EDMONTON — Defending champion Glenn Howard moved into the lead at the Canadian men’s curling championship as the only undefeated team left in the field.
His Ontario rink was unbeaten at 7-0 at the Tim Hortons Brier after Wednesday night’s draw.
“The best thing is that second number stays at zero,” Howard said.
With a 7-3 win over New Brunswick’s James Grattan, Howard’s team is working on a 17-game winning streak going back to last year’s Brier in Saskatoon. They went 10-1 there en route to the title with their lone loss to Jamie Koe of the Territories.
“When we’ve won games in the past, we’ve had to struggle to get them and sneak them out and manufacture ways to win,” Howard said.
“What I like here is we’ve really played solid all the way through, really haven’t been in trouble too many ends. When we have, we get out of them. We’re playing at a high level and seem to be keeping that momentum. The key is we have to keep it up. If we start to falter now, it’s not going to be good enough at the end.”
Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador lost his first game of the tournament — a 9-5 defeat at the hands of Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton — and was 7-1. Three-time Canadian champion Stoughton improved to 6-1.
The top four teams at the conclusion of the round robin Friday night advance to the Page playoff. Ties for fourth are solved by tiebreaker games. While 7-4 has been good enough for playoffs or tiebreaker games some years, eight wins is considered safer playoff territory.
“We’ve still got to win a few games to guarantee us something,” Stoughton said.
Gushue’s young curling team made the most of a benevolent schedule for their first seven games, but their last four opponents in the round-robin are winners of at least one Canadian championship, if not multiple titles.
After the loss to Manitoba, Gushue’s St. John’s team faces Ontario on Thursday followed by four-time Canadian champion Kevin Martin and 2006 winner Jean-Michel Menard of Quebec on Friday.
“You always want to win the games you’re supposed to win and in the worst case, split the rest and see where you are at the end of it,” Gushue said.
The subplot of the game between Manitoba and Newfoundland was Stoughton’s lead Mark Nichols faced his former skip for the first time at a Brier. Nichols, from Labrador City, was Gushue’s third at eight previous Canadian championships and also at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, where they won gold.
“It was different,” Nichols said. “The only different thing was not playing for Newfoundland, for me. My heart and soul is I’m a Newfoundlander. To me, it felt like it was intense. There were no words or jabs or talking or anything like that.”
Stoughton’s hit for four in the eighth end sealed the win for the Manitobans. Gushue slipped giving his final stone of the end an extra shove while attempting a hit against five with his final stone. The skip got a shot away, but he left a lot of granite in the rings for Stoughton.
“To get rid of four, I probably had to throw it even harder than that,” Gushue said. “I would have needed Mark Nichols or someone to throw that for me to make. It had to be real hard to get rid of four of them.”
Quebec and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs were tied at 5-2 ahead of New Brunswick at 4-4. After losing four of their first five, Martin’s Edmonton team won their second in a row to get to 3-4 alongside Saskatchewan’s Brock Virtue.
“Obviously four losses at the start is not good,” Martin said following an 8-3 win over Koe. “It might even be too many for that matter. But for us, we played well. Come out tomorrow, win two and then we can talk about seeing what the chances are.”
Koe’s Territories team dropped to 3-5 and are likely out of playoff contention. Prince Edward Island’s Eddie MacKenzie won his first game with a 10-7 win over B.C.’s Andrew Bilesky. B.C. and Nova Scotia’s Paul Fleming were 0-7.
Special to The Telegram
EDMONTON – Brad Gushue fell down on the job Tuesday night at the Canadian men’s curling championship and tumbled from first place.
He really did fall down.
It came in the eighth end with the game tied when he fired a desperation rocket of a takeout trying to remove as many of six Manitoba rocks from play that he could.
Gushue slipped and fell as he shoved the stone with all his might.
He managed to get rid of a few and leave his own stone in play for Jeff Stoughton to remove and score four points on the way to Manitoba’s 9-5 win over Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It was kind of on purpose,” Gushue said about falling on his side as he propelled his takeout attempt. “We horse around in practice and just to try and get that shove you have to release your right side and once you do that you’re going to fall. I had to throw it as hard as I possibly could and that’s the only way I know how to throw it that hard.”
Ontario’s Glenn Howard remains the only undefeated team at 7-0 and alone in first place after a 7-3 win over Jamie Grattan of New Brunswick. Gushue slipped to 7-1 followed by Stoughton at 6-1. Prime playoff contenders Jean-Michel Menard from Quebec and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs were tied at 5-2.
Gushue and teammates Brett Gallant at third, second Adam Casey and lead Geoff Walker struggled in the first few ends of the game but clawed their way back to a 5-5 tie in the seventh end.
Disaster struck in the eighth when Casey’s rock rolled off a Manitoba stone, removed the Newfoundland shot stone and started the cluster of rocks that Gushue tried to blow up.
“It was disappointing to lose. It was nice to fight back and get it tied up but boy-oh-boy what a bad eighth end,” Gushue said. “It was pretty disappointing to not have any shot to get out of the end.”
Gushue said he expected a loss at some point in the 11-game round-robin tournament. Four teams advance to playoffs.
“I didn’t expect to go 11-and-0 but I would have preferred it had come later,” he said. “That eighth end was frustrating even though we tried to make light of it and have some fun we knew we were up the creek without a paddle.”
Gushue plays Howard and Menard on Thursday and wraps up the tournament Friday against Alberta’s Kevin Martin who kept his playoff hopes alive with an 8-3 win over Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories/Yukon.
Now, the going gets tough for Brad Gushue at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
Newfoundland and Labrador improved to 7-0 Wednesday at the Tim Horton’s Brier with four games remaining in the round-robin tournament to settle the quartet of playoff combatants.
It’s time to see if Newfoundland is tough enough to get going against the formidable four-pack of teams Gushue has in front of him. Every one is a former Brier champion.
Gushue played Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton, Brier winner in 1996, 1999 and 2011, in the late game Tuesday.
The result of the game was not available by The Telegram’s deadline. However, the result of the game will be posted on The Telegram’s website (thetelegram.com).
Gushue takes on undefeated defending champion Glenn Howard and 2006 winner Jean-Michel Menard today and wraps things up against fellow Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin on Friday.
“It gets a little bit tougher, but if we continue to play this way we’re going to win as many against them as they’re able to win against us. That’s the key — go out there and play well, maybe catch a break, maybe make a big shot and get a win out of it,” Gushue said
“I’m happy with the way we’re playing and I like our chances against the guys we’re coming up against.”
One more win brings the guarantee of a spot in the playoffs for Gushue, although he says he won’t be happy unless he makes it to the first playoff game between the top two teams.
The Page playoff system pits the first and second-place teams in a playoff game, with the winner advancing to Sunday’s final. The loser plays a semifinal against the winner of a game between the third and fourth-place teams.
Almost everyone, except Gushue, has given up on the horribly struggling Martin, who has lost four games. Martin won the Brier in 1991, 1997, 2008 and 2009.
“I wouldn’t write him off. I’ve seen 7-and-4 get into the playoffs before,” Gushue said about Martin, who has two games remaining against teams with records as bad or worse as his own in Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories/Yukon and Eddie MacKenzie of Prince Edward Island.
Martin then faces some pretty stiff challenges in Gushue and Howard.
Gushue doesn’t want to give it too much thought, but Howard, Stoughton, Menard and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs are the other prime playoff contenders.
“It’s a little bit too early to look at it and see where you stand and who-beats-who,” Gushue said.
Newfoundland downed Koe 7-3 Wednesday, with Gushue providing a curling lesson in how to win by always scoring two points in an end and never given up more than one.
“I thought our last two games were textbook. I feel very confident,” Gushue said.
Koe was forced to draw to the button with his final shot in three ends to gain his points.
“They’re playing pretty sharp and we’re not,” Koe said. “We were in trouble every end.”
Said Gushue: “We just seemed in control and we didn’t want to push it too much or get aggressive because we were able to force them and get the odd deuce.
“It felt pretty comfortable out there and with the exception of couple mistakes we threw the rocks pretty well and it was fun.”