Canada beats Scotland for 1st place at curling worlds
Stoughton's rink lone unbeaten team in tournament
Canada's Jeff Stoughton has first place at the Ford World Curling Championship all to himself.
Stoughton gained sole possession of top spot with a 7-3 win Tuesday over Scotland's Tom Brewster on Tuesday in a battle of unbeaten teams.
After Tuesday's late draw, Canada was alone at 7-0, followed by the Scots at 6-1 and three countries tied at 5-2.
The top four teams at the conclusion of the preliminary round Thursday advance to the Page playoffs starting Friday.
Stoughton's Winnipeg team was closing in on one of those playoff berths with six draws remaining. Canada takes on Jiri Snitil of the Czech Republic (2-5) and Sweden's Niklas Edin (5-2) on Wednesday.
A pair of wins would ensure Canada finishes in the top two in the standings, which would in turn puts Stoughton in Friday's Page playoff between the top two seeds.
"We're in a good spot. We're rolling along," the skip said. "We still have Sweden left and Norway and two others I can't remember, sorry . . . China and the Czechs.
"We would love to get that one-two game tomorrow and have a relaxing last day, but if we don't we keep plugging along."
Thomas Dufour of France recovered from an 11-5 loss to Canada earlier to beat China 10-3 at night. The French were 5-2 alongside Switzerland's Christof Schwaller and the Swedes, who thumped winless Denmark 9-3.
Germany's Andy Kapp, a 9-3 winner over South Korea, and Thomas Ulsrud of Norway were hanging on for their playoff lives at 3-4.
The Czechs, South Korea, the United States and China were all but eliminated from playoff contention with 2-5 records.
In the minutes before the teams trooped in for the evening draw's pre-game ceremony, the Brandt Centre was buzzing with anticipation of a heavyweight match between the unbeaten teams.
It was "Green Day" at the tournament with most of the 5,800 spectators decked out in green in homage to their Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Canadians and the Scots added to the atmosphere with their parade garb. Stoughton's team wore green and white jackets and the Scots one-upped their opponents with authentic Roughrider jerseys, although both countries wore their regular colours during the game.
The Canadians controlled the game from the outset as Stoughton executed a crowd-pleasing raise double takeout to score two in the first end. Brewster struggled with his draw weight early. The Scottish skip was light with his last draw in the second to give up a stolen point and a 3-0 lead to Canada.
Stoughton, third Jon Mead, second Reid Carruthers and lead Steve Gould went to work defending that lead and didn't let the Scots set up to score two with the hammer.
"It wasn't easy, but we really controlled the game and never gave them a chance to get back into it which is what we wanted to do," Stoughton said.
The Scots have been perennial contenders at world championships in recent years with 2008 champion David Murdoch skipping the country's representative. But Brewster, who upset Murdoch in the semifinal at Scottish nationals, came into the tournament an unknown quantity.
He and his young teammates are making their world championship debuts, although Brewster and second Scott Andrews have appeared in world junior championships during their careers. After the loss to the Canadians, Brewster wanted a re-match with Stoughton in the playoffs.
"That was a lot of fun. I would liked to have played better and they played great," Brewster said. "The first couple ends, the ice was quite different with a full crowd and just being on an end sheet, there was a little frost creeping in. Earlier on, we were missing some sweeping calls."
The two countries expected to contend for the gold medal were in different places Tuesday. While Stoughton had a clear view of the playoffs on the horizon, Ulsrud faced an uphill climb to qualify.
On the brink of elimination
Ulsrud, the Olympic and world silver medallist last year, was teetering on the brink of elimination with four losses and two days of round-robin play to go.
The Canadians were not feeling the stress that accompanied Norway's precarious position. That's mental energy the host team is happy to conserve.
"Getting as many wins as early as possible certainly takes a lot of pressure out of your thought-process out there," acknowledged Mead. "Right now, we're still about making the playoffs. Let everybody else battle their brains out to figure out who else gets there."
After falling to Switzerland in the morning, Ulsrud pulled out a 7-6 win over the U.S. on Tuesday. Relief was etched on the Norwegian skip's face after scoring two with his last shot for the victory.
"As one of the guys on my team said 'Usually when we play tournaments it's triple-knockout and we're in single knockout now,"' Ulsrud said. "I know these guys and I know they can pull it off. The coach said 'Guys, you know you're not looking too bad on the stats.' Maybe we're just playing stupid or bad tactics, but I don't think that either because we're playing the same way we always do. We just haven't got the breaks."
Stoughton remains wary of Ulsrud, despite Norway's predicament.
"I haven't really looked at the standings that much other than at Thomas because we're all expecting him to do great things," the Canadian skip said. "We still think he's going to be in something on the weekend."
Canada could have a direct hand in whether that happens as Stoughton and Ulsrud meet in the final round-robin draw Thursday.