Manitoba’s Stoughton Leads Brier Pack

Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton, a nine-time Brier skip, is off the launching pad at the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier with three straight wins — his best Brier start since 2006 at Regina.

Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton (Photo: Michael Burns Photography)

“We’re making the easy ones, that’s for sure,” said Stoughton around Sunday noon, moments after completing an 8-3 conquest of Nova Scotia’s unit skipped by Shawn Adams of Halifax. “We’re fortunate that the teams we’ve been playing haven’t been at their best and we’ve been jumping on our opportunities,” added Winnipeg’s Stoughton, who is directing third Jonathan Mead, second Reid Carruthers and veteran lead Steve Gould. “You can always look back and say you could have been a little tighter here or a little less there but we’re playing darn good, it’s a long week and your best game has to be Sunday night (in the championship final).” The 47-year-old Stoughton, a two-time champion, has been rated right up there with defending champion Alberta and Ontario as a Brier favourite at the John Labatt Centre in London. But he doesn’t face off with those teams until Tuesday (Ontario) and Wednesday (Alberta) nights. “If you can get off to a great start then you know your confidence level is going to be high as you’re going into those games,” Stoughton assessed. Edmonton’s Kevin Martin, skipping Alberta’s defender, ran his Brier winning streak to 28 on the morning shift, drawing cold to the button with his last rock to defeat James Grattan of New Brunswick 8-6. Grattan got out of the gate with a deuce and a steal of one but Martin turned the tables and assumed control with a stolen deuce in the eighth end when rubs and a picked rock appeared to sink the New Brunswick hopes. In the final end, Grattan had his foe facing three counters but Martin had the path to the button and strong sweeping. “I’d thrown it (the path) earlier in the game and it was real true,” said Martin who had watched his front-enders Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert drag his rock right to the lid. “If I’m ever heavy they beat me up after the game.” Martin claimed the sheet of ice was “tough and tricky”. “It was tough to figure out where a rock would end up,” he said. “Some would curl across centre, some wouldn’t, some would hang, some wouldn’t, down the same path. We never did figure it out, really. “We had to play a different game. Rather than trying to make shots exactly right, we tried to dumb it down a bit. “It was just an interesting sheet of ice. Really good for the crowd! They had no idea whether we were going to make or miss the shot. Neither did we.” In other Draw-Three outings, Quebec’s unsung Francois Gagne of Montreal kept pace with his second straight win, a 10-3 whipping of Prince Edward Island’s winless Eddie MacKenzie, while Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs stole two points in the 10th end when Territories skip Jamie Koe wrecked on a bold last-rock tying bid to draw the button. It ended 11-8 in favour of the Sault Ste. Marie team that finished third at last year’s Brier renewal in Halifax. In Draw Four activity at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Alberta plays British Columbia (0-1), Quebec goes against Saskatchewan (1-0), Northern Ontario tackles Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue (1-0) and Ontario’s Glenn Howard (0-1) faces Nova Scotia.