KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Alberta’s Kevin Koe set up a three-way tie for first at the Canadian men’s curling championship Monday night with a 10-4 win in eight ends over previously unbeaten Jeff Stoughton from Manitoba.
John Morris of B.C. then beat Eddie MacKenzie of Prince Edward Island 10-4, leaving Morris, Koe and Stoughton all tied at 4-1 at the Tim Hortons Brier in Kamloops, B.C.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue improved to 2-3 with a 9-7 win over James Grattan of New Brunswick, who won his first game in the earlier draw.
Northern Ontario improved to 2-3 by beating still winless Jamie Murphy of Nova Scotia 9-6.
Koe grabbed a three in the third end and stole a crippling four in eight when Stoughton was forced to try a low percentage angle raise into a crowded four-foot and his stone sailed past.
Stoughton shook hands at that point.
In afternoon play, it’s one game Kevin Koe never looks forward to playing.
“This one, you don’t get a lot of enjoyment out of,” the Alberta skip said, after beating younger brother Jamie Koe from the Northwest Territories-Yukon 8-3 in eight ends Monday at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
“It’s never fun beating them because I’m always cheering for them every year they’re here,” he said. “That being said, we needed a win.”
Alberta improved to 3-1 at the Tim Hortons Brier, at least until the evening draw, when he was set to face unbeaten Manitoba and Jeff Stoughton. The Territories fell to 1-3.
“It’s good that it’s early in the week so hopefully both of us win the rest of our games,” he added.
“They’re obviously better,” Jamie said of the encounters with his brother. “We’re going to have to play our best and hope for some breaks but it’s a fair battle.”
Jamie Koe has represented the Territories four out of the last five years but when Kevin has been there he has always won the brother-vs.-brother tussle.
Monday also saw New Brunswick’s James Grattan score his first win this year against Greg Balsdon of Ontario 9-6. Grattan gave Stoughton a fight Sunday as well and said it felt good to get a monkey off his back with the win.
“When we went to bed last night we felt pretty good about it,” he said of the Manitoba game. “The team in the last two games has really shown up.”
He says getting used to the ice has been an issue. They lost their first game 13-5 and the second 10-1.
“We come from an area of the world where the ice is fairly straight all the time . . Coming out here and all of a sudden you’re taking the 12-foot to get to the lid and it’s a different ball game.”
It’s also important to win games at the Brier if you want a reserved spot in the future. A new system is coming into place that will force the bottom finishers to compete for the right to return.
It’s being brought in to keep the field the same size with the addition of a Team Canada and new rinks from Nunavut and Yukon, instead of just one Territories team.
P.E.I.’s Eddie MacKenzie also grabbed a share of second place as he climbed to 3-1 after beating Quebec’s Jean-Michel Menard. But, that could change after the evening draw.
MacKenzie has already matched his combined record at his first two Brier appearances for Prince Edward Island , in 2011 and 2013.
“It’s definitely better than 0-5 or 0-6 like we were the last couple of times,” he said.
“I’d say being here the last three out of four years helps for sure, playing on arena ice a little more.”
Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock also sat at 3-1 after beating still winless Nova Scotia 5-3.
“We kind of figured 3-1 or 4-0 was where we’d want to be after this stretch because we do have some of the favourites coming up,” he said.
Nova Scotia skip Jamie Murphy isn’t too thrilled at the Canadian Curling Association for the changes coming in 2015 that could see Nova Scotia have to fight for the right to play in the Brier.
“We’re firm believers that messing with traditions such as the Brier doesn’t seem like a smart decision,” he said of the new system, popularly known as relegation, although it seems anything but popular.
“We’re obviously biased when we say that because we’re probably going to be in the relegation pool.”