Canada's Stoughton advances to curling worlds final
Jeff Stoughton knows the feeling of winning a world men's curling championship and he also knows what it feels like to finish second.
It's been several years since he felt those emotions, but not so long that Stoughton can't recall the sweet and the bitter.
His Winnipeg team will play for gold Sunday at the world curling championship thanks to a 5-2 playoff win over Scotland's Tom Brewster on Friday in Regina.
Stoughton and current lead Steve Gould won the world crown 15 years ago in Hamilton. The skip and third Jon Mead lost in an extra end to Scotland's Hammy McMillan in Saint John, N.B., in 1999.
"There is no consolation to being a runner-up," Stoughton said. "It's gut-wrenching. It's nothing you want to experience. We want to be the ones smiling at the end of the day Sunday. "Our expectations are very, very high. It would be very disappointing if we don't with this event."
Stoughton, Mead, second Reid Carruthers and Gould went 10-1 in the preliminary round to earn the top playoff seed. Scotland, second at 9-2, tried to keep Friday's playoff between the top two seeds tight and low-scoring.
That strategy worked for seven ends before the Scots gave upsingle-point steals in the eight and ninth.
Meanwhile, Norway's Thomas Ulsrud gained entry into the playoffs with a 5-4 extra-end win in a tiebreaker over Thomas Dufour of France earlier Friday. Ulsrud, last year's world and Olympic silver medallist, earned the fourth and final playoff berth.
Norway, France and Swedin's Niklas Edin finished the round-robin tied at 7-4.
The Norwegians face the third-seeded Swedes in a playoff game Saturday (2:30 ET) with the winner advancing to the later semifinal against Brewster (7 p.m. ET). The Scots can earn a rematch with the Canadians with a semifinal victory.
"At the end of the day, the most important time to beat them is the next time," Brewster said. "Hopefully we'll pick up tomorrow and get another crack at these guys because we had chances in this game."
After losing four of their first six games, the Norwegians have won six in a row.
"If you'd asked me two or three days, OK are you going to play on Saturday, I'd have said 'no way' but here we are," Ulsrud said. "We hung in there.
"We just didn't have the breaks and now it evens out. Now, we get all the good stuff late in the week and I don't mind that. We have the same chance as the other teams."
Brewster had higher shooting percentages than Stoughton until the later ends Friday, but Mead, Reid and Gould outcurled their Scottish counterparts, who are an average age of 20.
Brewster completely missed a ninth-end takeout of a Canadian stone on the outside 12-foot rings to give up a point to the hosts.
With front of the house well-guarded in the eighth, the Scottish skip had to take an outside lane and curl into the eight-foot rings to score one. His stone ran too straight and fast and the Scots gave up a steal.
"I just probably over-iced it," Brewster said. "It was out in the front a wee bit and it just straightened up and that's what cost me in the ninth as well. I was sitting in the hack knowing I should have taken less ice and I should have."
Brewster had last-rock advantage in the seventh, but instead of putting up a corner guard to draw around, he opted to peel Canada's counter in the rings, keep the end open and take his chances in the eighth. Stoughton attempted an angle raise for three in the sixth end, but had to settle for one and a 3-2 lead.
Neither Canada nor Scotland could keep many of rocks in play in the first half of their contest Friday as both countries had their hitting game on. They traded deuces in the second and fifth ends respectively to sit tied 2-2 at the halfway mark.
"They played to keep it close, which was obviously their game plan," Stoughton observed. "They didn't put up too many guards and every guard they put up was a foot from the house. It was great that we didn't give them many opportunities."
The Canadians can put their feet up Saturday while the remaining three teams duke it out to get to the final.
"Get up, throw some rocks, watch a movie, go for dinner and get ready for Sunday," was Stoughton's plan. "We had the same situation as in the Brier. It's nothing new to us to have a day off."
Also Friday, the Canadian Curling Association named Emily Gray of O'Leary, P.E.I., Corryn Brown of Kamloops, B.C., Derek Oryniak of Winnipeg and Thomas Scoffin of Whitehorse to the team that will compete in the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria next year.
The curling competition includes both traditional mixed curling and a mixed doubles event.