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It's all unfolding as predicted -- top seeds rising

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SELKIRK -- The script continued to unfold according to form at the Manitoba men's provincial curling championship Thursday.

The top five seeds all advanced to today's A-side finals with victories Thursday and each now needs just one more win in two tries today to advance to tonight's opening draw of the eight-team playoff round.

Kerry Burtnyk, Jeff Stoughton, Mike McEwen, Peter Nicholls and Reid Carruthers -- the top five seeds, respectively -- will all play at 8:30 this morning in the A-finals.

Stoughton will play 10th seed Dave Boehmer, Burtnyk will play ninth seed Daley Peters, McEwen will play 11th seed Brendan Taylor and Nicholls will play Carruthers.

The losers will get a second chance to advance in the B-finals later today at 4 p.m.

A couple of former provincial men's champions were among the first to be eliminated Thursday.

Dave Smith, the 1994 champion, went bang-bang in just two games, while 2004 champion Brent Scales lasted just three games.

* * *

Jeff Stoughton finally broke what had been an uncharacteristic silence this week, offering a few suggestions and comments for the Manitoba Curling Association committee that is studying making potential changes to all the province's curling championships, including this one.

Stoughton said one potential model could see 32 teams play in four groups of eight prior to the provincial men's championship, with two teams from each group then advancing to an eight-team men's provincials, a format similar to other provinces, including Alberta.

Stoughton also said there are simply not enough teams anymore to justify many zone berths. "I think that's where the game is going, where we need to reduce the numbers to get the elite out here," Stoughton said.

"There were some pretty terrible games yesterday, and even last night there were some games that were not high-calibre curling for some of the teams playing out here.

"Don't get me wrong, we'd love to win every game 9-1," Stoughton continued. "It's hard on the other team."

* * *

Young Braden Zawada has the bug.

The 20-year-old Zawada lasted just three games in his first provincial men's championship, but he had a ball and cannot wait for the next one. "I just want to go and start practising for next year," Zawada said. "It's unbelievable. It's just too bad we couldn't pull it out."

Zawada was curling in the junior provincials last month, but he put together a team for the MCA Bonspiel that included coach Ray Fillion and suprised everyone, including himself, by qualifying for the men's provincials too.

* * *

A few of the winning teams have been complaining, as they do every year, about how long they have to wait between games in the first few days.

Jeff Stoughton, for instance, had a full 27 hours between the start of his first game on Wednesday morning and his return to the ice Thursday afternoon.

With wins in both games, Stoughton was put on ice again, this time forced to wait until this morning's A-side finals.

"And then they get you," Stoughton lamented. "If you lose (this morning), you have to play three (today). And you can play three Saturday and two Sunday."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2009 C3

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