For two of the favourites in London at the Tim Hortons Brier, Tuesday morning offered separate, but equal challenges.
Alberta’s Kevin Martin, who ended a 30-game unbeaten run with a loss to Newfoundland Labrador’s Brad Gushue Monday night, needed to bounce back with a win against Nova Scotia’s Shawn Adams to stay in sight of front-runner Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba who was looking for his sixth straight win against the Territories Jamie Koe.
Both skips got off to a less-than-auspicious start.
Martin, for the second night in a row, found himself down three early, but he made a great lock-in forcing the Nova Scotia skipper to throw through in the third end for one, making it a 4-2 contest with Alberta holding hammer in five.
“That was big, because he couldn’t make the deuce. If I don’t make that, he gets two maybe three and the game’s over,” said Martin.
After that, the Wild Rosers seemed to find their comfort zone and built momentum culminating with a great double and stick by Martin for three in the ninth and a 9-7 lead coming home.
“I didn’t make my shot and left Kevin with a shot for three and that was it, really.”
He kept it clean in 10, and ran his record to 5-1.
Stoughton bounced back from the slow start, down 3-1, the Winnipeg skipper scored his deuce in four, then stole two in five and six to grab the game by the throat, winning 10-4.
“We just had to shake the cobwebs out for some reason, then we just really played well after that and made some good shots,” said Stoughton, who admitted to peaking over at the Martin/Adams contest, especially after his team controlled things against the Territories.
“Of course we were looking over, are you kidding me? It’s fun to watch the other guys play, that’s what it’s all about.”
Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs jumped back into fray, beating Quebec’s Francois Gagne 8-5 to even his record 3-3.
The Jacobs crew had curled well despite their 2-3 record coming in, and enjoyed a 6-1 lead midway through the contest, but they were forced to curl well in the latter stages to hold on for the win.
Quebec dropped to 2-4.
Jacobs agrees his team has curled better than their record shows.
“We still need to curl better though, we haven’t quite curled to our potential yet,” said Jacobs.
“We might be the best team with the worst record, I can kind of see that to be honest with you, but we’ve won our last two in a row now and we feel good, and I definitely think it’s helping us build confidence.”
The feel-good story of the day was P.E.I.’s Eddie MacKenzie, who posted the Island’s first win at this event, beating Maritime rival James Grattan of New Brunswick 8-5.
Mackenzie is 1-5, while Grattan drops to 2-4.
“It’s nice to get a win, a little late coming, but we’re happy,” said Mackenzie.
The Island skip also weighed in on suggestions an expanded Brier format might include low-finishers from the previous year’s event having to play their way into the big show.
“I think that every province should be able to get to the Brier, so I think if they want to do something like that they should switch to 13 or 14 teams… last year’s winner included, they have time to add draws in the morning.”
Martin is back on the ice this afternoon against Quebec, Jacobs will play Adams (2-4), while B.C.’s Jim Cotter (1-4) plays Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock (2-3).
The marquee event on the sheet for Draw 10 is streak stopper Gushue against Ontario’s Glenn Howard.
The winner will move to 5-1.