Martin scores perfect ending

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Ten-four, over and out.

And Kevin Martin and his henchmen are still the kings of Canadian men's curling.

The Alberta rink defended their Canadian men's curling title last night with a dominating 10-4, nine-end triumph over Manitoba at the Saddledome.

"It feels great, especially in front of a crowd like this," said Martin, who won his fourth Brier title in front of a lively gathering of 12,929 fans. "That was a heckuva game. It was good. It was fun."

It was over after four ends, as Martin and his rink of Calgarians John Morris and Ben Hebert and fellow Edmontonian Marc Kennedy cruised to the easy victory much to the delight of the pro-Alberta crowd.

"Sick good," said Hebert, 25. "It can't get more satisfying than this -- hometown, and fans were unbelievable. It's hard to do with the strength of Canadian curling and in an event where all the legends of the game are playing. To get your name on the Tankard here is just amazing."

Added Morris, "It feels awesome. It was unbelievable to have friends and family and co-workers just wearing the blue and gold so proudly. It's a great feeling."

Alberta counted three in each of the second and fourth ends against Jeff Stoughton's Manitoba champions.

First came the second that saw Martin make Stoughton pay for a rub on a guard that left his rock in the open and gave the Alberta skip a routine hit-and-stick for three. The big count was set up by Martin's first shot, a spectacular tap-back double takeout that saw both his shooter and the Alberta rock he raised roll behind cover.

Then came the fourth after more Martin execution forced Stoughton to settle for one in the third end and give back the hammer. With last-rock advantage, Martin broke the Manitobans with a runback to count three. It nullified an in-off shot by Stoughton to sit in the four-foot ring and gave Alberta the commanding 6-1 lead.

Martin himself was the spark, executing a Brier skip-record 97% efficiency to lead his rinkmates and earning the nine-day event's MVP award.

"I'm wondering where I lost the 3%," Martin said with a smile. "But man ... did the guys play good today. John made all the rolls, all the freezes. We were definitely on (curling 92% as a team). It was great."

The rest of the game proved academic in the win by Martin, despite a deuce counted by Manitoba in the fifth when Stoughton drew to the button with last rock. Alberta counted two in each of the sixth and eighth ends to up its lead.

The teams shook hands in the ninth but not before Stoughton thrilled the fans with his patented spinorama release out of the hack with his last rock of the Brier.

"Hats off to Kevin's team," said Stoughton, the 1996 and '99 Brier winner. "They played a great game and they'll do us proud at the worlds.

"We just didn't get the rocks in there. We missed a couple draws early, and they made some great ones. What can you say? They played a great game."

The Manitoba rink came from the tiebreaker slot through Saturday's 3-4 Page playoff game and semifinal, beating Quebec, Newfoundland and Ontario along the way. Alberta, meanwhile, punched its ticket to the finals following a clean sweep of 12 Brier games, including the 1-2 Page playoff game Friday night over co-favourite Ontario.

Martin and Co. heads to the 2009 Ford Men's World Curling Championship, April 4-12 in Moncton, N.B.


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