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Stoughton gets back on winning track

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EDMONTON — Jeff Stoughton quickly got back on the winning track at the Canadian men's curling championship Monday afternoon, dropping Quebec’s Jean-Michel Menard 7-6 to improve Manitoba’s round-robin record to 3-1.

Trailing Quebec 2-1 after two ends, Stoughton got steals of two in each of the next two ends to carry a 6-2 lead into the fifth-end break. Stoughton gave a steal back in the seventh end and had to make an easy double with his last rock in the 10th end to secure the victory.

The win puts Manitoba into a tie for fourth place with Quebec, a game behind Ontario, Northern Ontario and Newfoundland, who are all 4-0.

"I think we always know we can be better. Everyone’s just getting used to it. It’s only our fourth game, everyone’s getting accustomed to the ice," said Stoughton, who had his first loss here Sunday evening, falling 8-5 to Ontario.

"We’ve played on each sheet now and we’ve only thrown yellow (rocks), so now we get to throw red for the next four games, I think."

While other skips have complained about a new set of rocks that are making their Brier debut this year, Stoughton said the rocks — and individual variations between them — haven’t been much of an issue for his team. "You get what you get. If you make it a problem, it becomes a problem," Stoughton said.

Also on Monday, Nicole Sigvaldason — who played third for Manitoba’s Shannon Birchard at last month’s Canadian junior championship, where the same new rocks were first used — weighed in on the issue from her Twitter account.

"Men at the Brier, we used those rocks at Nationals and they’re fine. Stop your complaining!" Sigvaldason tweeted.

The win over Quebec came in Manitoba’s only game on Monday. Manitoba gets Monday night’s draw off, but returns Tuesday for two games, against P.E.I.’s Eddie MacKenzie Tuesday afternoon and Saskatchewan’s Brock Virtue in the evening.

In other games Monday afternoon, Ontario’s Glenn Howard pounded Nova Scotia’s Paul Flemming 10-2; Saskatchewan’s Virtue improved to 2-2 with a 4-2 win over winless B.C.; and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs crushed Alberta’s Kevin Martin 8-1.

The loss dropped Alberta to a shocking 1-3, but Martin remains upbeat, noting three losses is usually still good enough to qualify a team for the Brier playoffs.

"Three (losses) is safe. But we have three already. So now we have to get on a roll — that’s the bottom line," said Martin.

While a flailing hometown team isn’t what Brier organizers are hoping for this week, a philosophical Martin was invoking the big picture after the loss to Northern Ontario. "The crowd’s great and I got to play with my son today," said Martin, who inserted his son, and Alberta alternate, Karrick Martin, into the lineup for the second half of the game. "It’s really hard not to be upbeat. It’s just that we’re not curling well. You know, sometimes sports is like that. And it is hard to do that.

"But you’ve got the crowd behind you, you’re in your home city, we’ll do the autograph session and then catch my daughter’s playoff game tonight in hockey because we don’t play tonight — so it’s perfect timing...

"You know what I mean? It’s hard to hang your head. And there’s no reason to, I don’t think. We’ve just got to smarten up and curl better."

Howard, on the other hand, couldn’t be curling better right now after yet another ruthlessly efficient victory here on Monday.

"I have a really good feeling about how we’re playing right now," said Howard. "And I kind of agree — we’re getting this little mojo going and hopefully we continue. But you never know, it can easily drop right off."

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