KAMLOOPS — No matter how much time passes, Jeff Stoughton and Brad Gushue will forever be bound together by that one memorable night in Halifax nine years ago.
Gushue won that night’s battle, of course — taking down the 2005 Canadian Curling Trials final on a last rock measure after Stoughton had foolishly predicted in public before the event began that Gushue had "no chance." And then Gushue won the next battle too, taking gold in Torino a couple months later.
And yet, all these long years later, the war rages on between the two skips. Because while Gushue has Olympic gold, he still doesn’t yet have even one of the three Brier titles Stoughton has to sit beside that gold medal on his mantle back home in St. John’s.
And so there you have it really — the crux of one of curling’s great rivalries: A skip in Stoughton who has won everything but Olympic gold and a skip in Gushue who has won everything but the Brier.
Put them together and they’d have it all. But apart, they both have what the other so desperately wants.
It always makes for delicious rivalry and great curling and Saturday night here at the Interior Savings Centre was no different as the two men once again did battle in what is the 11th Brier appearance for both — Gushue’s coming at the age of 33 thanks to sparse competition in Newfoundland while Stoughton’s has had to wait until he hit 50.
The two heavyweights traded blows all game: Gushue jumping out to a 2-0 lead on a third end steal; Stoughton stealing two of his own in five to take a 3-2 lead; Gushue regaining the lead in six with a deuce and then padding it to 5-3 with a steal in eight; Stoughton playing a runback with the last rock of the 10th end to score a game-tying deuce; and then, with ice conditions suddenly and inexplicably changed, Gushue coming up light on a last-rock draw to hand Stoughton an extra end steal and a 6-5 win.
A classic Gushue-Stoughton game — again.
"He makes a ton of great shots against us — hits and rolls, nice runbacks," Stoughton said of Gushue after the extra-end drama. "But hats off to the guys — we hung in there... We battled back."
Gushue was livid after the game with the way the ice changed in the extra end.
"A draw to the four-foot and it comes up 20 feet light? It’s embarassing — I think the ice is the s----. It was unfortunate that it came down to that."
Stoughton’s last rock of the extra end also came up light and the Manitoba skip agreed the ice had changed suddenly. "It’s too bad. I guess that side of the sheet got lost somehow," said Stoughton. "But we’ll take it."
Brier icemakers said Saturday night that air currents in the building changed for the extra end of the Manitoba-Newfoundland game, when all of the other games ended except that one.
The air currents created a cold spot on the ice, which icemakers say adversely affected both Gushue's and Stoughton's final two draws. They were working on a fix late Saturday night.
Stoughton and Gushue had 1-0 records coming into their head-to-head matchup last night after wins earlier in the day on the opening draw of the 2014 Brier — Stoughton 7-5 over PEI’s Eddie MacKenzie, Gushue 7-2 over Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy.
Stoughton’s win over an anemic P.E.I. foursome was closer than was expected, with MacKenzie — who’s has just five combined wins in three previous Brier appearances — carrying a 3-2 lead into the fifth end. But it was all Manitoba after that, as Stoughton rattled off consecutive steals in the sixth, seventh and eighth ends to take control for good.
"They were making a ton of great draws and a couple of nice hit and rolls and that’s what you expect here," Stoughton said after the win over P.E.I. "You expect they’re going to come out and play really well against you and they did.
"And we just had to keep level-headed and keep plugging away and we got those three steals by making them make some tough ones."
With the two wins on Saturday, Stoughton heads into Sunday at 2-0 and tied for the lead with B.C.’s John Morris, who also went 2-0 on Saturday with victories over Alberta and Northern Ontario.
Stoughton plays twice on Sunday, taking on the Northwest Territories’ Jamie Koe (0-1) in the afternoon and then New Brunswick’s James Grattan (0-1) Sunday evening.