Howard in familiar spot

STEVE GREEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

WOODSTOCK -- As first-place battles go, it certainly wasn't a classic, but Glenn Howard was more than happy to take the win.

The three-time defending Ontario men's curling champion out of Coldwater edged former teammate Peter Corner of Brampton 6-5 last night to stand alone in first place at the TSC Stores Tankard at 7-1 with one round-robin draw remaining.

Neither team played particularly well. Corner in particular struggled early, but stole singles in the eighth and ninth ends to tie it. He had a tricky triple takeout with his last rock but removed only two, meaning Howard didn't have to throw his final stone.

"We fought the rocks a little bit,'' Howard said. "The ice was good, but a little tricky. Sometimes it would curl, sometimes it wouldn't.

"But the main thing is we won. If we'd lost, things were totally out of our control.''

Howard faces winless Rick Thurston of Dundas Granite this afternoon, but Howard isn't going to assume anything.

"We've got to come out and play like it's against Kevin Martin. It's a massive game for us because we're not guaranteed a place in the 1-2 game yet and that's where we want to be."

Corner fell to 6-2 along with Joe Frans of Oshawa, although both have clinched Page playoff spots. "That set of rocks was really, really tricky," Corner said. "They were curling a foot, foot and a half more than Glenn's and we were all very frustrated. A lot of this game is positioning and we weren't positioning our rocks properly.

"Plus we gave Glenn a couple of twos that weren't that well-earned -- I missed a couple of shots. But we gave a demonstration of what we're capable of and if I personally get on fire, we have a good chance of winning this thing."

Frans improved to 6-2 with a 9-3 win over Rob Lobel (3-5) of Whitby. Frans took three in the first and sealed it with another three in the seventh.

Jake Higgs of Strathroy, curling out of Harriston, and 2004 champion Mike Harris of Toronto Donalda are at 5-3, the only others still in contention.

Higgs rebounded from a 9-3 mauling by Howard in the afternoon's seventh draw to beat Peter Steski's Sarnia Golf and Curling Club rink 7-5, stealing singles in each of the first four ends.

"It was do or die," said Higgs, who faces Frans this afternoon. "Basically you've got to step up or you're not going to be playing for very much. And Glenn's so far ahead of everyone else that it's probably easier to shrug off being waxed by him than losing to someone else.

"The way we're looking at it (today), we're third if we win, out if we lose. The whole point of winning tonight was so that we wouldn't have to rely on anyone else."

Harris, meanwhile, got all he could handle from Thurston before prevailing 9-7. Harris finishes his round-robin against Steski.

Tonight's Page 3-4 playoff game, or tiebreaker if one is needed, will be shown live on Rogers TV at 7 p.m. It originally had been set for a 10 p.m. tape delay, but was shifted when Rogers Sportsnet picked up tonight's London Knights-Windsor Spitfires game.


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