EDMONTON -- It's time to separate the contenders from the pretenders heading into the last round-robin day at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.
Glenn Howard continued to hold the hot hand with a 5-0 record, but needed a 7-6 extra-end win over Edmonton's Kevin Koe to keep his record perfect. That assures Howard at least a tiebreaker spot and gives him an inside track to first place.
"One more down, 5-0 is absolutely surreal right now," said Howard. "In this format, there's a huge difference between first and second." We've got Ferbs in the morning and the Old Bear (Kevin Martin) at night."
Howard is averaging a blistering 90% and seems to have his draw weight down. That bodes well as he's having the best trials of his career.
"We haven't been stellar at all," said Howard. "Barely winning records (5-4 twice) in some of them. Coming here, I would have loved to be 4-1 after five. So, 5-0 is definitely better than I'd hoped for.
"You look at the teams here and you figure, gawd, maybe you'll lose one here and there. Maybe we got out big break against Jeff (stolen win against Stoughton in Game 1). You just run with that -- take the 'W' and away you go."
First place could be on the line when Howard faces 4-1 Martin in tonight's marquee matchup.
"It's definitely not guaranteed anything," said Martin's third John Morris.
"We still have two really tough teams in Koe and Howard. We can't afford to lose that first game because then our second will be null.
"Going into the last game, we want a chance for first."
Ferbey has a bit further to come back after losing to Martin yesterday.
"We knew at the beginning of the day if we won two of our last three games, we'd be in the playoffs," said Ferbey second Scott Pfeifer. "Nothing changes that, other than we have to win two in a row now."
Koe figures to be in the mix as well. Watch out for Stoughton, though. He's also at 3-2 with a much easier schedule.
"We're playing well enough to beat anybody, but we have to take advantage of the misses," said Koe. "Somebody would have to knock off Stoughton, which I don't see happening, so we have to win both."
In the women's section, Cheryl Bernard executed the double peel. The 2009 Alberta champ clinched a bye into Saturday night's final by beating two of the toughest teams in women's curling.
First, an 8-5 win over 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink. Then, a knockout punch to all but eliminate Jennifer Jones, the reigning Scotties champ.
"This format is different where you get a bye to the final, so I think first place is important," said Bernard. "We've been in this situation before where we sat off."
Kleibrink bounced back with a win over Stefanie Lawton to clinch second place.
"We like the semifinal, the semifinal is good," said Kleibrink, who gets last rock in tomorrow night's semi. "We're excited."
After their morning loss, the team went to the casino. Kleibrink came back to the rink in a better mood after she won $45 on the blackjack table.
"The team's playing awesome now," said Kleibrink. "If we can continue that, we have a chance."
Amber Holland clawed back into contention with a two-win day to sit in a three-team pack at 3-3 with Krista McCarville and Stefanie Lawton in the scramble for the last playoff spot.
"Rally caps," said Holland, who kept her hopes alive with the only deuce of the game in a 4-3 win over McCarville.
"That's great. Yeah. A 2-0 day is much nicer than 0-2. Now's a good time to get it."