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Favourites jockey for playoff positions at Canada Cup

The Kleibrink train kept rolling, Glenn Howard clinched a playoff berth, and Randy Ferbey fell from the ranks of the unbeaten Friday morning as the favourites continued to jockey for position at the 2010 Canada Cup.

In women’s Draw 8 action at The Arena, Kleibrink’s team from the Calgary Winter Club won its 17th consecutive game — and improved to 4-0 in Pool A at the Canada Cup — with a 10-6 victory over Shelley Nichols of St. John’s, N.L., even though third Amy Nixon was forced to excuse herself in the third end due to illness.

Second Bronwen Webster and lead Chelsey Bell picked up the slack, delivering three stones apiece in each end the rest of the way.

“Amy’s got the flu, so hopefully a big sleep and she’ll be ready for tonight’s game (against Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones (3-1) in Draw 10 action, which starts at 6 p.m. MT),” said Kleibrink. “She gave it a run, but she only made a few ends.”

The 2010 Canada Cup has no direct bearing on playdowns for the 2014 Olympics at Sochi, Russia, but the women’s and men’s champions earn automatic berths at both the 2011 Canada Cup at Cranbrook, B.C., and the 2012 Continental Cup at Langley, B.C.

Playoffs begin Saturday morning at The Arena, with the top four men’s and women’s teams engaging in a crossover Page Playoff system.

Kleibrink (4-0) leads women’s Pool A standings, with Jones and Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton both one step behind at 3-1.

Howard and his Coldwater, Ont.-based quartet, which includes third Wayne Middaugh, second Brent Laing, and lead Craig Savill, knocked off Ottawa’s Mat Camm (0-5) by a 6-4 count, and improved their record to 4-0 in Pool B.

Randy Ferbey (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

“We’re right where we want to be,” said Howard. “Another really good game. (Camm’s) kids played terrific, and it was just sort of one shot where Mat missed a guard, I made a nice angle-raise, and that was the difference in the game. We got that three-ender (in the fifth), and we just sort of hung on after that.”

The victory sets up a showdown in men’s Pool B play on Friday evening between Howard and Edmonton’s Kevin Koe (3-1). First place in the pool will be at stake in a rematch of the 2010 Brier final at Halifax, won by Koe in an extra end.

“We’ve qualified (for playoffs), so now we need a big win tonight to see if we can get to the (Page) 1-1 game,” said Howard. “(Koe’s) is one of the best teams on the planet . . . I think they’re a little bit more consistent than they used to be. In the early years, they could beat you any day, but you could also beat them any day.

“I’ve really noticed that in the last couple of years, all four of them have been making a ton of shots. That’s all this game is . . . be consistent, and you’re going to do well. And Kevin has also been known in the last year or two to make that big shot.”

Meanwhile, Ferbey’s outfit from Bally Haly Golf and Curling Club in St. John’s was upended by Mike McEwen’s Winnipeg crew 8-3 — with the game being turned on its ear by McEwen’s theft of four in the sixth end.

“We were laying two. We miss two guards. Mike made a couple of good shots, and I miss my last one,” said Brad Gushue, who throws skip rocks for the Ferbey team. “I was hitting against two; if I get through the hole, I cut him down to one or get one ourselves, but I ticked a guard, which bumped them in, which bumped another one of their rocks in. A bit of bad luck, but it wasn’t my best throw.”

Said McEwen, whose Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club foursome includes third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak, and lead Denni Neufeld: “We wouldn’t have really expected to get more than a steal of one, and actually, before my last two shots, it was looking like we were going to have a hard time not giving them at least two.”

The McEwen team curled just 68 per cent in Friday’s win. “If you’ve got a couple of guys struggling on your team, sometimes the old skipper has to step up,” said McEwen.

“There’s lots of times when they play really well, and I don’t have to do much. It’s a nice balance. Today, we had to make some tough last shots to get out of trouble.”

McEwen’s win created a logjam atop men’s Pool A standings. Edmonton’s Kevin Martin leads at 3-0, while Ferbey and McEwen are tied with 3-1 records. McEwen plays Serge Reid (1-3) of Jonquiere, Que., in Draw 9, starting at 1:30 p.m. MT, while Martin and Ferbey clash in Draw 10.

Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard and Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., are all square atop women’s Pool B standings with 3-1 records, following important wins on Friday morning.

Bernard’s Calgary Curling Club squad, including third Susan O’Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire, and lead Cori Morris, disposed of Heather Nedohin (1-3) of Edmonton by a 9-4 score, while McCarville fought and scrapped her way to a 5-3 win over former world champ Kelly Scott (0-5) of Kelowna, B.C.

If not for giving up a 10th-end three-ender in a loss to McCarville on Thursday, Bernard would be sitting with a perfect record heading into her final assignment against Amber Holland (2-1) of Kronau, Sask., in Friday afternoon’s Draw 9.

“It felt really good. I think we were a little more on fire than we had been,” said Bernard. “The key with ends like (the 10th against McCarville) is to pick yourself up, keep on playing, and winning the rest of the games that you can.

“Amber’s always tough,” added Bernard. “We’ve got to play again like we did, and be sharp. It’s kind of all in our control. We have to win these games, because our pool’s pretty tight.”

McCarville, meanwhile, trailed Scott 3-2 after seven ends, but scored one in the eighth, stole one in the ninth, and pinched another point in the 10th when Scott was light on a draw for one that would have forced an extra end.

“The steals are really big when you’re in a tight match like that, and every game we play against Kelly seems to be back and forth, and always seems to come down to the last shot in the 10th end,” said McCarville, whose Fort William Curling Club crew includes third Ashley Miharija, second Kari MacLean, and lead Sarah Lang.

“We knew we needed to pick it up from our game last night against Jones (a one-sided 11-3 defeat),” added McCarville, who faces Nedohin on Friday evening while Holland clashes with Chelsea Carey (1-2) of Morden, Man. “And I thought we played pretty well.”