Jeff Stoughton brought the hammer down on the stars and stripes Monday night in the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Richardson.
In a classic confrontation with Pete Fenson of Bemidji, Minn., that the Yanks sorely needed to win in order to stay in contention for the playoffs, the Canadians notched singles on the last three ends for a 5-3 decision and Stoughton personally was on fire, scoring 97 per cent effectiveness on his shots.
The win lifted Canada back alongside idle Scotland in the unbeaten bracket at 5-and-0 and possibly set up a feature collision Tuesday night at the Brandt Centre between the leaders. Game time 7:30.
But in advance of that, Canada has a date with Thomas Dufour of France in the afternoon while Tom Brewster’s crew opens the morning against China.
Dufour’s surprise unit, with Tony Angiboust in the last-rock role for the men from the Haute Savoy, stayed within one game of the leaders, winning its fourth in five starts. The 6-5 loss for Norway further hampered the confidence of Thomas Ulsrud’s Olympic silver-winners, who head into Tuesday’s action with a 2-3 record.
Asked about his high-percentage performance, Stoughton shrugged.
“That’s what you’re there for,” he said. “You have to make all the shots to help out the team if they’re struggling a little bit and it was just an unbelievable game. You have to do what you have to do to win this thing.”
The game featured end after end of players trading spectacular shots.
“They must have made 19 runbacks probably?” Stoughton said of Fenson’s crew of Shawn Rojeski, Joe Polo and Ryan Brunt. “Pete played awesome, a couple of great doubles with some nice hits and rolls. He was phenomenal.”
The U.S. maintained control of the issue until Fenson was heavy on last rocks in the last two ends.
“We were ready to go an extra end,” said Stoughton. “You have to think the guy will make it. We were fortunate he was just a little heavy. All of us (Jon Mead, Reid Carruthers and Steve Gould) had great draw weight and I think that helped. We got lucky in the ninth and 10th and that was it.”
Fenson opened with a deuce, took a go-head single in the fourth, but that was his team’s total offensive output.
“We made a few mistakes but for the most part we played better,” said the Bemidji skip. “We have to have better rock placement. When we get around the guards they have to be in the right spots. We had a little trouble with that and it probably was the difference.
“This is the world championship . . . everybody’s great. Teams that aren’t playing real, real sharp and are missing a few big shots — a shot here and a shot there in the middle of an end and you pay for it.”
Dufour, a Chamonix ski guide when he’s not throwing rocks, said the emphasis for his team was to stay calm.
“The key has been good shotmaking. Tony (Angiboust) has been playing superbly.”
Angiboust said he had no idea the switch to last rock with Dufour skipping would appear to be as successful as it has been so far at this event.
“I like to focus on the shots and the sweeping,” he said. “I think it’s an advantage not have to worry about taking part in calling the game.”
Ulsrud remained confused with his team’s apparent inability to start a winning streak.
“This one hurts,” he said. “We played a good game but made some bad calls, I guess. The guys were throwing it really well tonight. But France punished us for a couple of mistakes, so that’s curling for you. We need a roll desperately. I can feel the (chopping) block right here now (at the neck). We need to get something going.”
Elsewhere on the late shift, Korea’s Dong Keun Lee broke into the win column for the first time with a 10-5 conquest of Jiri Snitil’s Czech outfit and Christof Schwaller of Switzerland pulled into a tie with idle Sweden at 3-and-2, defeating winless Denmark 8-6.
The U.S. hasn’t won against Canada since 2007 when Todd Birr handed Glenn Howard his only loss of the competition during the round robin.
“We have to get a roll going here . . . sooner rather than later,” said the reeling Fenson. “It’s a familiar story. I was hoping we wouldn’t run into this again, But at last year’s Worlds we were 2-3 and had to reel off six in a row to make the playoffs. It’s not where we want to be but it’s where we are.”
Not 2-and-3 actually, but 1-and-4 and in need of a six-game winning skein.