Even when he struggles, Glenn Howard finds a way to win.
Undefeated in winning a world championship here in 2007, Howard won 5-4 last night when Jeff Stoughton's draw for the win went deep.
"Yeah, we were a little fortunate with that last shot," said Howard. "Usually, if you give Jeff a bucket of balls, he'll always make it. The ice is a little patchy tonight. We're all feeling that out a bit."
For sure, a win beats the alternative and Howard will take them any way he can get them.
"One game up, I guess," said Howard. "It's huge. You want to get off to a good start and you're playing against Jeff Stoughton, a two-time world champion. It was a battle back and forth. We just kinda hung in there. We had one horrible end (giving up three in the fifth) and again, we were a bit fortunate that Jeff missed the last one."
Kevin Martin had to reach into his bag of tricks in a hard-fought 7-5 win over Jason Gunnlaugson in a game the young Manitoba skip led 3-1 after stealing two in the second end.
"It's just one of many that are going to be close," said Martin. "They're all going to be like that."
Edmonton's Kevin Koe opened up with a three-ender in an 8-5 win over Pat Simmons.
"It kills some of the nerves," said Koe. "We were all a little nervous to get going. We're a pretty good team with the lead."
Randy Ferbey scored eight in the first five ends in a 9-6 win over Wayne Middaugh.
"We were nice and relaxed going into the game and scoring a deuce was huge," said Ferbey's last rock Dave Nedohin. "It put us in a position, not that we could relax but feel comfortable at where the game was at."
While the favourites came through on the men's side, underdogs ruled on the women's side.
Both Canadian champion Jennifer Jones and 1996 Olympic bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink went down to defeat in the opening draw to teams that qualified out of the pretrials event in Prince George.
Amber Holland of Regina knocked off Jones 8-5, while Crystal Webster stole five points in an 8-3 win over fellow Calgary skip Kleibrink.
"You know Jennifer is going to be real tough," said Holland, who rode early back-to-back steals to her win.
"At the end of the day, the next game isn't going to be any easier. Where you're seeded, doesn't really matter. It's round-robin. Big whoopee doo doo."
Webster allowed Kleibrink to score in only two ends as she remains undefeated on the trials trail with five straight wins after going undefeated at Prince George.
"It obviously feels like a brand new event and a brand new day but it was awesome to get out there, get out in front of the crowd and play a good game," said Webster.
"We believe we can do it here but nobody's going to fly under the radar."
Calgary's Cheryl Bernard was the only pre-qualified team to pick up a win, executing an angle double to score five in an 11-7 win over Krista McCarville.
"She made a beauty on her first one, so we had to hit every bit of it we could see," said Bernard. "That was what we did."
In the other game, 2007 world champion Kelly Scott edged Stefanie Lawton 8-7.
"Luckily, we had a good solid last half and were able to hold onto the lead," said Scott, whose win was paved with a steal of two in the fourth.
"It's a very even field and it's hard to pick favourites each game."