Stoughton strolling

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

SELKIRK -- Jeff Stoughton has neither his full health nor his A-game, but you wouldn't know it from the scoreboard. The Winnipeg skip and top seed at the Safeway Select provincial men's curling championship won his third straight game yesterday to qualify for the eight-team playoff round.

AVERAGE PERFORMANCE

Stoughton beat Randy Dutiaume 10-6 in a qualifier yesterday, despite an average performance from his world-class team, meaning the four-time Manitoba champion has outscored his opposition 26-13 so far in the event.

Don't try to tell him he's cruising, though.

"It's not fantastic, but it's good enough to win right now," Stoughton said. "I guess it's good we haven't brought the A-game yet, because it's only going to get tougher."

Stoughton has been feeling ill all week with a stomach problem, but it doesn't seem to have affected the team's performance. Still, the foursome is not at the level Stoughton has come to expect.

"Which is probably a good thing because maybe last year we peaked too quick," said Stoughton, whose team was on the ice in a playoff game against Kelly Robertson at press time. "Maybe this year we're just climbing a mountain and getting better as the games go along."

Another skip who believes his team is just getting by, despite being undefeated through three games, is defending champion Brent Scales.

Scales needed a steal of four in the ninth to beat James Kirkness 7-4 in an A-side qualifier yesterday.

"Up until (the ninth) we played kinda like we were scared to lose, not like we wanted to win, and we were lucky," said Scales, who was up against Dutiaume in a playoff game last night. "We were just playing very tentative, but I guess the main thing is we hung in there long enough that good things happened."

Second seed Kerry Burtnyk hasn't really been tested yet, but he did have to make some good shots to beat Flin Flon's Blaine Gogal 9-5 in an A-side qualifier yesterday.

Burtnyk was facing Brandon's Terry McNamee on the late draw.

"It's always good to have a tight game," Burtnyk said. "More importantly, I wanted to see our guys playing well and we did."

Also qualifying through the A-side yesterday was Peter Nicholls, while Dutiaume, Robertson, McNamee and Ryan Fry came through the B-side to reach the championship round. Nicholls beat McNamee 7-2 in an A-side qualifier, while on the B-side Dutiaume beat Chris Galbraith 9-3, Robertson hammered James Kirkness 10-4, eliminating the fifth seed, McNamee topped Don Spriggs 10-7 and Fry beat Gogal 9-6.

Dutiaume qualified for the playoff round for the first time in eight trips to the provincial championship, but wasn't doing any celebrating just yet.

"We haven't won bugger-all yet," Dutiaume said.


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