LONDON - LONDON, Ont. – The Coldwater Express is building up a head of steam at the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier.
After getting upset in the first draw of the Canadian men’s curling championship, Ontario’s Glenn Howard has won six straight to take dead aim at a playoff spot.
He forged a three-way tie for top spot at 6-1 in the 11th draw Tuesday night at the John Labatt Centre with a crucial 7-4 win over previously unbeaten Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba. A steal of two in the fourth, when Stoughton had a couple of shots that just missed, have Howard a 4-0 lead and he sealed the deal with a nice tap raise for two in the ninth.
“Well, we’re a little better than after Day 1,” Howard said. “Bottom line, we played really well tonight. We caught Jeff on a couple of tough shots and next thing we know we’re four up. This was a nice win, because if you get two losses to his zero, you begin to think you won’t be able to catch him. Now we’re looking at maybe having a shot at the 1-2 (playoff) game. We certainly control our own destiny.”
Ontario second Brent Laing curled 100% against Stoughton, a stat that pleased his Coldwater & District CC skip.
“Brent was outstanding and that’s what I like to see coming later in the week,” Howard said.
Stoughton, who had beaten Jamie Koe of the Territories 10-4 in the morning’s ninth draw, acknowledged one bad end did him in against Ontario.
“I missed by quarter-inch or a half-inch on my shots and it cost us. You can’t do that against a good team like Glenn’s, because four down and it’s really tough to come back. But if we’d held him to one in the ninth, we’re only down two and maybe we can force an extra end.
“But it’s better to lose today than Sunday and we’re certainly not going to dwell on this.”
Also at 6-1 is Alberta’s Kevin Martin, who had the night draw off. In the morning, he survived a scare against Nova Scotia’s Shawn Adams, overcoming a 3-0 first-end deficit, getting a crucial steal of one in the seventh and cracking a three in the ninth for a 9-7 victory.
“That was a great game,” said Martin, who disposed of Francois Gagne of Quebec 7-5 in afternoon to improve to 6-1. “I think we had control of the game for the most part after that. We hung in there, that was the moral of the story.”
“I almost got up too much too early,” Adams said. “We tried to play a little more defensively after that, but they’re so good at rock placement, it’s hard to keep those deuces off the board.”
Also in the 11th draw, Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador bounced back from a 6-1 loss to Howard in the afternoon to beat Koe 8-3, stealing one in the seventh and three in the eighth.
“We were really lucky, to be honest,” Gushue said. “If Jamie hits his rock in seven a millimetre higher, we could have given up four. I don’t know if it’s physical or mental, but we’ve got no excuse for the way we’re playing. We were lucky to get out of today with a split.”
Howard only had last rock against Gushue once, but he made it count with a double in the eighth for a game-ending three.
Gushue kept the game clean for the first three ends, but ran into trouble in the fourth when he had to make a hit just to keep Howard to a steal of one. Gushue was then short on a draw to the eight-foot in the fifth, giving Ontario a steal of two. A single in the seventh gave finally Ontario last rock.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gone that long in a game in my life without the hammer,” Howard said.
Gushue, meanwhile, said blanking the first three ends was a deliberate strategy.
“We wanted to keep it a little more simple because we haven’t had a lot of success getting ends set up and when you’re playing a front end like (Craig) Savill and Laing, you can get into trouble. And that’s what happened in the fourth,” said the 2006 Olympic champion.
Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan won twice Tuesday to improve to 4-3. He beat Jim Cotter of B.C. 6-4 in the afternoon and Eddie MacKenzie of P.E.I. 8-7 at night to keep his hopes alive.
“That’s the day we needed,” said Laycock, who faces Martin and Stoughton Wednesday. “I actually thought we were a little sharper yesterday, but we just got a couple more breaks in our games today.”
At 3-4, Adams and Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario are likely on the bubble. Koe, Cotter, Gagne and James Grattan of New Brunswick are 2-5 while MacKenzie is 1-6.