NEEPAWA — Make it a record 10th Manitoba men’s curling title for Jeff Stoughton.
The 49-year-old Winnipegger — with his team of third Jon Mead, second Reid Carruthers and lead Mark Nichols —just got by a guard to make a fantastic thin double takeout to score two in the ninth end and secure a 7-4 win over Sean Grassie in the Safeway Championship final in Neepawa on Sunday. While Stoughton has been on top of the provincial podium nine previous times, he admitted it’s a feeling he loves.
"It never gets old," said Stoughton. "We knew we would have to come out with a pretty good game. We certainly got a couple breaks early with Sean’s misses, which made the game a little simpler for us."
Grassie, who won his first six games to reach the final, opened the game with the hammer, but threw a draw against two threw the house in the first end and was heavy with a draw in the second to give up a steal of one.
His team of Corey Chambers, Kody Janzen and Stu Shiells battled back from the 3-0 deficit to get within a point after eight ends, but it was those first two ends that Grassie believes cost them in the end.
"I’d like to have those couple draws back," he said. "The speed seemed a little bit faster to me. We had first practice too and out of my hand I thought they felt pretty good but they went a little too far. Anytime you fall 3-0 to these guys, it’s pretty tough."
Stoughton’s road to the final was smooth as he cruised through the preliminary and playoff rounds before falling to Grassie in Saturday’s 1-vs.-1 Page playoff game. He rebounded with 5-3 win over former Brandonite Mike McEwen in Sunday’s semifinal.
McEwen, who flashed an open hit for two in the third end, blamed himself for the loss.
"Yeah, that was kind of embarrassing the first five ends," said McEwen, who curled 75 per cent in the game. "I haven’t curled that bad in many years. … It was embarrassing that first half."
Stoughton will now represent Manitoba at the Tim Horton’s Brier in Edmonton from March 2-10. It will be his 10th appearance, Mead’s fifth, Carruthers’ second and Nichols’ ninth, although the first eight came while he was representing Newfoundland with Brad Gushue.
Stoughton can’t wait to make the trip and hopes to relive his good memories of winning the national title in Edmonton in 1999.
"It will be so much fun to go back there," he said. "We know the crowds are going to be huge and there’s nothing better than putting a buffalo on your back."