It’s boiling down to the last-round clash tonight at the Tim Hortons Brier involving Glenn Howard (Ontario) and Kevin Koe (Alberta), the only former champions at the Credit Union Centre. Howard and his co-favoured team of Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill, who has been hampered this week by the flu and a need for IV to combat dehydration, moved their leading record to 9-and-1 on Thursday morning with an 8-3 conquest of Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy.
The idle Alberta remained at 7-2, and were prepping for a match with the Bluenosers today at 1:30 p.m.
Manitoba’s Rob Fowler, meanwhile, hammered tail-end Saskatchewan 9-3 to win his seventh in 10 games. The Buffalo boys close out their round-robin schedule this afternoon against Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, who is looking for his sixth win and a playoff berth.
Howard already has a playoff berth clinched, a berth in Friday’s Page One-Two fracas. His opponent will be either Alberta or Manitoba, depending on developments later today.
“I think we’re playing a little bit better and we actually got a few misses out of the opposition this time and that’s why we finished early,” said Howard of one of his few easier decisions this week.(Continued Below…)
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“I like the way our team is playing now and that’s perfect as we get ready for the playoffs. We’re moving in the right direction. I’m pretty pleased.”
He said the 17th-rounder against Alberta will be for hammer in the playoffs.
“You get the hammer, you always feel that little comfort zone,” he said. “You have that little bit of an advantage to start the game. It doesn’t win or lose you games, I don’t believe, but it’s nice to have it if you can get it. It gives you the feeling you’re already in control.
“Mind you,” he paused and flashed a big grin, “if you give up a steal in the first end you’ve lost control.”
In other morning action, Quebec’s Robert Desjardins won his fourth, overhauling the negative effects of yielding five in the second end and clipping Mike Gaudet (3-7) of Prince Edward Island 10-8.
Jamie Koe of the Territories called a halt to a losing skid by winning his sixth, a career high at the Brier, 9-6 over New Brunswick’s Terry Odishaw (4-6).
The Polars play B.C. tonight in a game that could have playoff ramifications for both.
“That was a big one for us,” said the younger Koe.
“We had to win that one and now we can start thinking playoffs. It felt good to start making some shots again and give the boys some confidence.
“I guess 6-and-5 would be a decent record for us but I don’t know that we’d be satisfied, based on going 5-and-1 to start.
“It’s pretty rare that we’d be staring at a playoff possibility so I’m just going to enjoy the moment. I think the way we’ve practised and worked at the game this year has paid off. I’ve got to be pretty happy the way we’ve prepared, even though we don’t get the games in.” (Continued below…)
Odishaw held a 5-4 lead heading into the seventh end but the Polars hit for a deuce, then stole another crucial pair in the eighth. The New Brunswick skip was faced with runback attempts on both his skip rocks looking at two opposing buried counters and miraculously, but unfortunately for the Herringchokers, found the hole between them on both tries.
Manitoba skip Fowler said his team has strutted it’s “A-plus” stuff for the last three outings.
“Obviously, we seem to be bringing it together at the right time of the week,” he said.
“The ice has been great all week. It’s just that it was a little different from one sheet to the next the first three days. Now you can walk out on any sheet and it’s the same across the board so it’s easier to get it dialed in earlier in the game.
“We said earlier that if we could get to eight wins we’d be in good shape and we’re in a position to do that so we’re happy. You want to finish out the round robin strong. You never want to let up on the gas.
“We just want to keep it in the moment.”
In other Draw 16 matches at 1:30 p.m. CT, Brad Gushue of Newfoundland (3-6) plays Gaudet of P.E.I. while Jim Cotter of B.C. (4-5) tangles with New Brunswick.