LONDON, Ont. -- So how good was Manitoba third Jon Mead at the Tim Hortons Brier Wednesday night?
Put it to you this way: Mead curled better than his skip -- and his skip shot 100 per cent.
Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton became just the fifth skip in Brier history to shoot 100 per cent, throwing a perfect game in an emphatic 5-1 victory over Alberta's Kevin Martin that puts Manitoba alone in first place at 8-1 heading into today's final day of the round robin.
But while Stoughton put up the history-making numbers, it was Mead who stole the show with a mind-boggling performance of house-clearing runbacks and triple-takeouts so relentless that his play actually caused Martin to turn the entire game of curling on its head.
Trailing 3-0 and unable to get anything going because of Mead's housecleaning, Martin elected to draw for a single point with the hammer in the sixth end instead of blanking in the desperate hope he'd be able to generate more offence without the hammer than with it.
The strategy failed and Martin was a beaten man as he conceded defeat without even throwing his final rock of the eighth end.
"Jonathan played great. Holy, he made every shot," Martin said afterward. "He must have shot a hundred, I think."
Actually, that was Stoughton. But Mead did shoot 97 per cent -- and so did Manitoba as a team, with lead Steve Gould kicking in a 98 per cent and second Reid Carruthers throwing 92 per cent.
Only one other team in Brier history has shot 97 per cent -- Ontario's Wayne Middaugh in 2001.
Mead suggested afterward that it might have been the best game he's ever played. "I can't remember a game when I hit the rock in the right spot that many times," Mead said.
Put it all together -- add a gutsy 7-6 extra-end win over Saskatchewan earlier Wednesday -- and Manitoba heads into two final round-robin games having sent a message that they cannot only beat the best on display here, they can crush them.
"Holy smokes," Martin muttered as he continued to ponder Mead's performance. "Hopefully he cools down a little."
Stoughton was quick, however, to put the game in perspective. "It was very satisfying," Stoughton said. "But hopefully it will be equally as sweet if we can win on Sunday night (in the Brier final). Because that's the key."
Manitoba plays Newfoundland's Brad Gushue this morning and then closes out the round robin against Quebec's Francois Gagne this afternoon. Stoughton already has a playoff spot clinched, with the only question remaining whether he will be playing in Friday's 1-2 Page playoff game or Saturday's 3-4 game.
Alberta, Newfoundland and Ontario's Glenn Howard head into today tied for second place at 7-2, with Ontario and Alberta in a showdown on the final round-robin draw tonight.
Northern Ontario, at 5-4, is the only other team still alive in the playoff hunt.
Earlier Wednesday, P.E.I. skip Eddie MacKenzie sparked some controversy when he conceded defeat after just five ends while trailing Ontario 11-1.
The rules say teams are supposed to play at least seven ends every game and CCA director of events Warren Hansen said P.E.I., a woeful 1-8 this week, would be fined.
"All these (spectators) here paid $20-plus to come here and watch Ontario," Hansen said. "They just got short-changed half a game. It's BS."
But Ontario's Howard said he was on P.E.I.'s side and would pay half of MacKenzie's fine. "The fine is offside. It's not as if it was the main game," Howard said.