Battle of legends

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

DAUPHIN -- With apologies to the creators of the theme for next year's Brier, two of Manitoba's current legends of rock battled on the Credit Union Place ice last night.

And they proved why they have earned the legend labels.

Charleswood's defending champion Jeff Stoughton made at least two spectacular shots as he led his revamped foursome to a 7-4 victory over Assiniboine Memorial's Kerry Burtnyk in the Page playoff one-versus-one match of the Safeway Championship. Stoughton advances to today's 2 p.m final while Burtnyk drops into this morning's 9:30 semifinal against West Kildonan's Pete Nicholls.

Stoughton made an in-off for two in the fifth end, then followed that up with a cross-house double in the seventh to get out of trouble.

"Both teams were making great shots out there and that was a lot of fun," Stoughton said. "But you've got to make them to win in these games, and we did.

"It was great to win this game and just have one more to go. We're where we want to be and hopefully, we can catch fire again (today)."

Burtnyk figured Stoughton's shot in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead was the turning point.

"They deserved to win," Burtnyk said. "They played fantastic.

"Certainly, Jeff's team is not only one of the best in Manitoba, it's one of the best in the world. So, when those guys are at their best, they're very difficult to beat. It's very difficult to get out of Manitoba because you have to overcome those kinds of things."

Stoughton, by the way, gets the hammer and both choice of rocks and colour for the final.

"We do have last-rock advantage but nothing more than that," said Stoughton, who still questions a format where an unbeaten team can be eliminated in a sudden-death final. "If we do play Kerry again, it's 50-50."

Stoughton, by the way, is taking aim at a record sixth Manitoba title while Burtnyk is seeking a record-tying fifth.

"Those are numbers that are extremely impressive for him and myself but they're not what's important right now," Burtnyk said. "What's important is playing the next game and trying to do well. But the number of (titles) isn't really the motivation."

Nicholls eliminated Terry McNamee 6-4.

"We'll be the underdogs but that's OK," said Nicholls, who played third for Dave Smith at the 1994 Brier. "The Brier's still a dream. And with just two games to go, you never know.

"But we'll try to keep it simple because we just can't compete with those circus shots (that both Burtnyk and Stoughton made in the other playoff match)."

Burtnyk has already beaten Nicholls twice this week.


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