Howard rink moves on from trials

DOUG GRAHAM, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

KINGSTON -- Second Brent Laing buried the suggestion quicker than a Glenn Howard come-around draw to the four-foot.

After Howard's Coldwater rink of Laing, Craig Savill of Ottawa and Richard Hart lost out to Kevin Martin for Canada's Olympic curling berth, there has been plenty of speculation the team might have been less than eager to play in the Tankard in Napanee.

Not so, said Laing, whose rink is one of 11 competing at the Ontario men's championship starting Monday at the Strathcona Paper Centre. The field includes two Ottawa-area rinks skipped by 2003 champ Bryan Conchrane (Rideau Curling Club) and Chris Gardner (Arnprior Curling Club).

The Howard contingent is gunning for a record fifth consecutive provincial crown.

"Getting to the Brier has always been on our schedule," he said. "It's true the first goal was to get to the Olympics. That didn't work out. But our next goal was to get to the Brier."

Laing said the rink has moved on after losing the trials final in December.

"We didn't go to the trials with blinkers on. We knew there were seven other rinks (at Edmonton) all capable of winning," Laing said.

"There was a good chance we weren't going to be the winner, although we were very close."

Since losing to Martin, Howard's rink has been in the playoffs at two Grand Slams -- losing the final to Martin last weekend in Winnipeg and at Guelph in the quarter-finals to a hot-throwing Brad Gushue of Newfoundland -- and lost out at the TSN Skins at Casino Rama two weeks ago to Wayne Middaugh.

STRONG FIELD

"We've had a good month (since the Olympics qualifier), just not as good as we would have liked," Laing said.

"Against Martin (last weekend in Winnipeg) neither rink was sharp. It says a lot (about) our rink that we still got to the final."

Laing said the Tankard field is one of the best they've seen in their four-year run.

"Other than Middaugh not there, it is as good as we've seen," Laing said.

"(Peter) Corner has proved over the years how good he is. Joe Frans, we know him (both Laing and Savill played with Frans and Ottawa's John Morris in 2002 when the rink went to the Brier) and he beat us last year (in the provincial round-robin)," Laing said.

"Mark Bice was the runner-up in the Canadian mixed and his second Steve Bice played for us (in 2007 as the fifth).

"We're looking forward to the competition."

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TANKARD FIELD

Starts Monday in Napanee

- Arnprior Curling Club (skip Chris Gardner, third Brad Kidd, second Mike Aprile, lead Sean Harrison)

- Brampton (Peter Corner)

- Brantford (Jay Young)

- Coldwater (Glenn Howard, 4-time defending champ)

- Guelph (Robert Rumfeldt)

- London (Kirk Ziola)

- Rideau Curling Club (skip Bryan Cochrane, third Rich Moffatt, second Colin Dow, lead John Steski)

- Tara (Mark Bice)

- Thornhill (Joe Frans)

- Trenton (Chris Ciasnocha)

- Whitby (Rob Lobel)


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