DAUPHIN -- History will record that Jeff Stoughton lost a game at the provincials for the first time since Feb. 13, 2010, Friday night at the 2012 Safeway Manitoba Men's Curling Championship.
But the fact is that Stoughton -- in the rarest of occurrences in the rarest of curling careers -- actually beat himself in an 8-4 loss to Deer Lodge's Willie Lyburn.
The Stoughton miscues came early and often in this one. The skip of the defending world champions was heavy on a last-rock draw in the third end to gift wrap a steal of two for Lyburn; gave up another steal in the fourth end; failed to stick an open hit for his deuce in the fifth; and then, looking to steal in the sixth end, he played a runback only to remove his own counter and hand Lyburn an open draw for three.
Put it together and a man who had won 12 straight games at the Manitoba provincials, dating back to a loss to Mike McEwen in the Page playoff 1 vs. 1 game back at the 2010 provincials, suddenly finds himself needing to win two straight today to advance to tonight's Page playoff 2 vs. 2 game -- and five straight if he's going to defend his Manitoba championship on Sunday.
A very bad time for a very bad game, in other words. And it came on the same night that his principal rival for this year's Manitoba crown -- second seed Mike McEwen -- had a great night, steamrolling sixth seed Sean Grassie 10-4 and putting his team within one more win this morning of playing in tonight's coveted 1 vs. 1 game, where the winners get two chances to get to Sunday afternoon's final.
Stoughton said after the game that he was baffled by the ice all night. "I just got nothing on my last shots at all. We had lots of chances," said Stoughton.
Lyburn, on the other hand, looked like a man who robbed a bank and got away with it.
"I got some mistakes out of Jeff -- not often you get that," said Lyburn, "and we were able to capitalize on them."
Stoughton will now have to face another former Brier champion, Vic Peters, in a B-side game this morning at 9 a.m., with the winner advancing to play this afternoon for a chance to get into the 2 vs. 2 game.
Peters was bounced to the B-side with a 12-5 loss to Brandon's Terry McNamee Friday night and now has the added challenge of having to face a chastened Stoughton today. "That should be interesting, for sure," Peters laughed. "That wasn't really expected but you have to beat those guys if you're going to win this thing."
The other B-side game this morning will see Grassie play Brandon's Rob Fowler, who was beaten 8-7 by West Kildonan's Dave Elias Friday night. Elias will face McEwen in one A-side game this morning, while McNamee and Lyburn will play in the other.
McEwen said after his game that he was also an interested spectator in addition to being a competitor last night. "I got to admit I looked a few times at the scoreboard," McEwen laughed, referencing the Stoughton game. "I would have said Willie's a tough opponent and tough guy to get in the first round of 8."
LOOSEHAIRS -- Curl Manitoba announced Friday that the 2013 Safeway Manitoba Mens Curling Championship will be held at the Yellowhead Centre in Neepawa, Feb. 6-10. Neepawa last hosted the men's provincials in 2002 and the women's provincials in 2009.