EDMONTON — At an event where you have to win all the games you should — and one or two more that you shouldn’t — if you’re going to take down a national title at week’s end, Jeff Stoughton got a win here over the hometown favourites on opening day that seemed to fit a little into both categories.
Playing the Alberta juggernaut skipped by Kevin Martin in the first game for both teams of this 2013 Canadian men’s curling championship on Saturday, Stoughton got extra end misses in succession from both Martin and Alberta third John Morris to author a steal and an unlikely 5-4 victory over the reigning Olympic gold medallists.
The loss infuriated Martin, who stormed off the ice muttering under and blowing right past waiting reporters, before returning moments later to face the music.
It was uncharacteristic behaviour for the normally even-keeled Martin, who laughed off his behaviour by saying that he simply needed to urinate after the game before he faced reporters. Martin did admit, however, that the loss was upsetting, coming as it did after what he said was a pick on his extra-end miss.
"You hate to give one away early, you know. That’s all," said Martin. "But like I say, it’s a long week."
To the degree Manitoba got the win thanks to misses by their opponents rather than great shots by their own team, it was a victory that they probably didn’t deserve. But on a night when both teams made uncharacteristic mistakes and struggled at times to adapt to green ice conditions and what are a brand new set of rocks in use at the Brier for the first time, it was also a win that either team could have rightly laid claim to.
"Sure — why not," Stoughton replied when asked if his team deserved the victory. "We had a couple of chances early on, they had a couple of chances — it was one of those games... It was the type of game we thought it would end up to be — really close and a miss here and there and fortunately he missed his last one."
Manitoba recorded the victory despite a boisterous and partisan Alberta crowd — which was expected. But as the game wore on — and the liquor continued to flow — some in the crowd also took to chanting deprecating comments during the deliveries of the Manitoba players, something that isn’t expected crowd behavior at major Canadian curling events.
But the Manitobans said they had no problem with the crowd doing a little heckling. "I don’t mind the noise. You know what — people pay their money, we’re fortunate to play in front of these crowds. I think it should be fun," said Manitoba third Jon Mead. "If it gets to you, good for them — they did their job."
Manitoba plays twice today, taking on Nova Scotia’s Paul Flemming (0-1) this morning and another of the favourites — Ontario’s Glenn Howard (1-0) — tonight.
Howard — the defending world champion — is coming off a bit of a scary debut Saturday night, as his team quickly fell behind 3-0 after just two ends to B.C. Brier rookie skip Andrew Bilesky before finding his groove and going on to a comfortable 8-4 win.
"They played better than us in the first few ends," said Howard. "I kind of mis-read the ice early and cracked a couple of guards... But give my guys credit, we didn’t get down and came back."
LOOSE HAIRS — Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue is the only team at 2-0 heading into today after wins over Nova Scotia and P.E.I. on opening day... Alberta second Marc Kennedy won Saturday’s pre-event skills competition and the two-year car lease that goes to the winner.