Brad Gushue’s Newfoundland/Labrador contender rallied to further tighten up the Tim Hortons Brier race Thursday morning.
Gushue, directing Mark Nichols, Ryan Fry and Jamie Danbrook, took advantage of a monstrous miscue from Jeff Stoughton in the eighth end of their Draw-13 hookup and rolled to an 8-5 victory which left three teams snarled with 8-and-2 records and idle Alberta one-half-game back at 7-and-2.
“It was a tight one, looking dicey for most of the game,” said Gushue who proceeded to pay tribute to his sweepers Nichols and Danbrook who managed to turn three of Gushue’s shots from near-misses to just-made-its.
“Those three shots were the only rocks I didn’t really throw real good and they made them all. Those two guys swept their hearts out. I’ve never seen two guys so out of breath. They did a great job for me today.”
The brushmen dragged Gushue’s last of the eighth into the rings for a count of three, then succeeded in ensuring two perfect skip’s shots in the 10th end with Manitoba angling for at least an extra end.
Gushue’s first barely scraped past a guard for a hit and roll which left his team sitting two. Then his last guard was perfectly placed by his broomsmen.
“I think our fate is in our own hands tonight,” said Gushue, who plays Quebec’s Francois Gagne in his last outing. “We win and I think we’re assured of a spot in the Page One-Two game.”
Manitoba, meanwhile, also plays Quebec in a preliminary-ending match earlier today at 2:30 ET.
“The One-Two is a huge playoff advantage,” said Gushue. “We had a good run and got in the One-Two in 2007 (then lost the final to Glenn Howard). But the last three years we’ve been in the Three-Four and there’s no way back from a loss there.”
Manitoba hit for three in the third end and controlled the issue through to the eighth when Stoughton’s last attempted double-kill double-jammed on backing and left his foe the free draw for the go-ahead trio.
“That was a (bleepin’) bonehead shot,” admitted Stoughton. “I mean, I wish everyone had been a little more adamant that we could double-jam. I never thought we could. If someone had said we could I never would have thrown that shot. It was the dumbest shot in the, er, a junior-B group piece of crap. It was a stupid shot and gave them an easy three. I guess I threw it too good because it hit the perfect spot . . . for them.”
The alternative, he said, was to hit and roll in front, surrender two and be tied playing the ninth with the hammer.
Manitoba kept the ninth end open but Stoughton rubbed with his last rock bidding for the deadlock in the final exchange, leaving the theft of a pair.
Elsewhere, Ontario’s Glenn Howard matched the records the Newfs and ‘Tobans with a 9-2 romp over Jamie Koe’s Territories entry.
Howard stole a three-ender for a 5-0 lead in the second, added another in the third and rolled away.
“I’m really glad we played this morning because the ice was a little different again,” said the Ontario skip.
“It was swinging a little bit more. But you had to get it in your brain because the hits were moving , too. More than we’re used to.
“It was a huge game. We needed that win. It guaranteed us a playoff spot. Now we can go further if we can win tonight.”
Ontario takes on Alberta’s Olympic gold-medal winners as the round-robin closing feature at 7:30 ET. Alberta plays the Territories at 2:30.
“It’s a massive game tonight,” said Howard. “If we win we’ll be in the One-Two playoff and if we lose we’ll probably be in the Three-Four. You have an extra life in the One-Two. Everybody knows I hate the whole format and they’ve made it even worse now with this bronze-medal game. But, yeah, the Three-Four means a couple of extra games on your last life. So this is obviously a big one.
“Kevin has had us every Brier for three years (record is 6-and-0, Alberta) and I think its our time to pull it off and beat him tonight.”
There was a suggestion animosity might remain from the hotly-contested Olympic trials final 15 months ago.
“We’re all competitors but we’re all still good friends.” said Howard.
“There’s nothing untoward between the two teams. If we see any infraction we’re going to call them out and that’s what happened in the trials. Since then we’ve had no problems at all. Neither team has had any harsh words toward the other. Off the ice we’re good friends. There’s eight guys out there who want to win and I don’t blame them for going hard. . . just as we are going hard.”
In other Thursday-morning tussles, James Grattan of New Brunswick registered his fourth win in 10 starts with a 6-4 decision over fading Steve Laycock (4-6) of Saskatchewan while British Columbia’s Jim Cotter also won his fourth in 10 games with a breezy 7-1 romp over outclassed Eddie MacKenzie (1-9) of Prince Edward Island.
In another afternoon match, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs (5-4) will attempt to remain in contention for a tiebreaker with a crack at New Brunswick. Jacobs will need a win combined with a Alberta loss to keep the slim hopes alive for The Soo outfit.
P.E.I. closes out its schedule against Shawn Adams of Nova Scotia.