The 'Wizard' is ready, confident

Ontario skip Glenn Howard (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

Ontario skip Glenn Howard (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:41 PM ET

SASKATOON - The Wizard of Winter is ready.

“When the Wizard of Winter is on a roll, I'm happy to stand on his coattail and ride with him,” said Ontario third Wayne Middaugh.

Wizard of Winter?

“That's what we're calling him now,” said Middaugh.

Call him whatever you want, the way Glenn Howard is carrying himself going into Sunday's final at the 83rd Brier suggests an overwhelming confidence he hasn't taken into a final in a long time.

He's absolutely wearing it on Team Ontario's sleeve.

The first words out of his mouth when he stepped into the media scrum after a 9-3 win over Rob Fowler of Manitoba in Friday's 1-2 game was not the sort of bite the soft-spoken, mild-mannered skip normally offers.

“We're going to win this thing,” Howard said.

Middaugh, who is along for the ride for the first time since he played with Howard on his brother Russ Howard's team many moons ago, said everybody on the team can feel it.

“Glenn is playing really well and it's a great feeling for us," Middaugh said. "The guys are playing really well. Our job is to give Glenn opportunity. When you give Glenn opportunity, he takes advantage."

Comments that had Howard full of laughs.

“Wayne is like a kid in a candy store,” said the skip of his friend and long-time snowmobiling buddy.

“It's like I figured. Light a fire under him and he's going to be right there,” said Howard of Middaugh, who himself won the Brier and a world championship as a skip in 1998.

Howard, of course, goes into the final with his own rap.

For him, the Brier final is Final Jeopardy.

Normally when somebody in sport makes a final, it's a positive story. Not Howard. He's been what the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings have been to the Super Bowl.

The first question he usually gets after making it into the game is: "Do you guys think you could handle losing this thing again."

Maybe that's why the first words out of Howard's mouth to the media after punching his ticket to a sixth Brier final in the last seven years were of the cut-them-off-at-the-pass variety.

“We're going to win this thing,” Howard said.

Consider Howard's record in finals:

2011 – Lost Brier final to Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton.

2010 – Lost Brier final to Alberta's Kevin Koe.

2009 – Lost Olympic trials final to Kevin Martin.

2008 – Lost Brier final to Alberta's Kevin Martin.

2007 – Won Brier final over Newfoundland's Brad Gushue.

2006 – Lost Brier final to Quebec's Jean-Michel Menard.

In 10 previous trips to the Brier final, including the ones throwing third rocks for brother Russ, Glenn Howard has won three.

A .300 average is not bad in baseball but this is his 11th Brier final.

“I'm proud to get to 11 finals,” Howard said.

And so he should be, especially in this one the way he had to battle through a record five extra end games, including a record four in a row to get to Sunday with an 11-1 record.

Equaling your brother's record of 14 Brier appearances is one heck of a record. And breaking your brother's record for games played -- which will be extended to 182 Sunday -- is one helluva record.

But it's that record in the final that hangs over his head.

“I do think we're going to win this thing,” Howard said before practice Saturday afternoon.

“We're going to come into this final guns blazing.

“I have a really good feeling about this. Hopefully I'm right.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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