Howard manages Houdini-like escape

Skip Bryan Cochrane of the Rideau Curling Club motions to sweepers during play in the Dominion...

Skip Bryan Cochrane of the Rideau Curling Club motions to sweepers during play in the Dominion Tankard provincial men's curling championship in Stratford, Ont., on Friday, Feb. 10, 2012. In the background is skip Peter Corner of the Brampton Curling Club. (SCOTT WISHART/QMI AGENCY)

Steve Green, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:56 AM ET

STRATFORD, ONT. - Cut Glenn Howard open and don't be surprised if Harry Houdini pops out.

At least that might have been the case Saturday night as the six-time defending Ontario men's curling champion pulled off something at the Dominion Tankard the late escape artist might have enjoyed.

Trailing former teammate Peter Corner of Brampton 6-5 coming home without last rock, the Coldwater skip stole one in the 10th and another in the extra end to win the Page 1-2 playoff game 7-6. That earned Howard, who ran the table in the round-robin, a berth in Sunday's final.

In a rarity, Howard and his rink of Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill struggled, giving up steals of one in the third and fourth ends to trail 3-1. And when Corner countered Howard's deuce with two of his own in the sixth for a 5-3 lead, he seemed in control, especially after holding Howard to one in the ninth.

"Who knew?" Howard said with a relieved smile. "The ice was stillgreat, but it was definitely a little trickier, a little patchier for draws and we got caught a couple of times. Be weren't as sharp as we could have been and Pete's team was sharp. We just got a fortunate win.

"This proves we're not invincible. We play average and we won't win."

Corner had lamented that whenever he met Glenn Howard in the playoffs at the Ontario men's championship, he never seemed to bring his A game.

That wasn't the case this time, makign the defeat even tougher to take. Corner pointed to close misses late on.

"We had a couple of chances to run double peels and just missed, and in the extra end we overswept my first shot. That stops top button and it's game over. That's the difference. We just have to finish," he said. "Yeah, it hurts. They should be the ones getting up at 7 a.m. tomorrow to go to practice. But unfortunately, it's us.

"That was the first time all week someone truly tested them. I think we deserved to win that one."

Corner and his rink of Graeme McCarrel, Joe Frans and Darryl Prebble drop to Sunday morning's semifinal, where they will face Mike Anderson of Thornhill. Anderson advanced by beating Dayna Deruelle of Brampton 7-3 Saturday night in a Page 3-4 matchup of teams few gave much of a chance at the start of the week.

"We knew coming in we were middle of the pack, probably toward the bottom in most people's eyes," Anderson said, "but at the end of the day, we're shooting well and that's going to win games, no matter who you're playing.

"We just figured, we're in the playoffs at the Tankard, so just have some fun. Because if you can't have fun at this point, you'll never have fun on a curling sheet."

Deruelle struggled early as Anderson stole one in the second and deuces in the third and fifth to take a 6-0 lead.

"No excuses," he said. "We really felt the ice was a little bit lower in this game, but I just didn't get it done for the guys tonight," Deruelle said. "But we tried our best, we gave it a ride and we had fun here."

Deruelle advanced to the 3-4 game by edging Wayne Tuck of Woodstock 6-5 in the second tiebreaker Saturday afternoon. Tuck came into the game on a bit of a roll, having won his final three round- robin games to make the tiebreakers along with Deruelle and Bryan Cochrane of Ottawa Rideau with 5-5 records, then ousting Cochrane 9-4 in the first tiebreaker Saturday morning.

"Each game is an individual event in itself," Deruelle said when asked if he was wary of Tuck's surge. "We knew they were gaining confidence, but our confidence was already high."

In a game that was tied 2-2 after five, Deruelle appeared to take control with a three in the eighth for a 5-3 lead, but Tuck tied it with two in the ninth. However, Tuck's last-rock freeze attempt in the 10th picked and Deruelle didn't need his last shot.

Tuck saved his squad's bacon several times in the early going as third Craig Kochan and second Scott McDonald, in particular, struggled.

"I don't think so," Tuck said when asked if mental or physical fatigue played a factor. "If we play a little better -- at every position -- we pull this one out. Yeah, I bailed the guys out a couple of times early, but as a skip, you have to be able to do that."

steve.green@sunmedia.ca

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