Three teams tied atop Brier standings

Alberta skip Kevin Martin throws a rock with lead Ben Herbert and second Mark Kennedy against...

Alberta skip Kevin Martin throws a rock with lead Ben Herbert and second Mark Kennedy against Ontario. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

STEVE GREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. – Glenn Howard’s losing streak to Kevin Martin at the Canadian men’s curling championship reached seven games Friday night. If it gets to eight, he won’t get a chance to win a third Brier in his home province.

Howard fell behind 4-1 after three ends to Martin in the final draw of the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier at the John Labatt Centre, but eventually forced the Alberta skip to make a tough inturn hit for one in the 10th for a 6-5 win. The result left Martin in a three-way tie for first at 9-2 with Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador and Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba, while Howard was fourth at 8-3.

As Gushue beat Martin and Stoughton in the round-robin, he was placed first. Stoughton’s win over Martin gave him second, meaning he’ll face Gushue in the 1-2 playoff game Friday night and Howard and Martin will hook up in the 3-4 game Saturday afternoon.

“It was nice to play a good game. I just had to get it through my head to make shots, and John (third Morris), too. And John played a great game,” Martin said. “We had the hammer coming home, and that’s all you can ask for against a tough team like Glenn’s.”

As for his 7-0 record against Howard at the Brier, Martin said: “We’re not that hard to beat. It’s just the Brier, it seems. But it can’t hurt, that’s for sure.”

Howard, who won the 2007 Brier in Hamilton as skip and the 1993 Brier in Ottawa as third for brother Russ, couldn’t pinpoint the reason for his team’s slow start against Martin.

“We played awful and I don’t know why. We just missed shots; we weren’t sharp at all. We couldn’t get a read on the ice, for some reason but the ice was great,” he said. “But we hung in and if my last shot in 10 hits the first stone an inch thicker, it rolls to the lid buried and he’s got a very tough shot.”

As for Martin’s Brier hex?

“It’s tough, I can’t deny it. I don’t like getting beat seven times in a row by anyone, let alone Kevin Martin. We just didn’t bring our A game tonight and we’ll certainly have to on Saturday.”

Gushue, meanwhile, may not have been the favourite of many to top the round-robin, but he never doubted his chances.

“We felt that if we got going early in the week, we could,” he said. “We found our vibe, got a couple of wins against the big boys in Stoughton and Martin and we feel pretty good going into the 1-2 game.”

Gushue will have the choice of last rock or rock colour against Stoughton and it’s no surprise.

“We’ll be taking hammer,” he said, smiling. “We’re been pretty slow starting out, so having the hammer will at least prevent us from giving up three or four off the bat.”

In the afternoon draw, Martin made long double-raise takeout for two, maybe the shot of the week so far, with the final shot of the game to edge Jamie Koe of the Territories 7-6.

“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. “It was the only shot I made all game.”

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 best 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.”

In the morning draw, Gushue clinched his playoff spot with an 8-5 win over Stoughton, taking three in the eighth after Stoughton jammed on a double and stealing two more in the 10th.

Stoughton was left 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.”

Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario finished 7-4, Shawn Adams of Nova Scotia was 5-6; Jim Cotter of B.C., Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan and James Grattan of New Brunswick finished 4-7; Gagne joined Koe at 3-8 and Eddie MacKenzie of P.E.I. ended up 1-10.


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