HALIFAX -- Team Manitoba fell flat on its face Tuesday night. Well, maybe on the back of its head but either way it was ugly.
Manitoba lead Steve Gould slipped and banged his head on the ice prior to Draw 11 action and nothing went right for the Buffaloes from there on out.
In Manitoba's first major test at the Brier they served up a dreadful performance and were given a licking by Kevin Koe and Alberta, losing 7-2 in just seven ends.
Stoughton and Co. made mistake after mistake and Koe was full measure in taking advantage. A steal of two in the third and another stolen deuce in the sixth was the story and while Stoughton tried at first to mask the result with humour, he quickly got around to telling it straight.
"We played really well. We deserved to win. All the breaks went against us," quipped Stoughton in a robotic voice before getting serious. "We didn't make any shots. At all. Well, maybe Stevie (Gould) did. Rob (Fowler) missed, Kevin (Park) missed. I missed. We had easy hit and roll outs and bad shots. It happens sometimes, I guess. I don't know why. But it's kind of disappointing that we all didn't come here to play and it definitely showed on the scoreboard."
Team Manitoba had just stepped onto the ice Tuesday night when lead Gould slipped and hit the deck.
Gould banged his head on the ice and was given medical attention that he attempted to shrug off.
"Before the games, the icemakers test the rocks to see how they're travelling. A rock was going to smash into the hack one sheet over so I ran over to stop it," explained Gould. "I forgot that I had my grip in my hand. I did the Charlie Brown and fell on my back and my head. Pretty simple. I'm fine. The medics were concerned. Blah, blah, blah. I'm just a little stiff."
Gould was OK. His team was decidedly not. More to the point they were dreadful. And for a team hoping to make a push for the playoffs and perhaps take a stab at winning the national championship, this was a bad time to take a powder.
This Brier was about four teams before it started with Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Newfoundland considered the favourites. The party is a little larger with Northern Ontario and Quebec refusing to step aside.
Manitoba had smoothed out to a 5-1 record by trouncing NWT/Yukon in the morning before getting to the meat of the order. A tough three-game stretch began with Alberta and now moves on to Brad Gushue and Newfoundland this afternoon and Glenn Howard's Ontario club tonight.
Howard sits alone in first with a perfect 7-0 mark, Gushue is 6-1 while Stoughton, Alberta, Northern Ontario and Quebec are bunched up at 5-2.
Stoughton now faces the top two teams in the standings at the Brier and a pair of losses could mean big trouble. A split sets him up for a good run at the playoffs while a sweep would likely remove all doubt.
"If we play like we just did, the scores won't change. We definitely have to pick up our game," said Stoughton. "Steve was our best but everyone has to be better. This was not good curling. Hopefully we get better. If we don't, we're not that good to begin with."
Gould gutted it out for six ends before Stoughton nudged him and brought in fifth Randy Dutiaume to close out the game.