Alberta's Kevin Martin captured his second straight undefeated Brier title on Sunday in Calgary, curling a near-perfect game to dismantle overmatched Manitoba skip Jeff Stoughton 10-4 in the final.
Stoughton's rink needed to play off the charts to pull off the upset, but it quickly became apparent that they didn't have it as a pair of triples by Martin over the first four ends put Manitoba in a 6-1 hole it couldn't climb out of.
Stoughton curled a decent 81 per cent for the game, but nothing like Martin's extraordinary 97 per cent.
Martin, third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert extended their Brier-record winning streak to 26 games. They also went 13-0 last year in Winnipeg.
"Man, the guys played good," Martin said. "I don't know if John missed a shot. He made all these rolls and made them perfect and set up the ends.
"The rocks were all placed right. Both Ben and Marc threw high numbers. It was great. They're a hardworking bunch and they're willing to take the extra steps and try and be good."
Sunday's victory put Martin, 42, in an exclusive club of four-time Brier champion skips, alongside fellow Edmontonian Randy Ferbey and Saskatchewan's Ernie Richardson. He's also the seventh skip to win back-to-back Canadian championships and the first since Ferbey in 2002-03.
Martin, who won his first two titles with different teammates, will try for a second straight world championship April 4-12 in Moncton with third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert.
Their accomplishments in their short time together is part of the bigger plan of wanting to win the Olympic curling trials Dec. 6 to 13 in Edmonton and represent the host country at the Games in Vancouver in 2010.
"Has been for over three years since we put the team together," Martin said. "That's been our goal.
"It's all about consistency and we were pretty consistent this week and that bodes well for the future."
The matchup for Sunday's final wasn't the one most of the 14,000-plus assembled at the Saddledome had hoped for.
Conventional wisdom prior to the tournament held that Martin and Ontario's Glenn Howard were on a collision course for the final. And who could argue? Between them, the world's top two ranked skips had accounted for the last two Brier champions and four of the last six finalists.
But after Martin edged Howard 7-5 in the round-robin finale and won the Page playoff rematch 7-6 in an extra end, Howard was forced to go through Stoughton to join his rival in the championship game.
Perhaps drained from his back-to-back brawls with Martin, Howard dropped Saturday night's semifinal 8-6.
Though Stoughton came into the final sporting nice enough credentials — a pair of Brier titles in the 1990s — fears that he was no match for Martin were quickly confirmed.
Over after two?
After Martin blanked the opening end, Stoughton blinked first, rubbing on a guard with his last rock of the second. That left Martin an easy hit for a devastating three points.
Strange as it sounds, the game was essentially over at that point. With takeout-weight masters Martin and Morris on the back end, the Alberta team is among the toughest in the world to come back on.
Martin masterfully forced Stoughton to take one in the third, setting up the death blow in the fourth end, where the Alberta skip nailed a crisp runback to score three and go up 6-1.
"We prepared as hard as we always do for these big events and I think this is the best I've seen Kevin himself play," Morris said. "He's definitely our MVP."
Stoughton remained game, taking a pair in the fifth, but Martin answered right back with two of his own in the sixth to make the score an all-but-insurmountable 8-3.
Manitoba was again forced to settle for one in the seventh, and after Stoughton left his counterpart an open tap for two in the eighth, it seemed like a good time to shake hands. But it being the final, Stoughton saw it fit to go another end so he could entertain the appreciative crowd with one of his patented 360-degree spin deliveries on the final rock.
"Hats off to Kevin's team," Stoughton said. "They played a great game and they'll do us proud at the worlds.
"We just didn't get the rocks in there. We missed a couple of draws early and they made some great ones, but what can you say? They played a great game."
A Canadian Curling Association spokesman said after the game that Stoughton's father, Jack, suffered a mild heart attack prior to the final. He was taken to hospital and was said to be able to watch the game on television.
After speaking briefly to reporters following the match, Stoughton went to visit his father.