Only one person is missing from the New Brunswick team which successfully defended its provincial title Sunday at Curling Beauséjour…Brier record-holder skip Russ Howard.
Skip James Grattan and his Gage Golf & Curling Association team of third Steve Howard, second Jason Vaughan and lead Peter Case won the Keith’s Tankard, defeating Moncton’s Terry Odishaw, 6-3 in the final.
Last year, they went 6-5 at the Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary with Russ Howard at the helm, as Steve Howard, Case and Vaughan rotated on the front end, with Grattan at third.
Grattan’s foursome had to claw its way to the final, after finishing in a three-way tie for second with a 5-2 record, behind Odishaw’s 6-1 first place mark, in the eight-team round robin.
Grattan first eliminated Ryan Sherrard, 6-3 in a tiebreaker, then ousted Rick Perron, 6-5 in the semi-final to advance to the final.
Grattan will be making his eighth Brier appearance. He skipped his province in 1997 in Calgary in his Brier debut, finishing a surprising third to Alberta’s Kevin Martin while compiling an overall mark of 9-4, after losing the semi-final to Manitoba’s Vic Peters. In 2002, 2003 and 2004, he played third for Russ Howard. He skipped again in 2006 (5-6 in Regina) and 2008 (2-9 in Winnipeg), before again playing third for Howard last year.
Steve Howard was the alternate for his father’s (Russ Howard) team at the 2004 Brier, but did not play. Last year, he was rotated on the front end. Case makes his third Brier appearance, while Vaughan makes his fourth trip, after playing second for Grattan in 2006 and 2008, prior to last year’s rotation.
New Brunswick has never won the Brier. Its best finish in recent times was a second-place finish in 2000 in Saskatoon, when Howard lost to British Columbia’s Greg McAulay in the final.