Alberta skip Kevin Koe releases a rock as they play New Brunswick at the Tim Hortons Brier in Kamloops

Alberta and B.C. sit alone atop Brier standings

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Kevin Koe of Alberta moved into a first-place tie with B.C.’s John Morris Tuesday night at the Canadian men’s curling championship with an 8-6 win over Saskatchewan. Steve Laycock stayed neck and neck with Koe until a stolen deuce in nine gave Alberta breathing room at the Tim Hortons Brier in Kamloops, B.C.

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Kevin Koe of Alberta moved into a first-place tie with B.C.’s John Morris Tuesday night at the Canadian men’s curling championship with an 8-6 win over Saskatchewan.

Steve Laycock stayed neck and neck with Koe until a stolen deuce in nine gave Alberta breathing room at the Tim Hortons Brier in Kamloops, B.C.

Eddie Mackenzie from Prince Edward Island (3-4) didn’t bother to throw his last rock in the eighth end as he dropped an 8-3 decision to Ontario’s Greg Balsdon (4-2).

Brier rookie Balsdon is still very much in the hunt but knows he has his toughest games ahead in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Jean-Michel Menard of Quebec (3-3) was down early, came back and forced an extra end, but still lost 10-8 to James Grattan of New Brunswick (2-5).

Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories-Yukon (2-4) defeated winless Jamie Murphy of Nova Scotia 7-4.

It’s good to be No. 1 but John Morris and his B.C. rink aren’t looking too far ahead as the Canadian men’s curling championship enters the home stretch of round-robin play this week.

“We’ve still got four more games,” he said after disposing of New Brunswick 9-3 in the afternoon draw Tuesday at the Tim Hortons Brier.

“We’re just looking at the next team and try and trying to make sure we get our rocks down for the next game. You can’t look ahead or lose you’ll lose focus. . . . and that’s when teams start coming up and biting you.”

B.C. (6-1) beat Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories/Yukon 7-2 in the morning draw and, at least until the evening draw, were alone at the top of the standings.

In the afternoon, more solid shooting from fourth stone Jim Cotter sealed a three in the sixth end with a triple.

“That wasn’t a gimmie, that was a tough shot,” said Morris. “That’s probably 50-50 for a lot of the good skips out there.”

Another three in eight and New Brunswick skip James Grattan shook hands. New Brunswick has only one win so far at the Brier.

Kevin Koe of Alberta (5-1) disposed of Jeff Currie from Northern Ontario (2-5) as well in nine ends by the same 9-3 margin. Koe was alone in second but had a chance Tuesday evening to move into a tie with idle B.C.

“I’m so happy with the way it’s going,” said Koe. “We’ve strung together five in a row and got another big one coming up tonight.”

He’s the top-shooting skip so far at the Brier and was set to face Saskatchewan (4-1) in the evening draw.

But like Morris, he isn’t looking too far ahead and isn’t going to take anyone lightly.

“A lot of them we haven’t played ever before so it’s our first time seeing them.”

Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton was another favourite heading into the Brier and he recovered from a 9-7 loss in the morning Tuesday to steal one in the 10th and beat winless Nova Scotia 8-6 in the afternoon.

But a clutch shot through a narrow port even had his own team covering their eyes. Nova Scotia skip Jamie Murphy was light on his last-rock draw attempt to force an extra end.

Stoughton was a very solid 95 per cent in the game and third John Mead was at 96 per cent but the Manitoba skip says that hasn’t always been the case and they need to improve a little.

“Both John and I need to make better shots,” Stoughton agreed.

“We’ve just got to clean up the little mistakes.”

He says their draw weight is good but their hits and peels are a little off.

“We’re really close and we’re working hard.”

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue retained at least faint hope of making the playoffs with an 8-5 win over Grattan.

But after dropping a morning game 7-6 to Saskatchewan, the 2006 Olympic champion said there is no room left for more losses if they want to stay alive.

“Yeah, that fourth loss this morning was a punch in your gut,” said Gushue.

“You know you’re back’s against the wall and you can’t afford to lose any more. And it’s not only winning for more in the round robin, it’s probably winning a tiebreaker, the 3-4 game, semifinal and final against some world-class teams.”

The odds are long and it may not be entirely up to him, he admits.

“I’ve seen 7-4 get in the playoffs, I’ve seen 6-5 get in the playoffs. But most of the time it probably doesn’t. So you’re going to need some help.”

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