EDMONTON — Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton improved to 4-1 with a 9-2 thrashing of Prince Edward Island at the Canadian men’s curling championship Tuesday afternoon.
With the game tied 1-1 in the third end, Stoughton needed only to draw the house with the last rock of the end to score a three-ender and take a 4-1 lead. That seemed to extinguish whatever designs P.E.I. skip Eddie MacKenzie had on making the game competitive, as Manitoba piled up steals of two and one in the next two ends to take a 7-1 lead into the fifth-end break.
"It was nice to throw some peels and have some simple shots. It makes it a little bit easier for all of us, that’s for sure," said Stoughton, who admitted he had some concerns before the game about playing a winless P.E.I. squad.
"You know they haven’t won a game so you’re thinking you never know if they’re going to come out and be on fire. They made some good shots in 1 and 2 and then we just had a great third end to take control. And then when we stole two in the fourth, that does make life a lot easier."
The victory was Manitoba’s second in a row after a defeat against Ontario Sunday night and moves them into a tie for third place with Northern Ontario and Quebec.
Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue, meantime, continues to lead the field, improving to 6-0 with a 6-3 victory over winless B.C. Tuesday afternoon. Manitoba faces Newfoundland Wednesday evening, but must first play Saskatchewan’s Brock Virtue (2-3) Tuesday evening.
Gushue admitted his team has thus far exceeded even his own expectations for where he hoped his team would be after six games.
"I think you have to come into this point with no worse than one loss and worst case two," said Gushue, who still has high-flying Ontario and Manitoba in front of him. "To be 6-0 now is good. I don’t want to say we can afford a couple losses, but if they do happen, it’s not the end of the world."
The only other undefeated team still remaining at the Brier is Ontario, who improved to 5-0 with a 7-4 win over N.W.T.’s Jamie Koe Monday afternoon.
In the only other game on the afternoon draw, Alberta’s Kevin Martin continued his epic struggles, losing 6-5 to New Brunswick’s James Grattan to fall to 1-4.
Martin, who was offended last weekend when it was suggested that perhaps his team wasn’t getting along on the ice, wasn’t so defiant when he was asked again Tuesday if the team’s chemistry wasn’t working.
"I think it’s safe to say that right now everything isn’t working. From A to Z."
Martin had a one-word answer when he was asked what he thought of the state of his team’s playoff chances: "Dead."
That’s actually not entirely true and Martin later conceded teams with 7-4 records — which is still within Alberta’s reach if they win their six remaining games — commonly make the Brier playoffs.
Grattan said the Albertans appear to be struggling to adapt to the playing conditions — in particular the rocks in use here — more than other teams.
"I think mentally you have to go out and accept that and play the game that’s in front of you," said Grattan. "And sometimes I think when they’re not playing well, they get frustrated with the rocks, frustrated with everything else and everything becomes a lot bigger than it really is."