Not even an odd year or playing before the home crowd could change Glenn Howard's luck in a Brier final.
The Ontario skip surrendered four deuces to Manitoba counterpart Jeff Stoughton, who snapped a 2-2 tie with two points in the fifth end and two more in the sixth en route to a 8-6 win Sunday night in London, Ont.
Stoughton, who hadn't played since beating top seed Brad Gushue 7-6 in 11 ends Friday night, avenged a 7-4, nine-end loss to Howard in the round robin for his third Canadian men's curling championship. He also won in 1999 and 1996.
"There is nothing better than this feeling right now," Stoughton said. "We said we were going to win this thing right from the get-go. This is what we were here for and we did it.
"I couldn't be prouder of my team. Just awesome."
Stoughton was in control after hitting a clutch double takeout for two points in the eighth end. Howard scored two in the ninth to make it a two-point game but Stoughton hit another double takeout in the 10th to blank the end and win it.
For their efforts, Stoughton, lead Steve Gould, second Reid Carruthers, and third John Mead take home $40,000, as does Howard and his Coldwater Curling Club rink. Stoughton will also receive $144,000 from Sport Canada over a two-year period and $40,000 from Own The Podium for training and competition expenses.
Stoughton and company earned Manitoba its 27th Brier championship in the event's 80-plus year history and will represent Canada at the world men's curling championship April 2-10 at Evraz Place in Regina. The winner clinches a berth in the 2011 Canada Cup in Cranbrook, B.C., and the 2012 World Financial Group Continental Cup in Langley, B.C.
'Rock out in Regina'
"We're going to put the Maple Leaf on our back and we're going to rock out in Regina," Stoughton said. "It's just going to be awesome."
Stoughton opened the scoring with a tap for two in the second end. Howard answered with a single in the third and stole one in the fourth to pull even. Stoughton went ahead with two in the fifth end and stole two more in the sixth before Howard replied with two points in the seventh end.
Howard felt his light draw in the sixth end was the difference.
"All of a sudden the ice got real straight," Howard, who was fourth in the round robin at 8-3, said. "I threw a really good shot there and it curled a foot and a half less than it was supposed to."
Howard becomes the third skip to drop back-to-back Brier finals after falling to Kevin Koe a year ago in Halifax. Sunday's defeat represents his seventh in Brier championships and fourth (2006, 2008, 2010) in the past six years.
"It's bloody horrible," said Howard, who last won the Brier in 2007. "I'm starting to get used to it. That's the problem.
"Kudos to Jeff. I don't think God was going to beat them today. They were unbelievable," Howard told cable sports network TSN. He gained a berth in the final with victories Saturday over 2010 Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin of Alberta and 2006 Olympic champion Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador, who doubled Martin 10-5 in eight ends in the bronze-medal match earlier Sunday.
Stoughton shot 93 per cent in the final and 96 per cent as a team, while Howard came in at 87 per cent and 91 per cent as a team with third Richard Hart, second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill.
For Gushue, it was his last game with third Mark Nichols, who announced before the Brier that he would take a break from competitive curling at the end of the season.
"It meant a little bit more just because Mark and I, that was our last game playing together for at least a couple years anyway," Gushue said. "So it was nice to go out on a winning note."
Gushue cemented the victory with four points in the eighth. His team earned $30,000 while Martin's team received $20,000. The fifth through 12th-place teams picked up $7,000 apiece.
The 2012 Brier will be held in Saskatoon.