Seizing opportunity

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

HALIFAX -- The Buffalo Boys rebounded in a big way and are now positioned to come into the harbour from this ocean of competitors.

Thanks, in part, to a lucky break.

Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton downed Ontario's Glenn Howard 9-6 in a crucial Canadian Curling Trials contest at the Halifax Metro Centre yesterday.

Stoughton improved to 5-2 and a share of third place with B.C.'s Pat Ryan.

"We had to win that game," Stoughton underscored. "It was pretty sloppily played but we got the W so, that's all that matters."

Newfoundland's Brad Gushue had snapped Stoughton's three-game winning streak with some brilliant shots the night before. So, another loss could have put his foursome on the bubble.

"I think you'd want to be 7-0 right now but I'll take 5-2," said Stoughton, who plays Nova Scotia's Mark Dacey and Alberta's Kevin Martin today. "Every game's do-or-die. We lose that game (to Dacey), we're in a bad situation.

'Pretty intense'

"Every game, it's just amazing how it is on everyone's nerves out there. Glenn was saying and I was saying, it's been a long week and it hasn't even been a week yet. It's pretty intense and nothing like it."

Howard was called for a hogline violation after making a double kill in the second end. That left Stoughton a draw for three and a 3-2 lead.

"He admitted it himself," Stoughton said. "He said he came out so bad that he just hung on and hung on and, red light all the way.

"It takes more than two shots here and there to win it all but that was a big break. We're probably down 2-1 instead of up 3-2, which is huge in that situation. But you take everything you can get in this situation, that's for sure."

Gushue barely beat B.C.'s winless Jay Peachey 7-6 to move into a first-place tie with Alberta's red-hot John Morris at 6-1.

"We're going to have to win our two (today) to guarantee anything," Stoughton said. "Even one more loss could be trouble so, we'll have to come out strong against Dacey."

Funny thing is that even a 6-3 record might not be good enough.

"At least it's in our own hands, right?" said Manitoba lead Steve Gould. "We're still in the event. We said before we got here that 6-3 would be good. But 7-2 is what it might have to be so, we'd better re-think what we'd been thinking about."

The loss dropped Howard, one of the pre-trials favourites, to 3-4 and out of contention.

Morris defeated Martin 6-3 to drop him to 4-3 while Ryan overwhelmed Nova Scotia's Shawn Adams 8-1.

"It's feeling great," said Morris, whose team leads the field in percentages at 89%, just one point up on Stoughton's. "Guys are playing outstanding and we've managed to control most games. But, we've got to keep her going. We've got a couple of big ones (today) and we'll see what happens."

Morris plays Howard, then Gushue today. Both first-place teams are seeking the magic bye into the final.

"Six wins is a pretty good spot but we know we have two tough ones, especially our last one against Brad," Morris said. "If we can pull out a W, we can be in pretty good position."

Gushue, who also plays Martin today, was thinking the same thing.

"We have a couple game's cushion now but we still have to win another game to guarantee us a spot," he said. "I think all we're guaranteed now is a tie-breaker but, like I said, if we can win against Kevin, we can maybe relax a little bit.

"For sure, we want to get as high up as we can. We want to get first place and not have to worry about a semifinal. Then, you're down to a one-game opportunity."

The top three make the playoffs.


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