LONDON, Ontario – Brad Gushue and his team Newfoundland and Labrador are down but not quite out of the Canadian men’s curling championship.
Gushue lost the opening playoff Friday night of the Tim Hortons Brier 7-6 in an extra end to Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton.
Stoughton’s reward is playing in the Sunday night Tankard final. Gushue has a lot of work to do if he wants a rematch.
Gushue will play in a semi-final Saturday night against the winner of an afternoon playoff between Ontario’s Glenn Howard and Alberta’s Kevin Martin.
Gushue had control of the game until he and his team of third Mark Nichols, second Ryan Fry and lead Jamie Danbrook began to flounder in the last few ends.
“We started missing the broom, throwing the wrong weight. We played really poorly in the last couple ends” Gushue said. “There were two or three ends we missed our first six shots. We just lost all momentum half-way through the game.”
Gushue couldn’t explain the reason for the team’s collapse.
“I have no idea. I really don’t know. I’d be speculating. I’d be just venting frustration if I said what I’m thinking right now,” he said.
After leading for most of the game, Gushue fell behind in the ninth end and could score just a single in the tenth to tie the game.
Without last rock in the eleventh, Gushue planted his first stone perfectly on the edge of the four-foot ring behind a pair of guards.
After Stoughton removed one of the guards clearing a path to the shot rock, Gushue wanted to place his final stone in the top of the four-foot ring to cut down on Stoughton’s chances of getting to the button for the win.
Gushue’s stone drifted a bit too far into the back four-foot allowing Stoughton to draw to the button for the win.
“It looked like every break in the book was going their way for the first four ends and we just had to keep battling back,” said Stoughton who won the Brier in 1996 and 1999.
“We cannot wait to play Sunday night. It’s what I keep telling people right from the start, we’re only here for one reason and that’s to win this Brier,” Stoughton said. “We’re not going to be able to eat, sleep, talk to anybody, throw rocks. It’s going to be a long two days but we’re pretty loosey-goosey so it will be okay.”
The game started reasonably well for Newfoundland and Labrador.
Gushue was only able to take a single point in the first end but did it with a perfect draw past a guard and up against a Manitoba stone sitting just behind the button.
Stoughton was trapped into drawing for a single point of his own in the second end when Gushue locked his final stone against a Manitoba stone in the side of the eight-foot ring.
Gushue missed an opportunity to break open the game in the third end. Stoughton was heavy on his last rock draw leaving Newfoundland and Labrador sitting two. But Gushue’s last stone over-curled and cracked a guard in front of the house.
Stoughton managed to blank the fourth end and maintain the last rock advantage but Gushue planted a rock on each side of the four-foot ring. Stoughton had no choice but to draw the full-four foot for another single point.
Both teams had a row of stones in a crooked line with Manitoba covering the button in the sixth end. Gushue tried a difficult angle-raised takeout that knocked the Manitoba shot rock from play but the run-back stone rolled from play. Another Manitoba stone remained for shot rock and Stoughton stole a point to tie the game at 3-3.
Stoughton erred in the seventh when he chose against freezing to two Gushue stones locked together in the side 12-foot ring. Instead he tried to hit and stick to the front stone causing the rear stone to pop out of the house.
He managed to remove the rear stone but kissed off the side of the first rock leaving a wide-open target for Gushue to hit and score two.
Gushue let Stoughton back into the game in the eighth. Gushue tried hitting one of his own stones resting against a Manitoba rock in the four-foot ring and roll to the far side behind another Manitoba stone in the top of the four-foot.
He managed to remove one stone but his shooter slid to the eight-foot ring leaving Manitoba lying on with Stoughton coming through with an easy draw near the button for two points to tie once again at 5-5.
Gushue and third Mark Nichols struggled in the ninth end and both missed guard-clearing runback takeouts leaving a crowd of stones in the house.
Gushue attempted a big, sweeping draw to get past guards but came up inches short of the button and the Manitoba shot rock giving Stoughton a one-point steal.
Both teams filled the house with rocks in the tenth end until Gushue blasted the pack leaving one of his own stones and a Manitoba rock both close to the button.
On his last shot, Gushue couldn’t get his stone to the button. The scoring was decided by a measurement with Gushue just millimeters closer to the centre for a single point and a 6-6 tie that forced the extra end.