Jeff Stoughton easily won his seventh straight Ford Worlds match on Tuesday night at the Brandt Centre.
The 7-3 win against Scotland appeared so routine — complete with the usual complement of double-kills of assorted descriptions — as to be pre-ordained.
Heading into a scuffle with the Czechs Wednesday morning, Canada’s Stoughton has duplicated his run out of the gate in his last Worlds, circa 1999 at Saint John, N.B.
That year, Stoughton’s Winnipeg team lost its eighth round-robin outing to Germany’s Andy Kapp, then roared through to the championship final before losing at the last gasp to Scotland’s Hammy McMillan.
Stoughton won eight straight in his Worlds debut at Hamilton in 1996 before losing to Switzerland, then proceeded to win the remainder of his assignments, including the planetary title.
“We’ve won seven in a row, that’s not too bad,” said Stoughton. “You either feed off the big crowd here or you don’t. But how do you not smile in this kind of atmosphere. It was buzzing, and it was fun. We’re in a pretty good spot. We’d love to get into the (Page) One-Two (playoff) game by winning two (Wednesday) and having a little more relaxing last day (Thursday).”
The Canadian comportment on the Brandt freeze to date suggests Stoughton has as good a chance as anybody to become the first skip since Winnipeg arch-rival Kerry Burtnyk to run the table without a defeat. Burtnyk’s 11-0 sweep occurred at Brandon in 1995, the first since Rick Folk’s 10-0 romp at Moncton in 1980.
Scotland’s Tom Brewster exhibited few signs Tuesday night of becoming the guy to inhibit a Canadian winning streak at this event. He was the victim of a precise Stoughton runback double in the first end and was on his back feet after blowing a draw for one in the second end and yielding a single and a 3-0 spot.
“It was good to get off to that start with a deuce and we didn’t let them get back into it,” said Stoughton. “It’s curling 101, basically. The ice is usually at its best in the early ends, you make the tough shots, get up early and run it. We go for it every time we have last rock right off the hop. We score two or three, go aggressive at the start, make the other guys make a big shot in the first end. When they don’t make it, we have been fortunate enough to make it.
“You wanted the hammer against these guys (Scotland). They can hit with the best of them. It was nice to get that two-point lead and make them chase.”
Another Stoughton double erased a Scotland offensive in the third and Brewster settled for one. The Canadian skip threw a draw from the outside for a fourth-end deuce but the rock failed to curl into the four-foot and Stoughton settled for one and a 4-1 edge.
Stoughton was still firing doubles in the fifth and it left Brewster with no recourse but to blank. Then, Brewster rubbed a guard with his last of the sixth but rolled in for a single on another close call.
A Jon Mead double left Canada in good shape for a seventh-end single and Brewster required a four-foot draw looking at a bundle in the eighth just to stay in the game. In the ninth, Brewster tossed a double of his own but Stoughton answered with a runback double for a game-killing deuce.
“We missed a couple of shots by an inch here and an inch there,” assessed the Scottish skip, playing in his first Worlds. “Early on, we missed some sweeping calls. Those are things we need to tidy up. But it doesn’t get any better for us than being out there in front of a full house and playing Canada. We’ll take something from that experience.
“They play those runbacks and doubles all the time and they do it well. That’s not going to change. The disappointment is we allowed them to play those shots. You let them get up and they’re going to do that for fun. You have to keep the game tighter than we did. Hopefully, if we play well the rest of the week we’ll get another chance at them.”
Next up in the gauntlet for Canada are the Czechs (2-5) and then Niklas Edin’s Swedes (5-2). Scotland was 6-and-1 heading into Wednesday’s action while the Swedes, Swiss and French were snarled at 5-2 with a two-game edge on Norway and Germany at 3-4.
“We’re right there now, confidence-wise,” said Edin, in the wake of a 9-3 rout of hapless Denmark (0-7). “We didn’t start well here but we’re feeling good now.”
The Swedes are looking forward to testing Canada.
“It’ll be a tough game, they’re playing well, especially on this kind of ice, but we’re looking forward to a tough game to find out really where we are in terms of the competition,” said Edin. “Win or lose, it’s more important that we play well at this stage. We played him (Stoughton) in a Slam right after Christmas and we won that game. I don’t know if they played their best curling but a win is a win and we know we can beat them but we need to play really well to do so.”
Edin assessed that three wins in his last four would ensure a playoff berth.
“Two-and-two should make it somewhere,” he added.
France rebounded from an earlier 11-5 thumping from Canada to hammer Yansong Ji’s Chinese outfit 10-3.
“We wanted to be right there in the first end and be ready this time,” said Chamonix skip Thomas Dufour, who broke open a 2-2 struggle with three stolen points in the fourth end and two more in the fifth. “We weren’t there earlier. It wasn’t that we were so aggressive, just ready to make the shots. I think we were still asleep this afternoon (against Canada). I think we’ll focus more now and the momentum for us will grow. It will still be tough to get to the playoffs.”
The best Dufour has achieved to date is a tiebreaker appearance against Sweden in 2005.
In one other evening match Tuesday, Germany’s Andy Kapp clung to an outside hope of survival by clouting Dong Keun Lee of Korea 9-3.