LONDON, Ontario – Nothing was going to stop Ontario’s Glenn Howard in his quest Saturday to reach the final of the Canadian men’s curling championship.
Not his nemesis Kevin Martin of Alberta. Not former Olympic gold medalist Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Howard slipped a lost rock take-out down the ice of the John Labatt Centre arena and cleanly removed a Gushue stone to score a single point in the tenth end for a 7-6 semi-final win.
Howard will meet Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton in the Tankard final Sunday night at the Tim Horton’s Brier.
Gushue and Martin will be reluctant participants in a Brier first on Sunday afternoon, a bronze medal game that none of the players in the entire tournament wanted to play.
Gushue accepted responsibility for the loss, pointing to at least one flub that proved costly.
“We had a couple tough breaks, but you know what, I missed the draw in the sixth (end) and I think, ultimately, the reason we lost, he said”
One of Gushue’s two losses in the 11-game round-robin tournament came against Howard.
“I don’t think they have our number,” said Gushue, who lost the 2007 Brier final to Howard. “They’ve beaten us more than we’ve beaten them but I think they can say that about just about everybody except Kevin (Martin).
Howard’s win in the afternoon playoff was his first in eight games against Martin over the years at the Brier.
Ontario had to return to face Gushue just an hour after defeating Martin and Howard said he was both inspired and worn out by the experience.
“We were really pumped,” Howard said. “I’m emotionally tired. That last game against Kevin took a little toll on me. You’re out there for three hours grinding it out and watching all the nuances in the ice and the next thing you know it’s an hour later and you’re back in the fold. That’s six hours of concentration with the adrenaline pumping and the people screaming.”
More than 7,500 largely-partisan spectators attended the semi-final, the largest crowd of the week.
The first end started with a string of basic hits until Howard managed to roll a take-out shot behind a guard and Gushue had no choice except to draw for one point.
After a blank end in the second, Gushue’s third, Mark Nichols, smoked a double take-out in the third end, sending a pair of Ontario stones scooting past each side of a Newfoundland and Labrador stone.
Gushue, however, missed running back a guard and taking out an Ontario stone. Howard used his first shot to bump one Ontario stone and split the house with two rocks in scoring position.
Again Gushue was handcuffed by the Ontario skip. He could only take out one stone allowing Howard an easy draw to score two points.
Nichols seemed to falter in the fourth end when an attempt to bump an Ontario rock ended with his stone over-curling and completely avoiding any contact.
The same curl path grabbed a Howard shot and sent it sliding past its intended target and provided Gushue with a last shot draw scoring two points.
In the fifth end, Gushue drew past a guard to the back four-foot ring but not fully protected. Howard hit the stone and remained in play giving Ontario two points.
Gushue lost the opportunity to take the lead in the sixth when his final shot, a routine draw to the four-foot, continued sliding out the back of the rings and scoring just a single point.
Looking at two Ontario stones separated in the house in the seventh, Gushue played a nice hit and roll, ending up next to the remaining opposing rock.
Howard delivered a strong draw that dove sideways at the last moment and bumped the Gushue stone just far enough to take two points and a 6-4 lead.
An uneventful eighth allowed Gushue to take out the only Ontario stone in the house and blank the end to maintain the last rock advantage in the ninth.
After some intriguing play in the ninth – Gushue drew behind an Ontario rock in the four-foot ring and Howard ran his own stone back to remove it – Gushue was able to make a simple hit to score two and tie the game at 6-6.