Canada’s Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg opened defence of the Ford world men’s curling championship in convincing style Saturday afternoon at the Regina Brandt Centre, stealing three in the fifth end en route to an 8-4 Draw-One victory over the Swiss champion skipped by Christof Schwaller of St. Moritz.
But the major shock of the afternoon was averted when second-favoured Norway, skipped by Olympic silver medallist Thomas Ulsrud, battled tooth and nail from behind, stealing four single points to defeat Korea’s Dong Keun Lee 8-7 in an extra end.
“He should have killed the game earlier . . . we were terrible for the first five ends,” said Ulsrud.
Lee, who led 7-3 after seven panels, missed runbacks with both his stones in the extra end and wrecked twice in the 10th as Norway went deuce, single, single, single for the win.
“He had a couple of easy shots there (in the 11th),” said Ulsrud. “I guess he was feeling the pressure a little. This just shows what can happen here. We had a bad game for five ends and we should have been killed. This would never happen against a team that’s been around for a while.
“I looked at the scoreboard and what do we have to do? Steal, steal, steal and steal again? That doesn’t happen in men’s curling. But they have to make some soft peels and double peels. He was close on a lot of them. He just haired ‘em.
“But I’ve never seen that happen before. It never has happened to me, for sure.”
Elsewhere, France walloped the Czech Republic 9-5 and Pete Fenson of the U.S. defeated veteran Tommy Stjerne of Denmark 7-4.
“We expected it to be more difficult,” said Chamonix ski guide Thomas Dufour, the French skip. “The Czechs had beaten us two or three times in a row. We were a little nervous to play against them.”
Canada’s Stoughton described his team’s effort as “a little sloppy but it’s still a good win”.
“We might have been a little nervous,” he said, playing the opener in front of 5,595. “I certainly was excited. It’s just a great crowd. It’s quite a thrill. I don’t think my heart got down under 100 until about the fourth end. But it takes a lot out of you and you just have to calm down a bit. It’s great to get No. 1, that’s for sure.”
Down 5-2, after yielding three in the fifth, the Swiss battled back to 5-4. But a rousing runback double from Stoughton in the ninth end killed any chance of a Swiss rally.
“It was something we had to make,” said Stoughton. “Skipper’s gotta make one of those once in a while.”
Schwaller, who defeated Randy Ferbey in the 2001 semi-finals, expressed some disappointment.
“We knew that it’s very hard to play against Canada, but that was quite a good game. The ice was different to training. But we learned a lot, and it curled a lot.”
In today’s second draw at 7 p.m. (CT), Canada goes right back at it against Denmark, France plays Korea, Germany’s Andy Kapp opens against China and Sweden’s Niklas Edin tackles Tom Brewster of Scotland in the feature match.