Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba rolls with punches

Stoughton crew not moaning about rocks, just doing job

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EDMONTON -- The conditions aren't perfect -- and that suits Team Manitoba, perfectly.

With curlers continuing to complain for a third day on Monday that what they describe as an unpredictable new set of curling rocks being used at this year's Brier is making it difficult to play winning curling, Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton continued to prove otherwise with his third victory in four games -- a 7-6 win over previously undefeated Quebec.

While there was nothing pretty about the Quebec victory -- Stoughton had a 6-2 fifth-end lead but still needed to make a double with his last rock of the 10th to preserve the win -- that was precisely the point: At an event where others are complaining that the rocks have made for ugly play, Stoughton and company have converted ugly into Ws on the leaderboard.

So it is, so it has always been, said Stoughton third Jon Mead. "One of the things about our team is we've never gotten very hot and bothered about rocks," said Mead. "We'll move rocks around from time to time, but we're not the type of team to pick the fly crap out of the poop the way some teams do.

"So I think when we get into an environment like this where there are new rocks, I think we roll with it a little better. Jack Nicklaus used to say -- not that I'm comparing myself to him -- but he used to say that when guys came into the clubhouse and complained the conditions were hard, he loved it. He figured he had half of them already beat.

"And we're the same way. I don't mind if it's a little bit tough out there -- I'm a bit of a mucker."

Stoughton had a similar take. "You get what you get. If you make it a problem, it becomes a problem," Stoughton said.

With the exception of a loss to Ontario Sunday evening, Manitoba hasn't had much in the way of problems so far. And that's unlikely to change today with a schedule that includes games against a couple of the field's lightweights in P.E.I.'s Eddie MacKenzie (0-5) this afternoon and Saskatchewan's Brock Virtue (2-3) tonight.

Manitoba comes into today in fifth place, behind Newfoundland (5-0), Ontario (4-0), Northern Ontario (4-1) and Quebec (4-1). But with a game in hand on Northern Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and games still to play against Northern Ontario and Newfoundland, Manitoba remains very much in control of their own playoff destiny.

And that's a lot better than the shocking situation Alberta's Kevin Martin finds himself in this morning after a devastating 8-1 loss to Northern Ontario Monday afternoon dropped the hometown favourites to 1-3.

Martin, not surprisingly, has been one of the most vocal complainers this week about the rocks, which he maintains are badly mismatched. But Martin also seemed to find his inner zen on Monday as he discussed the experience this week of playing in a Brier in his own hometown for the first time. "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. 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... 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 -- 10-2 over Nova Scotia -- 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."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 5, 2013 D2

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