LONDON, Ontario — Brad Gushue called it a “little slip-up.” Jeff Stoughton took a harsher view muttering about a “frickin’ bonehead shot.”
No matter how you looked at it, the game and tournament-changing shot by Stoughton in the eighth end Thursday helped propel Newfoundland and Labrador into first place in the playoffs of the Canadian men’s curling championship.
Gushue downed Quebec’s Francois Gagne 8-7 in the final game of the 11-game round robin tournament to finish in first place at the Tim Hortons Brier.
Alberta’s Kevin Martin, the defending gold medal Olympic champion, won 6-5 over 2007 Brier winner Glenn Howard.
Gushue was 9-2 along with Martin and Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton. Gushue was awarded first place by beating both Martin and Stoughton in the tournament. Stoughton placed second and Martin was third. Howard finished at 8-3 and in fourth place.
Gushue will play Stoughton in a playoff Friday night with the winner advancing to the Sunday night final. The loser drops into a Saturday night semifinal against the winner of a playoff that afternoon between the Martin and Howard rinks.
Gushue made it to the 1-2 game in 2007 but lost the final to Howard. He has lost the 3-4 game the past two years and in 2004.
The shot that turned the game around Thursday was a blunder by Stoughton that surrendered Manitoba’s lead by allowing Gushue to collect three points and hang on for an 8-5 win.
“It was just a frickin’ bonehead shot. It’s a Junior ‘B’ (league) piece of crap,” said a frustrated Stoughton.
Gushue offered an understandably kinder description of the shot that swung the momentum to himself, third Mark Nichols, second Ryan Fry and lead Jamie Danbrook.
“Other than a little slip up in the eighth end they would have had control right on through the game,” Gushue said. “He gave us the three (points) and that brought the control right back to us.”
The moment came when Stoughton attempted a double take-out but one Gushue stone failed to roll from play and a second jammed into a Manitoba stone at the rear of the house. No Manitoba rocks remained as Gushue drew for an easy third point.
Stoughton blanked the ninth end setting up the likelihood of a Manitoba win or tie in the tenth but Gushue placed two lightly-thrown stones superbly.
Gushue tossed a down-weight take-out that removed a Manitoba stone and rolled behind the protection of a pair of guards. He next planted a guard that blocked a path to the button.
Sweepers Nichols and Danbrook were exhausted by their efforts.
“The only reason we made those is because they swept their hearts out,” Gushue said. “I’ve never seen the two of them so out of breath after sweeping. They did a great job.”
Stoughton tried to follow an extremely difficult path into the four-foot rings from the other side of the ice but rubbed a guard and padded Gushue’s lead with a two-point steal for the win.
“It was a close one. We hung around long enough to pull it out,” said Danbrook who makes the playoffs in his first Brier.
“It was pretty tight there at the end,” Gushue agreed. “We left Jeff with a pretty tough shot and, fortunately, he didn’t make it. It was a tight one. It was dicey for most of the game.”
Said Stoughton: “It was there but it was a tough shot, that’s for sure. The ice was super swingy. It had tons of swing so it was easy to get around guards, that’s for sure.”