Small Fry heats up

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

HAMILTON, Ont. -- With his proud poppa looking on from the Copps Coliseum stands, the son of The Snake enjoyed his best day of his first Brier.

Manitoba third Ryan Fry shot a phenomenal 96% as Jeff Stoughton upended Yukon/NWT's Jamie Koe 7-1. He followed that up by scoring 90% when Stoughton clipped Quebec's Pierre Charette 7-5 last night.

His dad, of course, is Manitoba legend Barry Fry, who won the 1979 Brier, and just got here with his wife yesterday.

"It's good to have a support group," said Ryan, 28. "I like having my dad around because it's fun to talk about curling. And it's another pair of eyes to notice if anything's going wrong."

Not much went wrong yesterday as Stoughton improved to 4-1 and a three-way tie in the penthouse.

Poppa Fry would not have missed his son's first Brier appearance for the world.

"It's exciting to watch him here after having been there myself," Barry said.

Manitoba second Rob Fowler has been playing before his whole family since it started. Fowler, too, has come around since a shaky start in his own Brier debut. He shot 88% versus Koe and 93% versus Charette.

Both had been terrible in the 8-7 extra-end loss to Ontario's Glenn Howard the day before. And there were times that Stoughton looked frustrated with the youngsters.

"People may have said that but I didn't sense that on the ice," said Manitoba lead Steve Gould. "He might have been a little frustrated with all of us, the way we were playing, because I was brutal, too. If I'm brutal and the other guys are brutal, it just kind of carries through, right?"

Fry never denied his poor performance against Ontario.

"If it was a boxing match, the fight would have been called after the third or fourth end," he said. "But it was good to come back and squeak out a win (over Koe)."

And he's finally catching on to this Brier deal.

"At the start of the week, the fact that there weren't 15,000 people here, it had the bonspiel feel to it," Fry said. "I just had to really get around the fact that we are in the Brier and how much each game means for your record ultimately in the end. So, we tried to come out a little stronger (yesterday) and a little more focused. And if that's the results we get, then we'll continue doing it."

And Stoughton seemed pleased with the way his new charges have responded thus far.

"I've been fortunate enough that the two times I've won the Brier, I've had a new player," he said. "(Former third) Jon Mead, that was his first Brier (1999) and we won. Steve Gould, when he first came on, that was his first Brier (1996) and we won. Hopefully, with two new guys, we can pull it off this year as well.

"It helps them to have guys who have gone before, like Steve and I, and can show them the ropes a little bit so, it's all good."

And so is a 4-1 record.

"We're where we want to be at 4-1," said Fowler. "It's just a matter of getting comfortable and getting in a bit of a groove. It's a longer week so, we've got to pace ourselves and make sure we don't wear ourselves out."

And keep your eyes on the Brier prize.

"We wanted to win both games (yesterday) and we knew we'd be in tough," Stoughton said. " We did definitely get some breaks and took advantage of them. That's what you've got to do here.

"(But first place) doesn't mean too much now. It's the end of Thursday when it matters."

Manitoba plays New Brunswick and P.E.I. today.


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