|Ontario skip Glenn Howard celebrates defeating Newfoundland/Labrador. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
LONDON, Ont. – Glenn Howard has made it back to the Canadian men’s curling final for the second straight year, but this time he’s doing it the hard way.
After finally beating his nemesis, Kevin Martin of Alberta, in the Page 3-4 playoff game Saturday morning at the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier, the Ontario skip made an open hit in the 10th to edge Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador 7-6 in the semifinal Saturday night at the John Labatt Centre.
Howard moves on to Sunday night’s final against Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba in a rematch of the 2009 semifinal (won by Stoughton), while Gushue will have to settle for the bronze-medal game Sunday afternoon against Kevin Martin of Alberta.
“I can’t say enough of my guys,” Howard said of third Richard Hart, second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill. “Craig must have curled 112% and those two ticks he made in 10 (taking Gushue guards out of the equation) were just superb. And Brent and Rich, I don’t think they missed any shots, either. They all made it so easy for me. But it still came down to the last rock and that’s kudos to Brad and his boys.”
Howard admitted his team was riding the adrenalin and emotion of their 5-4 win over Martin.
“I’m really mentally tired,” Howard said. “That game took an emotional toll on me and we had to turn around two hours later. That was six hours of solid concentration, but no doubt we rode a bit of a high.
“This is what we came here for. We had our moments along the way, but the guys never quit.”
The turning point was the sixth end, when Gushue slid too far when he needed just the full 12-foot for two. Instead, he took one to tie the game 4-4 and relinquished last rock. The teams traded deuces in the seventh and ninth – the eighth was blanked – and Savill’s two textbook shots set the win up perfectly.
“We were a little unlucky – we had a couple of bad breaks here and there – but I missed that shot in six and ultimately that was a factor in the loss,” Gushue said. “There could have been some fatigue on their part, but also adrenalin and excitement, so the pros and cons of what happened were pretty even.
“I don’t think they have our number. They have beaten us more than we’ve beaten them, but you could say the same about just about everybody, except Kevin Martin.”
Gushue now plays the game no player here wants to be in.
“Very, very excited,” he said sardonically. “But we’ll play and we’ll play hard. Once we get on the ice, I’m sure the competitive juices will flow and we’ll do the event justice and the fans justice.”
In the 3-4 game, Howard scored two in the 10th without having to throw his last stone to beat Martin for the first time in eight Brier meetings.
After Martin had stolen one in the ninth, Howard had his deuce set up. Martin tried an angle bump, attempting to weld his own stone onto the Ontario shot rock, but was a little outside and Howard didn’t have to play his final stone.
“It was a hell of a game, with great shots by both teams,” Howard said. “We were a little unfortunate to give up that steal in the ninth when we had a deuce set up, but the boys just kept coming at them and I’m proud of ’em.”
While Martin had a smile on his face, it was clear the loss pained him.
“Man, what a game,” he said. “We had that big steal in nine, but he had us up against a wall in 10. If my last one curls another inch, then our stone is welded on his in the eight-foot and there’s no deuce. But you know, Glenn and I have come home tied (or one up either way) so often, it’s OK if I lose one.”