For the third time in 16 years, Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton is one victory shy of his second world curling championship. When Stoughton skips his Canadian champion team of Jon Mead, Reid Carruthers and Steve Gould in Sunday’s 5 p.m. world championship final at the Brandt Centre, the Manitobans will be looking for a second global success and Canada’s 33rd world title in 53 challenges.
And, if you listen to Scotland’s Tom Brewster, Stoughton will be directing the strongest curling machine he ever has put together.
“That’s his best team, no doubt,” said Brewster in the wake of a tedious 5-2 loss to Stoughton in the Ford Worlds Page One-Two playoff Friday night.
“You’re talking about one of the best 10 or 12 curlers in Canadian history, you know? He has a third who knows him so very well. The two of them throw the same. It’s a devastating back end. And the rest of the team? I’ve watched Jeff for a long time and that’s the best lineup I’ve ever seen him bring to the ice.”
Stoughton and Co., face roughly 44 hours of respite prior to the championship’s climactic tussle while Scotland and two other teams will squabble Saturday over who will oppose the home-country four at the last gasp.
Brewster, with his second loss of the scenario to Canada, dropped into the semi-final match at 5 p.m. against the winner of a Sweden-Norway playoff match, the Page Three-Four, set for 12:30 p.m. The Three-Four losers drops to Sunday’s bronze-medal scrap at 12 noon against the semi-final loser.
It was suggested that’s it’s difficult at this level to beat the same team three times in a row, even though Brewster isn’t yet in a position to contest the issue for a third time.
“I disagree,” said Stoughton. “There have been plenty of instances where teams won three straight against other teams.
“This is exactly what we were planning for this whole week. We got through this game and I think we’re going to be on fire Sunday night, too. Our expectations are very high, so we’ll be very disappointed if we don’t win this event.
“Whenever you’re in a final, and you lose, it’s very gut-wrenching. It’s nothing we want to experience. There is no consolation to being a runner-up. It sucks. We don’t to be there. It’s a terrible feeling. We want to be the ones smiling at the end of Sunday.”
Stoughton remarked on the simplicity of Friday night’s tussle. Brewster rolled too far hitting against a pair in the second end, leaving Stoughton an open draw for a 2-0 lead. The Scottish skip needed a triple-kill in the third to set up a blank, then zeroed out the next exchange as well before executing a clutch hit-and-roll to set up the tying deuce in the fifth.
Stoughton was locked in for a go-ahead point in the sixth. Then Brewster blanked the seventh before tossing his last draw for a tie out in the frost and winding up heavy in the eighth. In the ninth, the visibly shaken Scottish skip flashed his last shot to surrendered another heist.
“It was a very simple game,” said Stoughton. “They played it close, which was obviously their game plan. They didn’t put up too many guards. We gave them a lucky deuce in five where we kicked them in. They had one chance in the eighth, otherwise we were the aggressors putting pressure on them.”
Brewster bemoaned his eighth-end miss.
“I need that last draw,” he said. “It got out in the frost. I threw the weight, we just didn’t have the brush in the right place. I don’t think we did very much wrong in that game. There were a couple of instances when we needed to tighten up on stone placement. Instances that were absolutely critical. But we had chances.
“In the eighth, our first corner guard was too low and then all of a sudden we couldn’t get ‘round the middle. It’s things like that we have to improve upon. If we play similar to that we won’t be far away. But, listen, I’d take silver right now. That would be a damn good finish for this first-year team.”
Stoughton was less exuberant following this Page One-Two success than following his Brier victory over Brad Gushue . . . and for good reason.
“The Brier against Brad Gushue was a closer game,” said Stoughton. “I had to draw the button in an extra end so, yeah, I was more excited. I was really excited. This didn’t generate the same feeling. This wasn’t the same sort of game.”
Stoughton won the 1996 World final over Scotland’s Warwick Smith but lost in 1999 to Scotland’s Hammy McMillan.