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This article was published 13/3/2009 (4337 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

CALGARY -- Look, we can dispense right now with the idea that Jeff Stoughton can settle an old score today by beating Newfoundland's Brad Gushue in the Page playoff 3 vs. 4 game.

That's not to say Stoughton won't win today. Most folks I've talked to here think the Manitoba skip will beat Gushue. Indeed, I'm a notable exception in thinking Stoughton will go home disappointed today.

Manitoba skip Jeff Stoughton (left) shares a laugh with lead Steve Gould while playing against Quebec in Friday's tiebreaker.

NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Manitoba skip Jeff Stoughton (left) shares a laugh with lead Steve Gould while playing against Quebec in Friday's tiebreaker.

I think Gushue has just been a lot more consistent than Stoughton this week, but basically it's just a hunch. And I should note at this point that I'm not the only one with a hunch right now.

Manitoba lead Steve Gould also has a hunch here. And while he stopped well short of Broadway Joe's famous Super Bowl guarantee, Gould did make a pretty bold prediction Friday.

"I really feel," he said, "that we're going to win this whole thing this weekend. I haven't always had that feeling at a Brier."

So maybe they will win, maybe they won't. But whatever happens today, Stoughton points out it will pale in comparison to that historic night in December 2005 when Gushue first made Stoughton eat his words and then tore his heart out right on the middle sheet of the Halifax Metro Centre.

History will record Gushue won that Olympic Trials final -- the same event Stoughton infamously predicted two weeks earlier Gushue had "no chance" to win.

Gushue then went on to win it all in Turin a couple months later and, thanks to Stoughton, now knows what the first five words of his obituary will be: "Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue..."

So yeah, it'd be nice for Stoughton to win today. It would advance him to tonight's Brier semifinal and earn him $10,000 -- the difference between the $20,000 he earned by advancing to the 3 vs. 4 game with a convincing 6-3 win over Quebec in Friday afternoon's tiebreaker game and the $30,000 he'd earn by playing in tonight's semifinal.

But even the score with Gushue? Please.

"It wouldn't matter if we beat him a hundred times," Stoughton said Friday, "it would never replace that."

"Although," Manitoba second Rob Fowler interjected, "maybe 200 times?"

Yeah, maybe 200 times -- assuming one of those times was in the next Trials final.

Manitoba third Kevin Park -- who was still living in Alberta and had nothing to do with the Stoughton team back in 2005 -- probably stated the case most succinctly.

"That," observed Park, "was kind of a blast in the teeth for Jeff."

And he got another one from Gushue last year, when the Newfoundland skip swooped in and stole Ryan Fry from Stoughton. Fry now plays second for Gushue, while Stoughton had to scramble to pick up Park out of Alberta.

Despite their histories, the two teams report they get along fine. "It doesn't matter who we play (today)," Fry said Friday. "If we play our game, we'll have success."

The Stoughton foursome is coming off their best performance of the week in manhandling Quebec Friday. Stoughton was dominant in the win and promised to come right after Gushue from the first rock today.

Gushue said he's hoping Stoughton left his best on the ice in an 8-3 throttling of Newfoundland in the round-robin on Thursday. "Maybe," Gushue said in a television interview Friday, "it's our turn to win."

Somewhere, Jeff Stoughton felt a piercing pain in his frontal lobe at that very moment. And wondered why.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

 

Background checks on the combatants

Newfoundland vs. Manitoba 11 a.m., TSN

The stakes: The winner of Manitoba-Newfoundland will advance to tonight's Brier semifinal, while the loser is eliminated.

The background: Stoughton vs. Gushue is one of curling's great rivalries -- right up there with Martin vs. Ferbey. Stoughton's comments to the Free Press in the leadup to the 2005 Olympic Trials that Brad Gushue had "no chance" to win came back to bite him when Gushue beat Stoughton in the Trials final en route to Olympic gold in Turin.

Since then, Stoughton has beaten Gushue regularly, including twice this winter -- once in a Grand Slam event and again Thursday morning in the Brier round-robin.

Manitoba quote: "It wouldn't matter if we beat him a hundred more times," says Stoughton, "it will never replace that."

Newfoundland quote: "Over the long term," says Gushue, "our teams are so equal, this game should be pretty even."

What to watch for today: The key for Gushue today is actually third Mark Nichols. Don't get me wrong -- Gushue needs to play well too. But historically, as Nichols goes, so goes the Newfoundland team. When he's on, like he was in the 2005 Trials and in the second half of the Turin Olympics, nobody is better and Gushue's job becomes simple.

The key for Manitoba is the skip. Third Kevin Park struggled a bit towards the end of the week, but picked it up on Thursday and threw 91 per cent in the tiebreaker against Quebec. But if this Manitoba team is going to win this thing, they're going to need the best out of their skip. And the good news for Manitoba curling fans is Stoughton is throwing his best right now, putting up a 91 per cent and throwing four runback doubles against Quebec.

Head-to-head comparison

Shooting percentage (through 17 draws)

Lead

Man: Steve Gould, 90% (1st)

N.L: Jamie Korab, 83% (10th)

Advantage: Manitoba

Second

Man:Rob Fowler, 85% (3rd)

N.L: Ryan Fry, 81% (5th)

Advantage: Manitoba

Third

Man: Kevin Park, 84% (3rd)

N.L: Mark Nichols, 81% (4th)

Advantage: Manitoba

Skip

Man: Jeff Stoughton 80% (5th)

N.L: Brad Gushue 86% (3rd)

Advantage: Newfoundland

Round-robin records

Manitoba: 7-4

Newfoundland: 8-3

Overall: pick 'em

Prediction: Newfoundland 7 Manitoba 5

-- Wiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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