KAMLOOPS -- Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton clinched a playoff berth with a 7-6 extra end victory over B.C.’s John Morris here at the Tim Hortons Brier this morning.
With B.C. lying two counters biting the button in the extra end, Stoughton played a takeout with the final rock of the game that removed one B.C. counter and nudged the second just far enough that the Manitoba shooter counted the game-winning point in what was an epic battle all morning between two red-hot teams.
B.C. had won six straight coming into this morning, while Manitoba has now won four straight.
"It was a great battle. Both sides played well, both sides got a couple of breaks and we were lucky to have the brick playing in the extra end," said Stoughton. "A great game and it puts us in a great position."
With the win, Manitoba improved to 8-2, while B.C. fell to 8-2. Alberta’s Kevin Koe is now alone in first place at 8-1.
Manitoba has one more round-robin game to play tonight against Ontario’s Greg Balsdon (4-4) and can still finish as high as first place or as low as third place in the round-robin standings.
The difference is huge -- teams playing in the 1 vs 2 game here Friday night will have two chances to get to the Brier final, while the teams in Saturday afternoon’s 3 vs 4 game must win two sudden-death games to advance to Sunday’s final.
Manitoba’s most direct path to the 1 vs 2 game would involve them winning their final game against Ontario and then having Alberta win their final two round-robin games, versus PEI this afternoon and then against Quebec on the final round-robin draw Friday morning.
That scenario would see Alberta finish alone in first and Manitoba -- which now owns the tiebreaker against B.C. -- finish second.
However, should Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba all finish tied for first, Manitoba would likely be the odd team out and finish third because those three teams all have 1-1 records versus each other this week and the next tie-breaker would be cumulative draw to the buttons this week where Manitoba currently trails both B.C. and Alberta.
In what has been an inconsistent week here for Team Manitoba -- they lost two games in a row mid-week and struggled early with uncharacteristically low shooting percentages -- it would appear the Stoughton foursome has saved their very best play for week’s end and with playoffs looming.
"I’ll take this all day," said Manitoba third Jon Mead. "This is way better than starting the week 7-0 and then limping into the playoffs. Our first goal was to make playoffs and now we’ve done that. Now, can we improve on the 3 vs 4 game?
"Yes, in an ideal world, it’d be nice to have one more win at this point, but the best part is how we’re playing at the end of the week. And the guys are playing great."
After exchanging deuces in the first and second ends, Manitoba and B.C. exchanged singles until the eighth end when Stoughton finally got another deuce to take his first lead of the game. B.C. blanked the ninth end and then was forced to take a single in 10 and head to the extra with Manitoba holding hammer.