Two winless rinks gave favourites all they could handle Sunday night, but Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton and B.C.’s John Morris pulled wins out of the hat with final rocks at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
“Nothing like being one down coming home and having an open hit for a bundle,” said Stoughton, after his 9-5 win over James Grattan and New Brunswick at the Tim Hortons Brier.
“We had a really thin double in nine to take three and just paper ticked it and didn’t get it out. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, you’re just a quarter inch off here and there and we got it finally in the 10th.”
Stoughton improved to 4-0 at the top of the standings but he was down a point coming home and hit to score five in the 10th end.
Morris, meanwhile, also had trouble with winless Jamie Murphy and Nova Scotia and was down a point coming home in 10.
But third Jim Cotter’s final rock scored three to give them an 8-6 win and improve their record to 3-1 just behind Stoughton in second place. Cotter throws fourth stones.
They started by giving up their second four ender of the day in the second end.
“That’s the first time in a bonspiel we’ve given up one four-ender let alone two in a day,” said Morris.
They surrendered four in the first end against Jean-Michel Menard from Quebec in the afternoon draw and ended up losing 7-4 in nine ends.
“It was a character builder because we hung tough and really had to grind it out,” he said of the evening game. “Jimmy made some great shots in that game that really boosted our confidence.”
Alberta’s Kevin Koe now sits at 2-1 after handing Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue his second loss of the day, 9-4 in eight ends. In the morning draw, Koe beat New Brunswick 10-1.
He scored three in the first end to set up the win over Gushue.
“A big shot, any time you can get up three on a good team you should win every time,” said Koe, who was glad to get on a roll.
“You can get on a roll late, there’s no reason why you can’t, but you don’t want to get your back up against the wall.”
Gushue had issues with the ice Saturday but blamed only himself Sunday.
“The ice was good today there was no reason to miss shots,” he said. “It’s not a hard game if you hit the broom and throw the right way. We can’t seem to do either one.”
P.E.I.’s Eddie MacKenzie also improved to 2-1 with a 10-7 win over Northern Ontario’s Jeff Currie, who fell to 1-3.
No one has been shooting the lights out but the curlers said that’s to be expected at this point.
“It’s early,” said Koe. “It usually takes a while to get used to the ice and even for the icemakers. You can tell it’s getting better and there’s a lot more curl in it compared to yesterday.”
But he still said three-time Brier winner and two-time world champion Stoughton remains a favourite.
This Brier is missing a few big names.
Koe nabbed the Alberta slot from veteran skip Kevin Martin and Greg Balsdon beat Glenn Howard to earn his first Brier berth. Brad Jacobs was busy with the Olympics and couldn’t qualify.
Balsdon scored two in the 10th end to win 7-6 in the afternoon draw and was continuing to celebrate just being able to curl for the men’s title, after a 5-4 morning loss to Jamie Koe and the Territories, who sit at 1-2.
“We’re having fun, it’s been a blast, we’re playing pretty well but the experience has been nothing like we’ve ever curled before,” said Balsdon, a 36-year-old golf pro from Toronto, who works and curls out of the Glendale Golf and Country Club in Hamilton.