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Defending Canada Cup champions on a roll

Defending champions Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary and Kevin Martin of Edmonton maintained positions at the head of their respective divisions in the Canada Cup of Curling on Thursday.

Kevin Martin (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

Kleibrink moved her record to 3-and-0 with an 11-5 thrashing of Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton, keyed by a critical hogline violation charged to the Saskatoon skip in the fourth end.

Martin also won his third, a vengeance-tinged 8-4 over Mike McEwen of Winnipeg. McEwen kayoed Martin in the quarter-finals of the season’s first Slam ‘spiel at Windsor.

“I think both teams were keyed up to play each other,” said Martin.

Kleibrink was gifted a free draw for three points and a 5-2 lead against Lawton, who also was unbeaten going in. Lawton faced a pair and was attempting a hit-and-roll behind cover with her last rock when the hogline rule cancelled the shot.

“We feel rather charmed right now,” said Kleibrink, a two-time Canada Cup champion who won her 16th straight match in top-flight competition.

“That fourth end tipped the scale. It gave us three out of nowhere. It was unfortunate for her. A total turning point. It could have been a totally different game.”

Kleibrink said the incident afforded her team a “huge” advantage.

“When we get a lead like that, we have one of the better hitting front ends,” she said. “We’re probably not going to miss a peel unless something bizarre happens. It is not often that Bronwen (second Webster) will ever miss a peel. So it we can get ahead, we can usually peel out.”

Kleibrink, also playing with Amy Nixon and Chelsey Bell, said more than one loss in her five-team qualifying pool likely will deny a team a place in the playoffs.

Two teams from each of two pools advantage to Page playoffs Saturday. Kleibrink faces Shelley Nichols (0-4) of St. John’s and Canadian champion Jennifer Jones (2-1) of Winnipeg in future final qualifying matches.

Martin refused to relinquish control in his game with McEwen, who tied the count twice before falling behind when his opponent scored a deuce in the sixth. McEwen was able to respond with only a single. Then Martin applied the crusher with a three-spot to close it out in eight ends.

“We gave away too many freebies,” said McEwen. “If you do that against that team, you’re behind the eight-ball in a hurry. They made the shots they had to. I don’t think either team was exceptional.”

Martin hailed McEwen as “the hottest team in Canada”.

“I enjoyed that,” Olympic gold winner Martin said. “I enjoy big games and that was a big game.”

Elsewhere on the sixth draw, Olympic silver medallist Cheryl Bernard (2-1) of Calgary defeated Nichols 7-4, Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton stopped Canadian and world champion Kevin Koe of Calgary 5-3 and Calgary rookie Brent Bawel (1-2) erupted for a 9-1 smothering of Brandon’s Rob Fowler (0-3).

In today’s final draw at 6 p.m. MST, Winnipeg’s Jones goes against unbeaten Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, winless Kelly Scott of Kelowna tackles Heather Nedohin of Edmonton, who also is looking for her first win, Stoughton (1-2) plays Bawel, Serge Reid of Jonquiere, Que., plays Mat Camm of Ottawa in another battle of winless teams, and unbeaten Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., faces Fowler.