REGINA — A warm Brandt Centre is keeping the skips at the Tim Hortons Brier guessing.
Saskatchewan's Steve Laycock finally got a win for his hometown crowd with a 9-4 eight-end decision over New Brunswick's James Grattan on Sunday in Draw 5 of Canada's men's curling championship. Grattan had difficulty with his weight, as New Brunswick skip was light on his last rock in the fourth and fifth ends, allowing Saskatchewan to steal one in each.
Laycock (1-2) needed a bounceback game after a 7-5 loss to Manitoba's Reid Carruthers earlier in the day in Draw 3.
"I think we just took a little while to figure out the ice and rocks," said Laycock. "We weren't that far off, we weren't throwing it that bad — we played a really good Manitoba team this morning."
Prince Edward Island's Eddie MacKenzie (1-2) also struggled with the ice in his 9-5 loss to Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs (3-0).
MacKenzie couldn't bounce back after a devastating pick on his last rock in the fifth end that gave Northern Ontario a steal of four, followed by a steal of two in the sixth.
Ontario's John Epping (2-1) took control early in their match against Quebec's Jean-Francois Trepanier, with a draw for three in the first end. Ontario continued their lead throughout the eight-end game to beat Quebec 7-3.
"The first game was really settling in and by now this third draw, the ice is great," said Epping, who is based in Toronto. "Actually, it's the best I've felt out there today."
Nunavut's Dave St. Louis (0-3) also conceded after eight ends, dropping a 12-5 decision to the second seeded team of the championship, Reid Carruthers and his Manitoba rink (3-0).
"We've been practising trying to put more turn on the rock," said St. Louis, a 58-year-old rookie at the Brier. "We realize that it's going to have lots of curl, unfortunately it's a lot more than we thought … it's curling seven feet the way we're throwing it and it's tough."
Earlier Sunday, Alberta's Brendan Bottcher (1-1) dominated in a 9-2 eight ends victory over Jamie Koe's Northwest Territories (1-1) rink in Draw 4.
Bottcher scored two points in the second, third and fourth ends and then a single in the fifth to take a commanding lead.
"Yesterday, it was warm," said Bottcher. "This is already one of the warmest arenas we've played in … and I think that might have got the ice a little bit and today it just held up a bit better."
Greg Smith of Newfoundland and Labrador, continued his aggressive approach but Nova Scotia's James Murphy fought through the second half of the game with a three-point ender in the seventh, a steal of two in the eighth and a steal of one in the ninth to secure a 9-6 win.
Smith fell to 0-2 at the tournament and Murphy is 2-0.
It was early handshakes on the remaining sheets in the afternoon draw. Team Canada and Team Wild-Card remain undefeated in Pool A after two games.
The 2017 Brier champion Brad Gushue (2-0) defeated Yukon rookie skip Thomas Scoffin, stealing three out of eight ends in the 8-3 victory.
Also, Mike McEwen's rink from Winnipeg, playing in the tournament as the wild card, took control of their game earlier against B.C.'s Sean Geall with back-to-back steals in the first and second ends and finishing with a steal of one to take a 9-3 win.
Paige Kreutzwieser, The Canadian Press