Friendship in play at Ontairo tankard

Sweepers Tim March (left) and Andrew Clayton of Mark Keanís rink work the ice for the delivery of...

Sweepers Tim March (left) and Andrew Clayton of Mark Keanís rink work the ice for the delivery of Patrick Janssen at the provincial menís curling championship in Stratford, Ont., Feb. 7, 2012. At left, skip Jake Higgs urges on his sweepers. (SCOTT WISHART/QMI Agency)

STEVE GREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:41 PM ET

STRATFORD, ONT. - Beating his good friend was one thing.

Getting back into the hunt at the Ontario men's curling championship was something else altogether for Wayne Tuck.

Tuck, playing out of Woodstock, beat fellow Strathroy resident and mixed teammate Jake Higgs, representing Harriston, 10-3 in the fourth draw Tuesday night. Both teams are tied for fourth at 2-2 at the Dominion Tankard along with 2011 runner-up Greg Balsdon of Elgin Loonie.

Tuck acknowledged the game wasn't an easy one to play.

"It's harder because we're such good friends," he said. "It's almost like playing family, but we just had to block that out and try to put on a show for the 10 guys that came out from the (Bear Creek) golf club and the 20 that came out from the (Ilderton) curling club. But I'd much rather play Jake in the first three or four games than the last one where it means everything. This is better, because a loss won't kill you this early.

"But we needed this, especially after this afternoon, which was disappointing," Tuck added of an 8-3 third-draw loss to Daryl Shane of Listowel. "But we went out for dinner and talked it over and said just keep it simple and play the way we did to get here."

Higgs had two ends hurt him early. Brent Ross, who throws fourth stones, saw his last-rock draw against two get slightly overswept, giving Tuck a steal of one. In the next end, Ross' last-rock tap for three was doomed, Higgs said, as it needed to be swept for weight but couldn't be for line.

Tuck scored three in the seventh and ended it with a steal of three in the eighth.

"They just curled better than we did; no secret there," Higgs said. "I'm happy to get the game over with, especially because we played so badly. Now we can carry on with the rest of our 'spiel.

"When you play 10 games in something like this, you're going to have that one game at least where you lay an egg and this was ours. Three and one would have been better, but 2-2 is better than 1-9," he added, referring to last year's finish at the Tankard in Grimsby and a result Higgs vowed he would improve on this time.

If nothing else, he made good on that vow with a hard-fought 9-7 win over Mark Kean of Ajax Annandale Tuesday afternoon, using threes in the fifth and eighth ends to offset a pair of Kean steals.

Higgs finished fourth in the 2009 provincials, going 6-3 in the round-robin, so he was eager to show last year was the exception.

"That's what I thought, but you never know," he said. "You go 1-9 again and then you start thinking that's the way it should be."

Not surprisingly, six-time defending champion Glenn Howard of Coldwater leads at 4-0, but he needed a draw to the lid against two with the game's final stone to beat Kean 6-4 Tuesday night. Peter Corner of Brampton, who had the night off, was at 3-0 after making a delicate tap on the button with the last shot of the 11th end to edge Chris Garnder of Arnprior 8-7 in the afternoon.

Mike Anderson of Thornhill, a Tankard rookie skip, sits third at 2-1 after a 9-7 fourth-round loss to Balsdon, who countered an Anderson four in the third with a five in the next end.

"The nice part is three of the four of us have been here before, so we know what to expect off the ice," Anderson said, acknowledging he wasn't a bookie's favourite this week. "Nobody's going to be perfect this week -- well, maybe one team here is. The rest of us will have to slug it out and coming in under the radar is where we should be. We've had an up-and-down year, just like that (Balsdon) game, but we know we can play with anyone here."

Also, in the third draw Howard used a four-spot in the fifth end to beat Balsdon 8-3 in a rematch of last year's final.

Balsdon wasn't discouraged despite the loss in a game he was really looking forward to.

"We really didn't have a chance to play any angles, so I tried a freeze with my last shot and missed and gave him a free draw for four," Balsdon said of the crucial fifth end. "We wanted to play a little better than we did in that final and it just didn't happen."

Dayne Deruelle of Brampton and Gardner are 1-2 while Bryan Cochrane of Ottawa Rideau is at 1-3 along with Kean and Shane.

In the other fourth-draw games, Deruelle saw his last-rock draw stop just in time in the 11th end to beat Cochrane 8-7, while Garnder downed Shane 9-6. In the other third-round game, Anderson scored one in the 10th to beat Cochrane 6-5.

steve.green@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SteveGatLFPress


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