Three days into the 2010 Tim Hortons Brier, Glenn Howard sits exactly where he - and probably every curling fan in the entire country - expected him to be, undefeated at the top of the standings in the national men's championship.
"I don't know what everybody expects, but I know that's where we want to be," the Ontario skip said of leading the 12-team pack. "We want to win every game. If we do, we do, if we don't, we don't, but our first goal is to get to the playoffs and go from there."
He's well on his way at 5-0 after a two-win day that included a 7-4 victory over nephew Steven Howard, who plays third for James Grattan's New Brunswick crew in the afternoon. The Brier favourite followed that up with a 9-3 conquest of winless hometown skip Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc in the evening draw.
"Two more today puts us at 5-0; can't be much better and again, we're getting stronger and stronger every time," added the leader. "It never gets monotonous. No, no, no, no, no, never. "
Close behind are the three teams most expect to push Ontario - Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton, Newfoundland and Labrador's Brad Gushue and Alberta's Kevin Koe, all at 4-1.
Gushue, who dumped Nova Scotia 10-3 and then handed P.E.I.'s Rod MacDonald a 7-3 setback, is attracting most of the trailing attention, though, for the roughly 38,000 fans who have ventured to the Halifax Metro Centre for eight draws over the first three days of the Brier. They're making the 2006 Olympic champion one of their own.
"We have a lot of supporters from Newfoundland and I think a lot of people from Nova Scotia support us pretty good as well, with our history of the (Olympic) trials and the Brier here before," said Gushue, who definitely felt the love despite pounding local boy Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc. "We feel very much like a home team here, as does Ian. It's been fun and hopefully there will be a few more fans and it'll get a little bit louder.
"It's been enjoyable."
Not so much for Fitzner-LeBlanc, who remains winless at 0-5 along with Jamie Koe of the Yukon/Northwest Territories.
Kevin Koe, Jamie's brother, suffered his first loss Monday morning, losing 7-6 to British Columbia's Jeff Richards, but rebounded with an impressive in-off double for three in a 9-5 win over Saskatchewan's Darrell McKee. The sixth-end circus shot resonated throughout the building.
As for seeing Howard at the top: "I don't think that's a big surprise," said Koe. "I think that's what most people thought coming in and I think it'll be that way for the rest of the week, although there are a couple of solid teams there in B.C. and Northern Ontario."
As for Richard, the 1999 national junior runner-up just keeps battling, but he lost a tight 8-7 decision to Quebec;s Serge Reid in the evening to fall to 2-3 with Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, while Quebec improves to 3-2 with Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario.