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Manitoba, Alberta keep setting Brier pace

Two Canadian curling juggernauts continued on an undefeated collision course at the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier in London on Monday afternoon.

Action during Draw 7 at the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier (Photo: Michael Burns Photography)

Jeff Stoughton’s Manitoba crew continues to lead the pack at 5-0 after an 8-4 win over Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, while Alberta’s Kevin Martin put up an impressive 9-2 win over Eddie MacKenzie of P.E.I. to go to 4-0

The former champions will be the marquee matchup Wednesday night at the John Labatt Centre.

Martin came into the draw on a roll after registering Brier win 100 Sunday, playing a P.E.I. team still seeking its first win. Island skip MacKenzie noted Martin’s work ethic and achievements as inspiration for his competitive curling.

“It’s nice to hear, I know they were really looking forward to playing us, it’s too bad it wasn’t a little closer game,” said Martin.

“I try not to take one game any more lightly than another, certainly we worry about our mechanics and that kind of thing,” he said.

While handshakes came after seven ends, MacKenzie staved off a potential disaster in five, staring at multiple Martin stones buried, and made a double-raise to stick for one.

“That was a dandy, he almost made a deuce there,” said Martin.

“If it’s just a hair thicker on first impact, he gets a deuce and the crowd would have went berserk.”

For Stoughton, it was another business-like victory, albeit a sloppy one, not curled particularly well by either team, he said.

“It wasn’t a great game for either team really, but we made the right shots when it counted so we’ll take the win, that’s for sure,” he said.

Stoughton shrugged off any notion the ice was a problem.

“There’s a few tricky spots out there but nothing we’re going to be shaking our heads about.

“We shook off some bad shots early… put up that three-ender in seven and that was really the key.”

Nova Scotia’s Shawn Adams got off the winless schooner with a tidy 9-2 win over Jamie Koe’s Territories’ squad.

Adams, 1-3, says his crew is feeling more comfortable with the ice as the event moves forward and believes his team’s best rocks still lie ahead.

“I was telling Glenn (Howard) in yesterday’s game that we started feeling better in the Manitoba game in the second half,” said Adams.

“Where we play out East we don’t play on a lot of this kind of surface , we didn’t play many Slams the last couple of years to get on an arena surface, so it’s really just about a comfort level,” he said.

Howard said Sunday, Adams would be a team to be reckoned with as the week moves forward and the squad gets familiar with the conditions. Stats bear that out, as the team curled 93 per cent in today’s contest including 100 per cent from second Andrew Gibson.

The other match-up came down to the final stone and no time for Quebec’s Francois Gagne, who failed in a bid to hit and stick for two against New Brunswick’s James Grattan, instead giving up a steal, making it a 7-5 final.

Quebec is now 2-2, while Grattan bounced back to 2-3, having won his opening draw against Howard, but coming off three straight losses.

“I thought we played three really good games off the start, coming out of the Martin, Stoughton, Howard (games) with a win there, and then to turn around and give one back last night (loss to Territories), really put us behind the eight-ball, really more deflating than anything,” said Grattan.

“Traditionally, coming from the east coast, where the ice runs straight, it’s usually tough at the start getting used to (a six-foot swing), but for us, it’s been more a case of execution than the ice,” said Grattan.

Martin will have a chance to run even with Stoughton tonight at 7:30 (ET) when he takes on Newfoundland/Labrador’s Brad Gushue who sits at 3-1.

Howard (3-1) is back on the ice against Quebec, Northern Ontario battles B.C., both teams at 1-3,  and Nova Scotia battles Saskatchewan (2-2).