|Alberta skip Kevin Martin laughs with Ontario skip Glenn Howard during the 14th draw at the Brier. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
LONDON, Ont. – Old Bears never die. They just make long double-raise takeouts to win big curling games.
Kevin Martin of Alberta, whose nickname is the Old Bear, made just such a shot with the final shot of the game to score two and edge Jamie Koe of the Territories 7-6 in Thursday afternoon’s 16th draw at the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier.
“It was the only shot we had – what was it, a 15- or 18-foot two-ball combination straight back? We had a bit of good fortune, I suppose,” said Martin, who improved to 8-2 along with Glenn Howard of Ontario and Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador. “It was the only shot I made all game.
“It was pretty frosty out there, but there was nothing much the icemakers could do about it. It’s very humid in the building,” Martin added. “I was looking across all the sheets and there was a lot of missing going on, but it sure didn’t seem to bother (Koe’s) team much.”
Martin’s heroics ended Brad Jacobs’ slim playoff hopes. The Northern Ontario skip needed to win twice – he did beat James Grattan of New Brunswick 6-1 in the afternoon to move to 6-4 -- but needed Martin to lose twice.
Koe, who finished with a 3-8 record, seemed to have the game sewn up as he stole one in the ninth – set up by a great triple kill by third Tom Naugler – and lay one buried after putting up a guard with his final stone.
“It had the makings of an upset, but Kevin’s one of the bets in the world, if not the best, and he makes those shots when he has to,” Koe said. “I didn’t know if he could make it for two, but he definitely had a chance at one anyway.
“They weren’t at their best, obviously, and they were getting frustrated. We tried to take advantage of that.”
Jeff Stoughton ended his round-robin at 9-2 after doubling Francois Gagne of Quebec 8-4 in the afternoon and said he needed Martin to beat Howard if Stoughton was going to make the 1-2 playoff game Friday night.
“Kevin has our fate in his hands, or Ontario does, whichever way you want to look at it,” Stoughton said, apparently not realizing a Gushue loss to Gagne in the night draw would also clinch a top-two finish for Manitoba. “We’ve had a great week, but we could still be better.”
Howard clinched his playoff spot in the morning’s 15th draw with a 9-2 win over Koe.
“I was really glad we played this morning,” Howard said. “The ice was different – again. It was a bit more swingy, which we love, but it played on your brain a bit. All of a sudden, hits were moving a lot more. You’d take this much (three inches) for a board-weight hit, all of a sudden you’re taking this much (a foot).”
Also clinching a playoff spot in the morning was Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador, who took three in the eighth after Stoughton jammed on a double and stole two more in the 10th to beat Manitoba 8-5.
Gushue lauded the brushing of front end Jamie Danbrook and Ryan Fry.
“I probably owe them a beer. They swept in three of my shots and those were the only three I didn’t throw well. I’ve never seen them so out of breath.”
Stoughton, meanwhile, was cursing his shot in the eighth, which allowed Gushue a free draw for the three.
“That was a bonehead shot. A junior B-group piece of crap,” Stoughton said. “I never thought I could double-jam like that and if anyone had been more adamant that we could have, I wouldn’t have thrown it.”
Heading into the final draw, Stoughton, Howard, Martin and Gushue all had chances to play in the 1-2 game. Jacobs, Shawn Adams of Nova Scotia (4-6), Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan (4-6), Jim Cotter of B.C. (4-6), Grattan (4-7), Gagne (3-7), Koe and Eddie MacKenzie of P.E.I. (1-10) have all been eliminated.