NEEPAWA — The favourites have ruled opening day here at the 2013 Safeway Championship.
With victories on the 4 p.m. draw by top seed Jeff Stoughton, fifth seed Terry McNamee, and eighth seed David Elias, all eight of the top seeds have been winners during the first three draws on opening day of the Manitoba men's curling championship.
Stoughton drummed Manitou’s Rene Kolly 9-2 in just six ends, McNamee beat Riverton’s Shawn Magnusson 8-5 in eight ends and Elias smacked Dauphin’s Greg Todoruk 7-2 in seven ends.
In the other games on the 4 p.m. draw, Beausejour’s Brendan Taylor beat Virden’s Graham Freeman 8-5 and West Kildonan’s Trevor Loreth beat clubmate Mark Lukowich 9-6.
The championship continues tonight with the 8:15 p.m. draw with one remaining A-side game between ninth seed Scott Ramsay and Rae Kujanpaa of Dauphin. If Ramsay beats Kujanpaa, then all 12 top seeds — and 14 of the top 16 — will have won on opening day.
The other games on the late draw are B-side elimination games: Fort Rouge’s Scott Madams vs. Gladstone’s Geoff Trimble; Snow Lake’s Travis Graham vs. Carberry’s Rob Van Kommer; Beausejour’s Wayne Ewasko vs. Deloraine’s Blair Goethals; and Fort Rouge’s David Kraichy versus Burntwood’s Grant Brown.
Play unfolded according to form Wednesday afternoon as third seed Rob Fowler, fourth seed William Lyburn and sixth seed Sean Grassie all recorded victories on Draw 2.
Fowler defeated Thompson’s Grant Brown 8-2, Lyburn defeated St. Vital’s Bruce Jones 6-3 and Grassie thumped Deloraine’s Blair Goethals 11-2.
In other games on the 12:15 p.m. draw, the two Neepawa teams in the 32-team field split their games, with Kelly Robertson falling 7-6 to Fort Rouge’s Steen Sigurdson while Jerry Chudley was a 7-6 winner over Fort Rouge’s David Kraichy.
"We had a good start, got a lead early and we were just able to run the game out," said Fowler, who scored four in the first end and added steals in the second and third ends to jump out to a 6-0 lead on Brown. "It’s a little colder out there than maybe we’d like, but I guess we’ll just have to deal with it."
This week’s Safeway Championship is being played in the aging Yellowhead Centre, which has an antiquated heating system that icemaker Hans Wuthrich says cannot be fully employed this week because the heat would blow directly on the ice and cause melting on the side sheets.
The result has been unusually cold conditions in the stands and even colder temperatures at ice level, which have become a common topic of conversation as curlers have emerged from the ice today.
"It’s a little bit cold when you start," said Fowler, "but once you get going, your body temperature gets up. It’s not a big deal for the sweepers, but for me maybe an extra layer of clothing might be in order."
Both Jeff Stoughton, the top seed and nine-time Manitoba men's champion and Mike McEwen, said Tuesday they intend to curl in long johns this week. Stoughton said it will be the first time he's ever curled in thermal underwear at the Manitoba provincials.
McEwen, the second seed, was a winner on the opening draw Wednesday morning, dropping Gladstone’s Geoff Trimble 8-3.
The winners on the opening three draws today don’t return to the ice again until Thursday.