Middaugh steals Cup

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Four years after his most recent taste of the national men's curling championship, Wayne Middaugh is going back for a refill.

Middaugh skipped his Toronto St. George's foursome of Graeme McCarrel, Joe Frans and Scott Bailey to an 8-7 victory yesterday over Glenn Howard's team from the Coldwater & District Curling Club in the Kia Cup provincial men's final at the Iroquois Park Sports Centre in Whitby.

As a result, Middaugh's team will be in the Brier, now sponsored by Tim Hortons, next month in Edmonton.

In 2001, Middaugh lost in the semi-finals of the Brier to Manitoba's Kerry Burtnyk. Middaugh also won the Brier as a skip in 1998 and as a second in 1993.

Middaugh passed up any chance to make it back to the Brier the past three years to play in the Grand Slam, a series of professional men's cashspiels that conflicted with the provincial playdowns.

The only reason he opted to play in the provincial playdowns this year was to try to secure a spot in the Olympic Trials through the Brier. The winning team earns a berth in Trials this December in Halifax, unless it already has qualified, which is the case with teams such as Alberta's Randy Ferbey and Newfoundland's Brad Gushue. So technically, Middaugh's team can claim a berth in the Trials without winning the Brier.

"We haven't got a spot yet, but it definitely gets us closer and we'll get a look at it," Middaugh said, adding he didn't regret bypassing the provincials the past three years to support the Grand Slam.

Middaugh, who is one of the great clutch shooters currently in the game, put himself in position to win with his final shot.

He angled his shooter off a Howard stone in the eight-foot and rolled into the button, three-quarters buried behind his own stone in the top of the 12-foot. Howard tried an angle raise takeout with his last shot, but missed when his shooter overcurled and the promoted rock failed to remove Middaugh's shot rock.

"The bottom line was we needed an uncharacteristic miss out of Glenn and we were lucky enough to get it," Middaugh said.

Howard, a former teammate of Middaugh's, didn't consider his final shot tremendously difficult.

"I let it go, thought it was fine and it overcurled and I lose, bottom-line," he said.

It was the second consecutive year Howard lost in the final -- last year he bowed out to Oakville's Mike Harris -- but said this year it was much more frustrating.

"You're tied up and you have the last shot for the final end to go to the Brier, that's what you want," Howard said.

"I guess it wasn't meant to be. So, yeah, it's very frustrating. Second sucks. That's all I can tell you. We might as well have come (last in the tournament)."

The loss marked the fourth for Howard's vice, Richard Hart, who has yet to qualify for a Brier despite owning an Olympic silver medal.

"Yeah it's a personal goal, but this is about our team and our team had a fantastic year," Hart said. "It's a disappointing finish, that's all."


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