Martin rink runs Brier record to 9-0
Alberta skip holding off Ontario, Saskatchewan; 3-way battle for final playoff spot
Alberta skip Kevin Martin has yet to blink at the Brier, while British Columbia counterpart Bob Ursel worked his way into playoff contention Wednesday evening in Winnipeg.
After keeping his playoff hopes alive with an 8-7, extra-end victory against Nova Scotia's Brian Rafuse earlier in the day, Ursel doubled hometown favourite Kerry Burtnyk 8-4.
With the win, Ursel improved his record to 5-4, tied with Burtnyk and Newfoundland and Labrador's Brad Gushue.
Martin, the two-time Brier champion from Edmonton, beat North Ontario 8-4 in the evening draw and sits atop the standings at 9-0. He clinched a playoff spot in the afternoon with an 8-7 decision over Gushue.
"So far, so good," said Martin, who will meet Ontario's Glenn Howard (8-1)Thursday morning. "It was a strong effort by everyone."
Howard and Saskatchewan's Pat Simmons (8-1) have also clinched playoff berths.
Howard, the defending champion, kept pace with a pair of wins on Wednesday. He beat New Brunswick 8-5 in the morning and handled Peter Gallant of Prince Edward Island in the evening.
Simmons defeated James Grattan of New Brunswick 8-5 in the afternoon before beating Chad Cowan of Yukon/Northwest Territories 7-4 in the evening.
He is hoping to become the first Saskatchewan skip to win the Canadian men's curling championship since Saskatoon's Rick Folk in 1980.
Meanwhile, Gushue can ill afford another stumble if he wants to be part of Friday's playoffs at the MTS Centre.
"We've been saying it ever since Saturday, when we had two losses, that our backs were against the wall," said the 2006 Olympic gold medallist, who lost last year's final. "Now it's true. It's for real now. If we lose one more, we're done. We have to win both [on Thursday]."
In another match Wednesday afternoon, Quebec defeated P.E.I. 8-2 in seven ends.
After 14 draws, P.E.I. is 3-6, Quebec 3-6 and Northern Ontario, Yukon/N.W.T, New
Brunswick and Nova Scotia are all 2-7.
In Wednesday's morning draw, Gushue scored four in the third end to propel himself past Burtnyk 8-4 in eight ends. The victory moved Gushue into a tie with Burtnyk for the fourth and final playoff spot.
"It's still a long way to go," Gushue said. "We still have tough games tomorrow [against New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island]."
CBC Sports will broadcast Saturday's semifinal (2:30 p.m. ET) and Sunday's final (6:30 p.m. ET), with live streaming available on CBCSports.ca.
With files from the Canadian Press