The Jeff Stoughton team with new lead Mark Nichols is off to a roaring start in the Roarin' Game's World Curling Tour.
Stoughton, third Jon Mead, second Reid Carruthers and Nichols, a Olympic gold medallist on Brad Gushue's 2006 team, have already won a major event and will be looking for a second this weekend at the Canad Inns Prairie Classic in Portage la Prairie.
Another WCT event goes this weekend, the 2012 Manitoba Lotteries Women's Curling Classic at the Fort Rouge Curling Club.
Team Stoughton will be among 32 world-class teams at Portage Curling Club today through Monday. The triple-knockout event carries a $58,000 total purse and will include teams from Manitoba, led by two-time defending champion Mike McEwen, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Newfoundland, the USA, China, Sweden and Scotland.
Team Stoughton is team fresh off winning the 2012 StuSells Toronto Tankard championship title on Thanksgiving Day, beating Ontario's Joe Frans 6-2 in the final.
"It was a great start," said Stoughton, who skipped World Curling Championship teams in 1996 and 2011. "We've played three (WCT) events, we lost the final in the Shorty's spiel, lost a quarter in Saskatoon and won the final in Toronto."
The prestigious Manitoba Lotteries Classic is one of just three women's Grand Slam events. There's a $60,000 total purse, including a $15,000 first-place prize, with 32 teams from across Canada and Sweden competing in a triple-knockout format.
At Portage, Stoughton said about 20 of the top teams in the world will be there.
"It's an impressive field and we know we're going to have to be at our best to get to that final on Monday night," he said. "For most of the top teams, this year is a big year for points. It's the last year where you can get a direct spot into the (2014 Olympic) curling trials next December in Winnipeg. That's why it's important for us to be having this good start and continue the momentum."
Stoughton said it's been a smooth transition for the team with Nichols, Gushue's former third, at lead.
"He brings a lot of experience, even though he is quite young (32), and he knows what it takes to get there and win these things and that's what we were looking for," Stoughton said. "We'll go in (this weekend) with the approach that we want to win, expect to win and see where the chips fall."
In the women's event, the defending champion is Renée Sonnenberg of Grande Prairie, Alta.
In other curling action, CurlManitoba is holding the Canola Junior Men's and Women's Fall Berth Bonspiel on Friday to Sunday at the Stonewall Curling Club. One berth each will be awarded for the Canola Junior Provincial Championships on Jan. 3-7, 2013 at the Brandon Curling Club.
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What: 2012 Canad Inns Prairie Classic
Draw times: Today, Saturday, Sunday -- 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 8:30 p.m., Monday -- 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m. final, Monday
Where: Portage Curling Club, Who: 32 teams including Mike McEwen and Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg, Rob Fowler of Brandon, Kevin Koe of Calgary, Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., Brad Gushue of St. John's, N.L., Kevin Martin of Edmonton and Tom Brewster of Scotland.
What: 2012 Manitoba Lotteries Women's Curling Classic,
Draw times: Today, Saturday -- 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m.; Sunday -- 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m. 4 p.m. 7:30 p.m.; Monday -- 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 5 p.m. final.
Where: Fort Rouge Curling Club,
Who: 32 teams including Jennifer Jones, Chelsea Carey and Cathy Overton-Clapham of Winnipeg, Cheryl Bernard of Calgary, Anette Norberg of Sweden, 2011 Manitoba Lotteries champion Renee Sonnenberg, Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont.