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Stoughton slides into second place at Brier

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EDMONTON — Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton won his fifth consecutive game at the Canadian men's curling championship Thursday afternoon, dropping New Brunswick’s James Grattan 6-5 to improve Manitoba’s round-robin record to 7-1.

The Manitoba win combined with a 6-5 loss by Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue to Ontario’s Glenn Howard vaulted Manitoba into second place heading into Thursday evening, when Manitoba will take on Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs (5-3).

After opening at 4-0, Jacobs has now lost three of his last four games — including Thursday morning to Saskatchewan — and will limp into tonight’s contest against a Stoughton team who have been unblemished since their lone loss Sunday evening against Ontario.

Stoughton said the math for his team is now simple — win their final three games and they will play Saturday in the page playoff 1 vs. 2 game, where the winner advances straight to Sunday’s final while the loser gets a second chance in the semifinal. "That’s a huge advantage to get the 1-2 game," said Stoughton. "So if we can win out, we’re guaranteed the 1-2 game and that’s where want to be."

Stoughton says he his team isn’t yet playing as sharp as they can.

"There’s one or two shots here and there that you’d like back. And the ice is definitely getting straighter with any type of weight. So we’re just getting used to very minimal ice on hits. It takes a little while to get used to so little broom when you’re throwing on arena ice."

Ontario, meanwhile, remains the only undefeated team in the standings thanks to a hard-fought victory over Newfoundland Thursday afternoon that improved Howard’s record to 8-0.

"We just want to keep the pedal to the metal now and keep building on how we’re playing," said Howard. "I can’t say enough — my guys were just outstanding in that game."

The Newfoundland loss was the second in a row for Gushue, who matched Howard shot-for-shot but was simply the lesser team in a game that dropped his team’s record to 7-2 after opening at 7-0.

"We played a good game," said Gushue, "we just came up against a great team that played great... It seemed like every chance we got, we’d make a good shot and then they’d just cap it right away with a good one."

In other games Thursday afternoon, Alberta’s Kevin Martin won his third game in a row — 7-2 over P.E.I. — to improve to 4-4 and keep his playoff hopes alive. "Everything’s going fine. We just have to keep winning and we’ll see what happens," said Martin.

Alberta has a tough schedule to finish. They play Saskatchewan (4-4) tonight, but then finish the round robin with games on Friday against Newfoundland and Ontario.

In the only other game on the afternoon draw, B.C.’s Andrew Bilesky finally got his first win, dumping N.W.T.’s Jamie Koe 8-7.

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