Upsets appeared to be in the making during the opening draw of the Tim Hortons Brier, 81st edition, on Saturday but experience paid off in the long run.
British Columbia rookie Brier skip Jeff Richard directed his Kelowna unit in front of two-time champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg 6-3 after six ends, then faded to lose 7-6 in an extra end when Stoughton drew his last rock cold to the four-foot.
“I wish I could play the eighth end over again,” said Richard, a national junior runnerup 11 years ago, during the aftermath.
“I made a couple of strategic errors there. But overall we’re pretty happy. I think we took one of the favourites to an extra end. We got up three with the steal in the sixth but they’re so good they made everything after that and made those mistakes in the eighth end and we paid for it.”
“They pushed us right to the brink, obviously. I’d like to have played seven and got out of here but I guess it’s nice to get some nerves going. It should be good. If you don’t get nervous playing a last shot to win you must be a robot or something.”
Stoughton was coaxed into admitting winning a tight-fit isn’t an inappropriate way to begin a tournament of the Brier’s distinction.
“Having the nerves and butterflies out there are the best part of the game,” he said. “I’d have like to have a open hit to win the game, but we hung in there and made a lot of shots and we were lucky to get that win.”
Edmonton’s Kevin Koe of Edmonton likewise tumbled behind the eight- ball, 5-3 after five, before overhauling 24-year-old Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie 9-6 in the long run.
“We got a surprise miss out of them in the sixth to get a (go-ahead) deuce and then we managed to make a few freezes and their shots got a little tougher,” analyzed Koe, who is appearing in his first Brier after a decade of guys named Ferbey and Martin wearing Alberta colours.
“We got off to a good start with a deuce, then we played a terrible end in the third and missed six or seven shots. I guess we were lucky they only stole two.
“The ice curls so much here there’ll be a lot of high-scoring games.”
Elsewhere, Brad Gushue of St. John’s pointed his Newfoundland/Labrador team in the right direction, defeating Koe’s brother Jamie of Yellowknife 8-5 after opening the scoring with three in the second end.
And New Brunswick’s seven-time Brier competitor James Grattan of Oromocto handled rookie hometown skip Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc, 8-6.