Northern Ontario and Quebec in the hunt at Tim Hortons Brier

Brad Jacobs knows the history, and he knows the odds. But Jacobs’ Northern Ontario outfit clearly isn’t satisfied with outsider status at the 2010 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Monsanto. Jacobs’ quartet from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., won its fourth game Tuesday morning at the Halifax Metro Centre, scoring two in the second end and three more in the fourth en route to a 7-2 victory over New Brunswick (2-4). Northern Ontario (4-2) continues its push for a playoff berth at the Canadian men’s curling championship — no easy feat, with the Big Four (Ontario, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Alberta) considered to be head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. On top of that, the region’s last Brier title came courtesy of Al Hackner, way back in 1985. “We know it’s been a long time for Northern Ontario since we’ve had a good record at this thing. So we definitely want to do as well as we can for our province, for our city, for our club,” said Jacobs. “We believe in ourselves. We believe in our abilities. And we definitely feel like we have a shot, as long as we play like we can.” Elsewhere on Tuesday morning, Glenn Howard’s foursome from Coldwater, Ont., stayed perfect (6-0) by clobbering Prince Edward Island (1-5) by an 8-2 count. Jeff Stoughton’s Manitobans (5-1) kept pace by running up a 10-3 score on the winless Territories (0-6). And Serge Reid’s team of Brier rookies from Quebec (4-2) continued its surprising run, with an eye-opening 10-2 win over Saskatchewan (2-4), punctuated by a steal of five in the seventh. Jacobs is this Brier’s youngest skip, at 24 years old, but he’s already comfortable in the role. “I’ve been here before,” (throwing last rocks for Al Harnden at the 2007 Brier in Hamilton, Ont.) he noted. “That was pretty special. But being here as a skip now, it’s totally different. “You see the Brier from a completely different perspective,” added Jacobs, whose rink from the Soo Curlers Association includes third E.J. Harnden, second Ryan Harnden and lead Caleb Flaxey. “And the first couple of games, it was a little nerve-racking for me, for sure. I’ll admit it. But, yeah, being 24 at the Brier, and skipping, it’s a great feeling. I’ve still got a lot of years left, so it’s nice.” That three-spot in the fourth end proved the game’s turning point, giving Northern Ontario a 5-1 bulge. New Brunswick skip James Grattan’s hit-and-roll with his final brick went the wrong way, and Jacobs had a simple draw to the four-foot for three. E.J. Harnden, who shot 95 per cent, “was phenomenal,” said Jacobs, “and I guess I played really well too (at 92 per cent). But we played really well as a team. We’re starting to get really comfortable out here, I’d say.” That’s not the case with Grattan’s crew from Oromocto, which struggled with control issues. “We’re starting to make those little mistakes. Under a microscope like this, they show up more,” said Grattan, who skips a team that includes third Steven Howard, second Jason Vaughan, and lead Peter Case. “I think that game frustrated us a little bit — me, especially. “And it comes to a point where enough’s enough. We’re making these little mistakes too many times. I’ve been here and been successful (playing on New Brunswick teams with winning Brier records in 1997, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2009), so it frustrates me more, knowing what we can do. We’re just not performing.” Meanwhile, Reid’s outfit from Kenogami Curling Club in Jonquière continues to surprise. The Quebecers stole one in the third when Saskatchewan skip Darrell McKee’s last rock wrecked on a guard, and Reid drew to the four-foot ring for a pair in the sixth that made it 5-2. “We’re surprising many people, but we played our best game of the week this morning,” said Reid, whose team includes third Francois Gionest, second Simon Collin and lead Steeve Villeneuve. “Before it happened, you’d think it was impossible to steal five (like they did in the seventh). “It’s important to begin the day with a win, and we play P.E.I. this afternoon. Another win, that makes a very good position for us,” added Reid. “We didn’t play very well at the start of the week. We didn’t have the comfort zone. And this morning, we’re feeling that.” McKee’s quartet from Saskatoon’s Nutana Curling Club, with Bruce Korte at third, Roger Korte at second and Rob Markowsky at lead, has lost four straight, and is now in dire straits, with Ontario next up on the schedule in Tuesday afternoon’s draw, which begins at 3 p.m. AT. “We just weren’t sharp at all,” sighed McKee. “We just weren’t sharp at all. It was totally self-inflicted. We were bouncing off everything. We just were not getting good rock position. We couldn’t put any pressure on them whatsoever. I mean, they played well, but we didn’t force them to do anything, really.” Ontario cruised to an easy win over the Islanders with a three-ender to begin with, then stealing deuces in each of the second and third ends. “We played really well. The first three ends, we missed a half-shot out of four players, and that’s pretty impressive,” said Howard, whose outfit includes third Richard Hart, second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill. “We really put the pressure on Rod and the boys. They threw maybe two or three half-shots every end, and lo and behold they were in trouble. “It feels like we’re getting a little bit better every game,” added Howard. “I feel like the boys are making everything, and we’re right where we want to be.” MacDonald’s team from the Charlottetown Curling Club is sitting on one win, a 9-3 victory over the Territories in Draw 7. “We just didn’t come out sharp. It’s probably our first game where we didn’t play well,” said MacDonald, whose crew includes third Kevin Champion, second Mark O’Rourke and lead Andrew Robinson. “Our previous five games, even though our record didn’t show it, we’ve been playing well. That game, we were just flat.” Stoughton and mates, meanwhile, built up a 5-1 advantage after four, and ended the affair in the eighth with a four-ender. “Throwing the rock felt really good today,” said Stoughton, who heads up a rink from Winnipeg’s Charleswood Curling Club that includes third Kevin Park, second Rob Fowler and lead Steve Gould. “That’s all you can ask for, just getting better and better as the week goes on.” Tuesday afternoon’s draw will also see Alberta (4-1) play the winless hosts from Nova Scotia (0-5), and British Columbia (2-3) tangle with Brad Gushue’s Newfoundlanders (4-1).