The numerology has always worked for Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton.
Three times in his career he has played in the Brier's 1-2 playoff game; three times he has won and advanced to the final of the Canadian men's curling championship. And on all three occasions, Stoughton has claimed the Tankard, most recently in 2011.
Can a fourth time prove as charming?
In Saturday's 1-2 game at the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier, Stoughton scored three in the last end to take a stunning 7-6 decision from Ontario's Glenn Howard. The victory advanced Manitoba directly to Sunday's championship final. With the loss, Howard was relegated to Sunday morning's semi-final against Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario.
Jacobs earned his place in the semi with a win in Saturday night's 3-4 playoff game. Jacobs scored two in the fifth, overcame a rocky end and held on for a 6-5 decision over Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador. With last rock in the 10th, Jacobs tried a tricky takeout only to wreck on a Newfoundland stone. Gushue got a steal of one to force an extra end.
Jacobs had the hammer in the 11th and used it to draw for the win.
Howard could have had the easy route to the Brier final if only he had removed one of Manitoba's stones in the 10 end. That would have allowed Stoughton to score two, tie the game at 6-6 and force an extra end. Howard would have had the hammer in the 11th, a considerable advantage. Instead, he went for a double takeout to win in the 10th. He missed his shot. Stoughton drew in, scored three and stole the outcome.
Asked if he regretted his decision, Howard stood by the call.
"That one got away. I threw a pretty good shot on the last one. I made sure I protected wide. It just jumped and went crazy," he said. "We couldn't control it. We ticked the yellow (guard stone) and it's not a great feeling.
"I have a shot to win the game that really wasn't that tough. It curled six inches. I don't know. Bottom line, I missed. I never dreamt I'd ever tick my own," added Howard. "I feel bad for the boys."
Ontario third Wayne Middaugh conferred with Howard before his last rock in the 10th and agreed with the approach.
"He called the right shot, the double to win the game, and it just jumped a little bit wide, curled early out of his hand," Middaugh said. "It's whatever he feels he wants to throw. The guy's the best player in the world. You don't second guess him."
Stoughton was clearly thrilled to win a game he was thinking he was going to lose.
"It's nerve wracking from the first end on. If you give up a big end it's the end of the game," he said. "It ramps up when you get closer to the end. We could feel the nerves getting to everyone."
Howard, who won his first 10 games at this Brier, has now lost two in a row.
The All-Star teams were announced at the closing reception on Saturday evening.
First All-Star Team
Skip: Glenn Howard, Ontario (first-team skip in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012; first-team third in 1986 and 1992; second-team skip in 2008 and 2009)
Third: Wayne Middaugh, Ontario (first-team third in 2012; first-team skip in 1998 and 2001; first-team second in 1992, 1993 and 1994)
Second: Brent Laing, Ontario (first-team second in 2006, 2010 and 2012, second-team second in 2008 and 2011)
Lead: Mark Nichols, Manitoba (second-team third in 2004)
Second All-Star Team
Skip: Brad Gushue, Newfoundland/Labrador (first-team skip in 2004; second-team skip in 2010
Third: Jon Mead, Manitoba (first-team third in 2000 and 2011)
Second: Marc Kennedy, Alberta (first-team second in 2008 and 2009)
Lead: Craig Savill, Ontario (first-team lead in 2007 and 2008, second-team lead in 2006, 2010 and 2011; second-team second in 2002)