Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/3/2009 (3049 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CALGARY -- Five times since Thursday, Jeff Stoughton has been backed into a corner at the 2009 Tim Hortons Brier.
And five times he has fought his way out.
But it will all be meaningless -- a faint footnote about a Manitoba team that battled its way from the brink of elimination only to lose the Brier final -- if Stoughton cannot fight his way out of that corner tonight.
And this time he'll be in for the fight of his life, taking on the 500-pound gorilla of this event in Alberta's Kevin Martin in tonight's Brier final.
Stoughton advanced to tonight's big game with a pair of wins Saturday -- 8-7 over Newfoundland's Brad Gushue in the 3 vs. 4 game in the afternoon and then 8-6 over Ontario's Glenn Howard in the Brier semifinal.
Martin has been a perfect 12-0 this week and will carry a Brier record 25-game winning streak into his game against Stoughton tonight. It also bears noting that this particular Martin foursome is 9-4 against Stoughton over the last couple of years and has won the last six games between the two teams. The last time Stoughton beat Martin was in 2007.
Stoughton will also be attempting to defy Brier history tonight as the first team ever to win the Brier after qualifying through the tiebreakers.
It's been a great run for Stoughton this week. But this is one of those events where second tastes particularly sour, even if it is sweetened with a little extra cash and points in the chase for the Olympic Trials.
And Stoughton knows he has work cut out today.
"We're not going to be able to miss any open draws like that, that's for sure," Stoughton said after a spotty win over Ontario. "When we have a chance, we have to capitalize. That's what we're going to have to do to beat these guys."
Stoughton will head into the Martin game having curled some of his best -- and worst -- here on Saturday.
He was spectacular in the win over Newfoundland's Brad Gushue, made possible by a very difficult double angle-raise takeout by Stoughton with the last rock of the 10th end for what proved to be -- after a measure -- a game-winning deuce.
And Stoughton was also brilliant at times against Ontario, making some double takeouts to get his team out of trouble. But what should be worrisome for every Manitoba curling fan heading into tonight is that Stoughton also struggled mightily with his inturn draws. He was heavy on one draw in the fourth end, light on another in the sixth and then heavy again in the eighth to take three points off Manitoba's board.
Indeed, Stoughton has the appallingly bad play of Howard -- as much as anything he did Saturday night -- to credit for still having a chance here tonight to win his third Canadian men's curling championship. "I let the guys down there," Howard said afterward. "I didn't play very well."
There will be a remarkable secondary drama on the ice tonight. Manitoba third Kevin Park will be playing out his remarkable tale of recovery and doing it right here in his own province.
Park has been sober for three years and Stoughton took a chance on him this year, recruiting him from Alberta confident in the knowledge that if Park remained sober, then he was the best curler for the job.
Stoughton's been proven right the past five games as Park has put in solid performances each time. But if Stoughton is to overcome Martin tonight, he will need Park to have the game of his life in the game of his life.
Should be a fun watch.
On the Tube
Jeff Stoughton vs. Kevin Martin
7 p.m. TSN