The Brier: John Morris, Jeff Stoughton set up big showdown
Both rinks to battle for top-two finish
It's crunch time on Thursday for two of the top teams at the Canadian men's curling championships as they fight for the right to play in the one vs. two game on Friday.
Should B.C.'s John Morris win, he would be guaranteed a top-two finish, most likely No. 1 since he handed Alberta their only loss.
That victory gave both teams 8-1 records, with Morris getting an edge because his rink won the head-to-head matchup.
"We want that one-two game," he said. "If we win tomorrow morning we're in the one-two game."
Should Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton win, he would be in control and need only beat Ontario in the evening draw to ensure a top-two finish.
He was just as anxious Wednesday after a win left Manitoba at 7-2.
"We play B.C. which is a huge game for us," he said.
"We play them in the morning and that could mean getting into the one-two game which is very important."
Stoughton looked more in control and said he felt that way as well. Manitoba started with four wins then lost games to Alberta and Quebec but has bounced back.
Alberta continued its roll with a 10-5 win over Ontario's Greg Balsdon in Wednesday's evening draw. Kevin Koe and Alberta have only Prince Edward island (3-6) and Quebec (4-4) standing in their way of a guaranteed top-two finish.
The late draw had meaning for the teams jockeying for fourth place and a shot at making the final through the 3-4 game.
"This was a big bounce-back game," said Saskatchewan's Steve Laycock, after beating Prince Edward Island 8-5 to improve to 5-3, good enough for fourth spot.
"We had a couple of tough ones in a row against Alberta and Manitoba, which we knew they would be … Heading into the final couple of days we know we control our own destiny now."
They play Ontario and B.C. on Thursday. Ontario fell to 4-4 with the loss to Alberta.
"Tomorrow's a big one," said Laycock.
Earlier, Morris and B.C. scored a big five in the third end and coasted to an 8-3 win in eight over Ontario.
Manitoba's Stoughton continued to keep the leaders in sight with a 7-4 win over Laycock.
Stoughton and third John Mead looked a lot more in control, although they also benefited from Laycock's mistakes.
"We got a great deuce in the first end and then it was pretty mistake free," he said. "A lot of great shots made, you have to do that, and it felt pretty good all around for all of our guys."
Stoughton also faces Balsdon Thursday and the Brier rookie from Toronto wasn't giving up hope.
"We've got a tough day tomorrow with Saskatchewan and Manitoba but if we can win our last three games, 7-4 . . . should be okay for a tiebreaker anyway."
Morris and B.C. are clicking even more than they did at the Olympic trials, where they lost the final to Brad Jacobs.
Jim Cotter, who throws fourth stones for B.C., has gained a lot of confidence and it shows, agrees Stoughton.
"I think John's just brought so much confidence to that team. He's made them believe that they're a great team, which they obviously are."
Morris was ranked as the top third (based on the stones he throws), Cotter the top skip and Rick Sawatsky the top lead in cumulative percentages after the first two draws on Wednesday.
Only Manitoba second Mark Nichols stopped it from being a B.C. sweep.
Also, Quebec's Jean-Michel Menard still has hope after improving to 4-4 with an 8-3 win over winless Nova Scotia's Jamie Murphy.
On the outside looking in, New Brunswick's James Grattan sits at 4-5 after beating the Territories Jamie Koe 8-3, leaving Koe at 3-6.