Howard a win away from five in a row

MIKE KOREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:58 PM ET

NAPANEE -- In a surprise to no one, Glenn Howard is in the driver's seat at the Ontario men's curling championship.

The Coldwater skip is one win away from a record fifth consecutive title after beating Bryan Cochrane of Ottawa Rideau 6-4 in the Page 1-2 playoff game Saturday afternoon.

With the victory, Howard (11-0 this week) booked a ticket to the Sunday afternoon (Rogers Channel 10, at 2 p.m.) final as well as a healthy amount of time off while other teams battled for the right to face the juggernaut.

"It's nice to have a break," said Howard. "If we would have had to play, we would have to play. But we've got 24 hours off and we might as well take it easy."

The Ontario champion will represent the province at the Tim Hortons Brier, to be held March 6-14 in Halifax.

Cochrane, 9-2 on the week with both losses against Howard, remains alive. He will play in a semifinal Sunday at 9:30 a.m. against Brampton's Peter Corner, who won the Page 3-4 playoff game on Saturday night, beating Guelph's Robert Rumfeldt 7-4.

The 2003 provincial champion, Cochrane was tied with Howard at 2-2 before one critical error in the fifth end.

With his opponent lying two and having the hammer, Cochrane's double takeout attempt just nudged a Howard stone and didn't knock either of them out.

That left Howard a draw to the rings for three -- which was pretty much a gimme for the 2007 world champion and runner-up in the most recent Olympic trials. It put Howard up 5-2 and he led the rest of the way.

"It's really too bad because my guys played well," Cochrane said. "I thought it was a pretty good game. I'd just like to have that shot back."

Cochrane said his miss didn't curl as much as he had hoped, resulting in just a tap on a Howard stone in the 12-foot.

"It just fell back," he said. "All week, it's been curling there. I was on the rock at one point and it just fell off. That's three, boom.

Howard said he thought Cochrane was going to make the shot when he saw it released.

"Out of his hand, it looked pretty good and it straightened up and for whatever reason it didn't curl," Howard said. "He was stunned, we were all stunned. All of a sudden we got a three-ender."

A resilient Cochrane fought back, stealing one in the ninth to trim Howard's lead to 5-4 for just the second steal against the heavy favourite all week.

But Cochrane's rink couldn't generate any offence in the final end, leaving Howard an easy hit for one and the win.

MIKE.KOREEN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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