KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Two veteran skips were both left scratching their heads at the Canadian men's curling championships Saturday night, as a change in ice conditions saw crucial draw attempts in an extra end fall at least five metres short of the house.
Newfoundland and Labrador's Brad Gushue, who lost the game 6-5 to Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton, was more than a little peeved as the opening day of the Tim Horton's Brier ended.
Gushue expressed his clear frustrations with the ice conditions.
"They lost the ice," said Gushue, the 2006 Olympic gold medallist who, like Stoughton, is curling in his 11th Brier.
"You see two world class skips throw draws to the four foot that end up 20-feet light. It's embarrassing. I think the ice is just (terrible). It's unfortunate that it came down to that."
He said he saw it happen to a lesser degree in an earlier game between Alberta's Kevin Koe and B.C.'s John Morris.
Stoughton was just as mystified.
"We were going to draw probably half in the top four and I let it go, the guys said good weight and it just ground in," he said.
Although, for him, the result was a little more satisfying as he left his shot stone in the house to win the game.
"I guess that side of the sheet got lost somehow but we'll take it. We had one in there and he missed both his last two shots, what are you going to do?"
Stoughton and Morris sit at the top of the standings with two wins apiece after Saturday's draw, followed by Brier rookie Greg Balsdon from Ontario and Steve Laycock from Saskatchewan with one win each.
Gushue joined Northern Ontario's Jeff Currie at 1-1 while five rinks were winless after one game, Alberta, New Brunswick, The Northwest Territories-Yukon, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.
In the evening draw, Morris beat Currie 8-2 in eight ends, after struggling earlier to edge Alberta's Koe 7-6. Currie split the day, beating New Brunswick's Jamie Grattan 13-5 in the opener.
Balsdon opened his first Brier by topping Quebec veteran Jean-Michel Menard 9-7 and Saskatchewan's Laycock beat the Northwest Territories-Yukon's Jamie Koe (Kevin's brother) 8-5.
Morris, curling for his third province at the Brier, was glad to get off to a good start.
"The first one was a little tough on the melon, that one was a little nicer," he said, referring to the difference in the two games.
"We played a little better this team, a good solid team effort."
He also said he found the ice on the sheet he played on a little more consistent at night.
Laycock said his first win wasn't without it's scary moments.
"Especially in nine there, there was a chance we could have blown a three-point lead in a hurry," he said. "It was nice to sneak out of that with only giving up two."
He scored two in the final end to seal it.
So did Balsdon, playing in his first Brier after managing to beat Ontario veteran Glen Howard to win the right.
"We all felt pretty comfortable. The speed was good, the ice was very consistent, what you'd expect from the Brier," he said.
He says it helps in a way being a rookie.
"Because I'm a rookie here I don't really feel a whole lot of pressure for myself and the team. . . We're just hoping to scrap out some games."