Stoughton bows out

Stoughton wasn't able to top Howard in yesterday's semi, leaving him out of the Olympics again....

Stoughton wasn't able to top Howard in yesterday's semi, leaving him out of the Olympics again. (Jason Franson/QMI agency)

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

EDMONTON -- It's the final that almost everybody wanted.

Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin will renew their rivalry this afternoon at the Roar of the Rings Olympic curling trials after Howard scored a tidy 11-6 win over Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton in the semifinal yesterday.

Martin was the only team to beat Howard's rink during round-robin play, but this afternoon's heavyweight tilt carries one of the biggest prizes in curling -- a spot at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"It's been these two teams on top for the last three or four years," Howard, of Coldwater, Ont., said. "It's everything you should want it to be.

"It's a great feeling. We're in the final. We have a chance. I'm pleased with the way I'm throwing the rock. I'm throwing it well. I'm confident. And I'll be nervous, too. If you're not nervous, you're not alive."

Howard roared out of the gate to a 6-2 lead with a troika of deuces through six ends.

A double angle raise in the third for a pair gave him a 4-1 lead and pretty much sealed the deal.

Stoughton's team showed fight to get within one after scoring two in the ninth, but were too far down to claw all the way back.

"He made a nice raise double tick-wick through in three and that was just a killer," said Stoughton. "Who could ever call that? I don't know how many rocks he hit, maybe five. After that, we were chasing. We had a couple of earlier chances to get the deuce and would have been better coming home.

"We left him with a pretty easy deuce and we were chasing from the third end on."

The final three teams were the same as at the 2009 Brier, where Stoughton won before falling to Martin in the final.

Stoughton lost the final of the 2005 trials to Brad Gushue, and said this loss also left a sour taste in his mouth.

"I would probably take nothing away from this event because we didn't win. We've lost the finals, we've been to Briers. There's nothing here that we're learning," Stoughton said.

"So there's nothing I can take away from here except that you go out and practice more and be better."

It's Howard's first appearance in the Olympic trials final. He went 5-4 in his first appearance as a skip in 2005.

"It's more significant that we have a crack at going," said Howard. "The bottom line is we wanted to get to (today) and that's what we did. Now I'm happy that we played the semi.

"Kudos to the guys, they're making everything in front of me. If we can play like that again, we like our chances."

'ONE SHOT'

Howard curled 94% in the semifinal, and is hoping for similar results in the final.

"If we play well and win the game -- that's what we came for," said Howard. "It's four years of preparation and this is where we want to be so it can't get any better than this at this point.

"I think it will be one shot here or there. That's what's going to be the difference because you're going to have two great teams out there."

Martin will play in his third Olympic trials final. He lost to Mike Harris (whose team included Howard's third, Richard Hart) in 1997 and won in 2001.

"We know it from both sides but you can't win 'em if you don't get in them," the Edmonton skip said.

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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