NEEPAWA — Jeff Stoughton made a thin double-takeout for two in the ninth end to defeat Sean Grassie 7-4 in the Safeway Championship at Neepawa and book his ticket to his 10th Brier.
It was a difficult shot as the 49-year-old skip had to just skinny by a guard to make the shot, but his third Jon Mead felt it was there all day.
"Jon thought we could get it," said Stoughton, who also curls with second Reid Carruthers and lead Mark Nichols. "We had to hit about a quarter (of a rock), which was what we could see. I threw it good enough to make it. … It worked out great and that’s the game. There were lots of shots here or there that could have gone either way, but we just had the right ones at the right time."
Stoughton gained a huge advantage early when Grassie was heavy with his final draws in the first two ends and gave up steals of two and one, respectively. Grassie and his team of Corey Chambers, Kody Janzen and Stu Shiells — who were undefeated at the bonspiel heading into the final — battled back, but never managed to take the lead away from Stoughton.
Although he didn’t leave Neepawa with a buffalo on his back, Grassie still felt his team — ranked sixth coming into the event — proved themselves as a legitimate contender.
"I think we proved to ourselves that we can play with these guys," he said. "We split our two games with Stoughton and beat (Rob) Fowler a couple of times. I think moving forward, this will be really beneficial and we know we have the confidence that we can play with these guys and make it to the final weekend."
Fowler’s Brandon Curling Club team of Allan Lyburn, Richard Daneault and Derek Samagalski finished fourth overall. They lost 8-1 to former Brandonite Mike McEwen in the 2-vs.-2 Page playoff game on Saturday. McEwen then dropped a 5-3 decision to Stoughton in the semifinal.
Stoughton will now represent Manitoba at the Tim Hortons Brier in Edmonton from March 2-10, and he can’t wait to get there.
"It’s just a thrill to get back to a Brier and go to Edmonton," he said.