a leading 26 Briers since 1927, the last by Stoughton in 1999.