Brier no cruise for favourites

Alberta skip Kevin Koe (right) along with his brother and Northwest Territories skip Jamie Koe...

Alberta skip Kevin Koe (right) along with his brother and Northwest Territories skip Jamie Koe compete against each other at The Brier in Saskatoon, Sask., March 7, 2012. (ANDY CLARK/Reuters)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:51 AM ET

SASKATOON - When the Brier began, it looked like it would be trip on cruise control for Glenn Howard and Kevin Koe to get to their final round robin-game against each other on Thursday evening.

Nobody figured on the Fowler factor.

Kinda like the Manitoba Tankard, suggest those who watched Rob Fowler and his Brandon foursome fly under the radar against defending Brier champion Jeff Stoughton and world curling tour leading money winner Mike McEwan to get here.

“In Dauphin we flew quietly under the radar,” said Fowler after scoring an 8-5 win over Alberta’s Kevin Koe in the evening draw Thursday night.

“I’m not sure, being from Manitoba, you really do that at the Brier, but … well, we’ve handled this the same way we handled our provincial playoffs.

“We came here to play our best and, finally, today we were at our best,” said the skip who did a Koe-Koe double play by pounding the Territories team skipped by Jamie Koe 10-5 in the afternoon.

“We came close to our best a couple times but we didn’t really get there until today. When you play one of the top teams in the world you better bring your ‘A-plus’ game and we did,” added Fowler, who personally our-curled the 2010 Brier and world champion 84% to 70%.

“It was a struggle,” said Koe. “They played well. We were a little off.”

Suddenly, heading into the final day of the round robin, Fowler, with wins against Saskatchewan and Northern Ontario Thursday, could be in the 1-2 game against Glenn Howard instead of Koe.

Howard and his Ontario team took over first place with an 8-1 record Wednesday as Koe dropped back to 7-2 and Fowler 6-3. The Territories Jamie Koe and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs go into the day still in play at 5-4.

Alberta has Nova Scotia in the afternoon and finishes up against Howard in the evening.

With only one loss, Howard is totally in control.

“We’re 8-1 and I’d take that any day at the start of the week,” said Howard. “But it’s been a grind.

“This is the longest, hardest Brier I’ve ever been in,” said the skip who has been in 14.

“We’ve really had to work to get almost every win this week. We played five extra-end games and I thought for sure we were going to be in our sixth this morning,” he said of British Columbia’s Jim Cotter coming up short on a draw with the final rock on the 10th end to give Ontario an 8-4 win in the morning game before scoring a 10-5 win over Prince Edward Island in the afternoon.

To get to the final day of the round robin with one loss was also made more difficult by lead Craig Savill having five intravenous treatments for a virus which kept him out of two games, in which he was replaced by Howard’s son Scott.

“I’ve had six litres so far.” Savill reported after the two games Wednesday.

“When I have to go hard sweeping from start to finish, I feel woozy at the end.”

When this Brier began, the projections and predictions were that Howard and Koe would be 1-2.

Koe stretched his record to 7-1 in the morning draw. But there was no smile on his face.

The highly anticipated Koe-Koe, No. 1 son-vs-No. 2 son sunrise showdown of Fred Koe’s kids turned out to be a large letdown.

Jamie Koe’s Territories team took a 2-1 lead after two and then the Credit Union Centre roof fell in on him.

Kevin Koe’s Alberta aggregation hit for three, stole two and stole three more, and shook hands after seven with an 11-3 win.

“I’m glad it’s over,” said the Alberta skip.

“I’m really glad Jamie is here and doing well. But I don’t get much enjoyment out of beating them. I hope they win the rest of their games.”

With three straight losses after a 5-1 start, Jamie was asked if it felt like all the magic got up and left them.

“That’s exactly what it feels like. As quick as it comes, it goes away. We’ve got to try figure out what’s going on,” he said.

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terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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