EDMONTON — Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton improved to 2-0 with a 9-4 victory over Nova Scotia’s Paul Flemming at the Canadian men’s curling championship Sunday morning.
Clinging to a 5-4 lead after yielding a steal of two to Nova Scotia in the seventh end, Stoughton shut the door for good with a four-ender in the eighth end that prompted Nova Scotia to shake hands.
Sunday morning’s victory comes on the heels of a thrilling 5-4 extra-end win by Manitoba over Alberta’s Kevin Martin on Saturday night and puts Stoughton in a solid position heading into another key contest Sunday evening against defending world champion Glenn Howard of Ontario, who also improved to 2-0 Sunday morning with a 7-5 win over Saskatchewan’s Brock Virtue.
"We’re 2-0 and if we can get through tonight, at 3-0 we’d be in a great position to get the big guys out of the way" said Stoughton, "and then worry about all the other guys that want to beat you because that’s their week is beating Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba. We’re going to have to play really well and I think we did play well today. So we’ll look forward to tonight’s game against Ontario."
There is no clear favourite heading into tonight’s marquee matchup (7:30 p.m. CT, TSN) — Howard figured his team and Stoughton’s have roughly split the games between the two teams on the cash tour this season.
Howard also insisted there is no special significance to tonight’s game against Manitoba. "They’re all important, they really are," Howard said. "Obviously Jeff’s been playing really well, we’re not doing too bad ourselves. But again, you just want to put as many wins as you can under your belt and you’ve got to play everybody."
In other games Sunday morning, Alberta’s Martin continued to struggle with an 8-4 loss to Quebec’s Jean-Michel Menard that dropped the hometown favourites to 0-2, while Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs improved to 2-0 with a 9-3 thrashing of a B.C. team that looks overmatched here this week.
Jacobs added another win Sunday afternoon — 10-4 over P.E.I.’s Eddie MacKenzie — and is now done for the day and will head into Monday with a 3-0 record. That’s the same record as Quebec, who also improved to 3-0 Sunday afternoon with a 6-3 win over NWT’s Jamie Koe. Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue, who pounded Saskatchewan 7-2 Sunday afternoon, is also 3-0 heading into Sunday night.
Martin was at a loss Sunday morning to explain his team’s uncharacteristically imprecise play at an event many expect him to win next weekend
"It will come around, I think. Just hopefully we’re still around to see it," said Martin, adding he’s struggling to understand a new set of rocks that the Canadian Curling Association is using at the Brier for the first time this week.
"I couldn’t find a pair — tried lots of them... You’re just trying to find a pair that are somewhat near the same. And it’s not easy. And the problem is if you get behind, then you have to gamble and your shots are tougher."