Shakin' off blahs

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:28 PM ET

They finally got their blah-blahs out.

Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton readily admitted that his rock squad slid into the Grand Slam's $100,000 Canadian Open on a downer, still feeling the sting of losing the Olympic trials final to Newfoundland's Brad Gushue last month.

But Stoughton stole into last night's quarter-final with a lowly 2-2 record, then crushed Saskatchewan's Bruce Korte 10-3 before 5,263 fans at the MTS Centre to advance to today's semifinal versus Alberta's Kevin Martin at noon.

"It was just the layoff and not really wanting to play that much after such a huge loss," Stoughton conceded. "You're just kind of down and out. There was little, if no, intensity out there so, we were pretty blase. But it seemed to work out pretty good (yesterday)."

With his back against the wall, Stoughton trounced Norway's Olympic-bound Pal Trulsen 11-3 to get into the playoffs.

"We finally got into a bit of a groove. We played a couple of good games today and everyone's feeling a little bit better and feeling good on the ice, which was nice after the first couple of days. We were certainly uncomfortable."

But it took three days into the Open to get that out of their system.

"It's really hard to come that close," Stoughton said. "And no one can relate to it except Kerry Burtnyk (who lost the 2001 trials final) and there's reminders (of the Olympics) out there every day."

But those competitive fires burn deeply.

"(Yesterday) morning, it was do-or-die and your pride comes out," said Stoughton, now guaranteed at least $12,000. "It was a great crowd (last night) and you really want to perform. You want to show your skills to them. All the players here do that."

Martin beat Manitoba's Dave Boehmer 7-6 to advance to the semi.

"Martin beat us our first game and we were pretty sloppy so hopefully, we can play better and beat him," Stoughton said. "If we can win two (today), we'll be happy."

KICKING HIMSELF

Boehmer had to settle for the $7,000 quarter-final cash.

"Again, just a little bit," said Boehmer, who was kicking himself for blowing a crack at a three in one end.

In the other quarter-finals, Alberta's Randy Ferbey clobbered Quebec's Pierre Charette 10-3 while fellow Albertan John Morris clipped B.C.'s Jim Cotter 10-7. Ferbey will face Morris in the other semifinal, which means Martin and Ferbey may still meet each other once again in today's 5 p.m. final. The winner gets $30,000 with $18,000 to the runner-up.

Boehmer had bounced Newfoundland's Brad Gushue 5-2 in the only tie-breaker.

"It was starting to go through my mind out there on the ice, that we were beating an Olympic qualifier in front of our friends in the stands," said Boehmer.

"I had one thing going for me and that was that I had already beaten Gushue twice this year and they were talking about that before the game."

Cotter, who has replaced the retired Pat Ryan, qualified by clipping Alberta's Mark Johnson 7-3 while Charette had finished with a 2-2 record on Friday.

Today's semifinals will be played alongside the exhibition match between Canada's Shannon Kleibrink and USA's Cassie Johnson in a warmup for the two Olympic-bound squads.

BITER: The players voted in favour of having whatever they say on the TV microphones during the final piped into the arena during today's final -- a first which has been approved by Sportsnet.


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