Glenn Howard holds on to win battle of Brier heavyweights
Ontario skip Glenn Howard delivers a rock during the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Thursday, March 7, 2013. (CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI Agency)
The stakes in the heavyweight match were pretty simple.
Win and you’re in.
Brad Gushue of Newfoundland put up a sensational fight. In the end, though, defending Brier and world champion Glenn Howard remained undefeated at 8-0 and claimed a playoff spot. Gushue will live another day but dropped to 7-2, good for third place.
It’s a shame somebody had to lose this battle for first.
If what happened in the ninth end of Howard’s 6-5 win was in a final, it would be an instant classic.
“We played a good game,” said Gushue. “We came up against a great team that played great. It seemed like every chance we got, we’d make a good shot and they’d just cap it with another good one. The ninth end was a perfect example. I made a honey of a shot and he equals it.
“It was a great curling game. It’s just unfortunate we were on the wrong side.”
Can history be repeating itself at Rexall Place?
Howard is sure making it look that way, the only difference being the team is wearing Ontario jackets instead of the Team Canada gear.
Howard was in a zone when he went undefeated in the 2007 world championship here.
The way he met the challenge Thursday proved to be no different.
“I thought that was one hell of a curling game,” said Howard. “I don’t care what anybody says. There was eight really great curlers out there. It was a fun game to play, I think a fun one to watch. We won by a couple of inches. Wow! What a game.”
If nothing else, when a team’s cruising, having a battle like this gets it into a playoff frame of mind.
“The best part is they had a 90-plus (Gushue was 93%) and we matched it (92% team),” said Howard. “That’s got to get us into something. We just want to keep the pedal to the metal and keep building. The important thing in a week like this is to eliminate the losses and we’re doing that pretty well.”
Howard’s win allowed Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton to claim second place at 7-1. He has the inside track to the 1-2 game against Howard.
“They’re not going to hand it to you,” said Gushue of his back-to-back losses to the front-runners. “You have to take advantage of every single chance they give you and they don’t give you many.”
There’s still hope for a Lazrus-like resurrection for Kevin Martin’s Alberta team.
Martin declared the team dead when it started the week at 1-4, but there’s a potential miracle unfolding.
“It’s slowly getting interesting,” was the way Alberta second Marc Kennedy put it. “We had a good talk (Wednesday) and said if things work out, then there’s a chance. We’ll keep focusing on our games and hopefully, everything else around us will go the way we need it to.”