LONDON, Ont. – In old-time journalistic parlance, 30 means “the end.” And that’s exactly where Kevin Martin’s winning streak at the Canadian men’s curling championship came to an end Monday night at the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier.
In a battle between the last two Olympic champions, Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador beat Martin 9-4 to leave both rinks at 4-1 along with Ontario’s Glenn Howard, who hammered Francois Gagne of Quebec 12-4 in another eighth-draw game at the John Labatt Centre.
Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba, who had the night off, is alone in first at 5-0.
“That’s as good as I’ve felt out there, personally,” said Gushue, who stole two in the third when Martin was a shade outside and heavy on a draw and later made a delicate tap for three in the eighth to end it. “I felt I had a much better read on the ice. We went out there and played well and beat a guy with a 30-game winning streak – and that team’s been incredible the last few years. It just kinds sucks that I’m playing at the same time; sometimes it feels like you’re fighting for second place.”
Martin, whose last defeat at a Brier was in the 3-4 playoff game against Stoughton in 2007, took the loss philosophically.
“It was a good run, absolutely, but it’s got to end sometime and 30 is a nice, round number. Plus if you’re going to have it ended, Brad’s a nice guy to do it,” he said. “I think 9-2 is still the number (for a playoff spot). So we’ve got one more to give, but I don’t want to use it.
“The draw in two cost us, no doubt. I took about an inch and a half, two inches too much ice and it just didn’t curl. That was expensive – 3-0 down against Brad and you’re not coming back.”
Howard, meanwhile, continued to gather steam with his fourth straight win. And this one was his most emphatic yet as he cracked threes in the third and fifth and ended it with a four in the seventh.
“I think we’re getting better with every game,” the 2007 Brier champ said. “We played really solidly against Quebec and that’s exactly what the doctor ordered.”
Especially with Gushue and Stoughton on the schedule Tuesday.
“We’ll have our hands full, that’s for sure,” Howard said. “We’ve just got to keep putting points on the board and string a few more wins together.”
Elsewhere in the eighth draw, Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario stole singles in the eighth and ninth to beat Jim Cotter of B.C. 7-5 and Shawn Adams edged Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan 7-6 on a 10th-end measurement when Saskatchewan fourth Pat Simmons was millimetres short on a draw to the four-foot.
Laycock, Gagne, Jacobs, Adams, Jamie Koe of the Territories and James Grattan of New Brunswick are in a massive logjam at 2-3, Cotter is 1-4 and Eddie MacKenzie of P.E.I. is 0-5.
Stoughton had his toughest game to date in the afternoon’s seventh draw, scoring five points late to beat Jacobs 8-4.
“It wasn’t a great game by either side, but at the end we made the right shots at the right time. We’ll take the win,” said Stoughton, who broke a 3-3 tie with a three in the seventh and ended the game, his only one of the day, with a deuce in the ninth. “We can certainly play better. Everyone’s having their little struggles with the ice or the rocks.”
In the morning’s sixth draw, Howard got a key steal of one in the eighth when Cotter was slightly outside on a raise tap for two and went on to a 7-5 win, while Gushue rebounded from a last-rock loss to Cotter the night before, edging Laycock 7-6.
Gushue benefited from a hog-line violation by Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons, who throws fourth stones, on a double-takeout attempt in the third. Gushue was left with a draw for three and a 4-2 lead and Laycock never really threatened after that as the final score was made closer by a conceded steal of one in the 10th.
“I owe him a beer,” Gushue said. “He makes that and we’re in a world of hurt. We may not even score if he makes it perfectly. In eight Briers, that’s the first time anyone’s done that against us and it did come at a very opportune moment.”
In the other seventh-draw games, Grattan edged Gagne 7-5, Martin mashed MacKenzie 9-2 and Adams thumped Koe 9-2.