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Brier playoff scenario still unclear heading into tonight's draw

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EDMONTON -- The playoff picture here at the Canadian men’s curling championship became a little bit clearer here following Friday afternoon’s draw, but it’s not going to be until late tonight before we all know who’s in and who’s out when the playoffs start on Saturday.

Here’s what we know for sure: With a 5-4 victory over Quebec’s Jean-Michel Menard, Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue finished his round-robin with an 8-3 record and now joins undefeated Glenn Howard of Ontario as the only two teams with playoff berths clinched.

"To finally be on the right side of a very well-played game is nice," said Gushue, who had a three-game losing streak coming into Friday afternoon. "We just believed we had to keep playing the way we’d been playing and eventually the breaks are going to go our way."

Beyond Newfoundland and Ontario having clinched, the rest of the playoff situation is all still very muddled, with four teams — Manitoba, Northern Ontario, Alberta and Quebec — still jockeying for the other two playoff positions up for grabs.

Leading that chase is Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton, who is 7-3 heading into tonight after a loss to NWT Friday morning, and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, who improved to 7-3 Friday afternoon with a 7-4 win over New Brunswick.

Stoughton has a couple different playoff scenarios heading into his final game, versus BC’s Andrew Bilesky (1-9):

With a win over BC, Stoughton would finish at 8-3 and in all likelihood would face Howard — who has first place clinched — in Saturday afternoon’s page playoff 1 vs 2 game, where the winner advances straight to Sunday night’s Brier final while the loser gets a second chance in Sunday morning’s semifinal against the winner of Saturday night’s 3 vs 4 game.

Stoughton would automatically get second place if he wins and Northern Ontario loses to Nova Scotia tonight. But Stoughton would also likely get second place if he wins and Northern Ontario wins. In that scenario, Manitoba, Northern Ontario and Newfoundland would all finish tied for second place at 8-3 and the first tiebreaker — the round-robin records between the teams — would not resolve anything because each team is 1-1 against the others.

The next tiebreaker would then become the cumulative total of all the pre-game draws to the button the teams have done here this week. Stoughton leads that competition over both Newfoundland and Northern Ontario and, barring some unforseen disaster in his final pre-game draw tonight, Stoughton would be awarded second place on that basis.

Only losses by Manitoba or Northern Ontario tonight would bring Quebec and Alberta, who are both 6-4, into the playoff picture. Alberta plays Ontario (10-0) tonight, while Quebec plays Saskatchewan (4-6).

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

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