Grand Slam a stiff test for Trials teams

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton will get his first taste of what kind of flavour he can expect at next month's Canadian Curling Trials this weekend.

And an indication of what he might experience at the Olympics should he win those trials.

Stoughton will be one of seven trials-bound foursomes that will compete at the Grand Slam's $100,000 The National that starts tonight in Port Hawkesbury, N.S.

The field includes such pre-trials favourites as Alberta's Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin, as well as Ontario's Glenn Howard, Newfoundland's Brad Gushue, Alberta's John Morris and Nova Scotia's Shawn Adams.

"I don't think it hurts either way," Stoughton said of playing trials competitors beforehand yesterday. "We won't be playing all six of them anyway and the guys are all so good that anyone can beat anyone else any time. It'll be good to see how we're playing with a month to go."

And there are no secrets among the Canuck squads.

"We play each other enough, we're not going to learn anything new about anybody else," Jon Mead, Stoughton's third, said before boarding a plane to Nova Scotia. "It's a chance for us to see where our game is at this juncture. Teams who don't win will say it doesn't matter because it's December (when the trials will be played) that matters."

The field also includes a number of European teams that could be at the Olympics, including Norway's Pal Trulsen, Switzerland's Ralph Stockli and Sweden's Peja Lindholm.

The Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre is about 100 seats short of a sellout (2,026 capacity) for the weekend. And some seats on the floor have sold for more than $200.

Stoughton has had an up-and-down season. He opened by winning $11,000 at a W/MCT event in Brandon, was shut out at a WCT spiel in B.C., won $10,000 at a local MCT event but was again shut out at another WCT one in Alberta.

"It's not like we're playing poorly, we just need more games in a row where all four guys are playing well at the same time," Mead said.

JONES SHARP: Manitoba's trials-bound Jennifer Jones has been sharp thus far. Her revamped foursome recently won $14,000 at a local cashspiel and added $4,000 in Calgary. Jones opened the season by earning $2,000 as the runner-up in Brandon but was shut out at a cashspiel in London, Ont.

Former world champion Connie Laliberte, who runs the MCA's high performance centre, will coach Jones at the trials in Halifax, N.S., next month. Janet Arnott will be the fifth.


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