Stoughton, Martin right back at it

Jeff Stoughton appears to have picked up at the Capital One Canada Cup of Curling precisely where he left off last April at the Ford World men’s championship.Which is to say, winning. Stoughton and his world champion Manitoba team of Jon Mead, Reid Carruthers and Steve Gould hammered crosstown Winnipeg rival Mike McEwen 7-2 on Wednesday night at the Cranbrook RecPlex after earlier disposing of Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie by a 7-4 count. The latter result was Jacobs’s second loss. Stoughton jumped in front 5-4 with a sixth-end deuce, then stole a pair of singles in the late going.

Team Stoughton at the 2011 Capital One Canada Cup of Curling

Joining the champ at 2-and-0 heading into this morning’s action was Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin of Edmonton who overcame a hamstring cramp in mid-game to dispose of Alberta rival Kevin Koe 8-7 Wednesday night after earlier dumping Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock 9-4. “I felt a zing,” said Martin. “I said, oh-oh we’re in trouble. Never happened to me in a game before.” He was given a lightning quick mid-game massage. “It was a hamstring cramp, all right,” said Martin. “Glenn Howard was laughing like crazy on the next sheet. ‘Getting’ old, man’. I’m hitting the hot tub right now.” Martin emphasized the importance of the second win. “That was a big one,” he allowed. “We have to get right back out here in the morning and try to build on the momentum. Get an early lead, try to get that first point and carry on. It’s real tough, in this crowd you lose one you could lose two in a hurry and you might be out of it. So you take one game at a time and hope for 5-and-1, that’s the goal.” Martin registered a couple of three-enders in making life miserable for the Laycock squad. Stoughton was happy with his team’s first-day effort. “We felt pretty good out there and had good draw weight which is the key,” he said. “I think our confidence level is good and we can build on this and get better and better.” Koe, Laycock and Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., completed opening day with 1-1 records while McEwen and Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie were winless in a pair of starts. “Basically, every game you’re playing is against some big guy,” said Laycock, moments after defeating Howard 9-7 on the late draw. “In a Brier, you beat a guy like Glenn, it’s usually good enough to get you going. But not here. You come into this field, you never know how you stack up until you get a couple of wins under your belt. So this is a confidence-builder. We know if we play our best we can stack up. There are going to be challenges but we believe we can do it.” Laycock was outpointed by Howard 90 per cent-to-85 per cent in individual scoring but Howard admitted afterward that the Laycock team was the best on the night. The 2007 Canadian champ earlier doubled up on Jacobs 6-3. The match was square at three in the eighth with Jacobs counting a pair when Howard went down for his last shot, a dicey takeout. He succeeded with a double-kill. “I had to make the double. I couldn’t nose, I couldn’t roll wide. If I gave him one to yield the lead it still wasn’t great,” said Howard whose last rock rolled in to strike a second hidden counter in the four-foot and remain for a 4-3 lead. Jacobs then watched his last rock of the ninth end “hang out”, Howard stole a deuce and the jig was up. Koe, the 2010 world champion, whipped world tour money leader McEwen of Winnipeg 7-4 in the morning. Seven teams are involved in men’s and women’s round-robin qualifiers leading to semi-final matches on Saturday and championship finals Sunday. The winners become the first teams to qualify for the Tim Hortons Canadian Olympic Curling Trials at Winnipeg two years from this week. “I feel great about our (morning) result,” said Koe. “We’ve struggled against McEwen this year. I think we’ve lost four games to him, all really close games and a couple we let slip away. This is the first we’ve beat him this year.” McEwen arrived here with three cashspiel wins under his belt. “Same as last year,” he said, “except last year we’d won three in a row.” Koe admitted McEwen’s team “probably is one of the favourites”. “He’s been having a great year so it’s nice to get off to a good start and we played really well.” The Calgary team, involving two players from Edmonton, scored three deuces in answer to the three singles from McEwen over the first seven ends.