A pair of undefeated favourites and age-old curling rivals are ready to go back at it tooth and nail again this morning at the Medicine Hat Arena.
Defending champion Kevin Martin of Edmonton will play Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., in the Page One playoff match in the men’s division of the Canada Cup of Curling at 8:30 a.m.
Martin (5-and-0) and his gold-medal Olympians outscored another old rival, Randy Ferbey, 11-8 in the last round-robin match Friday night. Howard (5-0) stole an 8-6 victory over Brier champion Kevin Koe of Edmonton on an adjacent sheet.
“We had him in a lot of trouble in a lot of ends but Brad (last-rock shooter Gushue) did some amazing things to keep them in there,” said Martin, who notched four deuces and a three-spot on the scoreboard in nine ends.
“He got a three on us and it was 11-8 coming home. Any time it’s like that (19 points in nine ends), it’s a heckuva game.”
Howard, who lost to Koe in last year’s Brier final, trailed 6-4 playing the eighth end but scored a single there, another in the ninth and two in the final exchange to complete the larceny when Koe zipped a last-rock draw to the button threw the middle rings after Howard had buried on a corner of the four-foot with his last.
At the Brier in Halifax, Koe slapped his last stone of an extra end squarely on the button.
“Yeah, he missed this one by substantially more . . . “ said Howard.
“It was interesting. That ice got extremely, extremely fast by the end of the game. I couldn’t believe how light I was throwing it and we still didn’t need sweeping. Obviously, Kevin didn’t pick up on it.
“He was heavy on his first of the ninth, too. It’s surprising. He’s usually a lot more accurate than that. Our team wasn’t quite as sharp in this game but we hung in there.”
Koe would have clinched a berth in the Page One playoff with a win. The loss dropped him into a late-night tiebreaker against Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg but Koe got the jump when a Stoughton rock picked in the third end leading to a Koe four-ender and a 6-2 lead. It ended 11-4 with a Koe theft of three in the sixth end.
Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen will face Koe, who shot 94 per cent in the tiebreaker, in the Page Two playoff with the winner heading into a semi-final against the Page One loser and the winner packing it in.
McEwen (4-and-1) booked his playoff berth with a morning 8-3 win over Ferbey (3-and-2) and a follow-up 7-3 decision against Serge Reid (1-and-4) of Jonquiere, Que.
“There were a few tense moments,” said McEwen. “We had some trouble in both games today, and wriggled off the hook and played a better second half in both matches.
“They (Reid’s crew) were actually very sharp the first half of the game. They made a ton of runbacks on us, and I missed a couple of easy ones. They had us in some trouble. We were fortunate to get away a couple of ends with it being a one-point game or a tied score.”
The McEwen team curled just 68 per cent against Ferbey.
“If you’ve got a couple of guys struggling on your team, sometimes the old skipper has to step up,” said the Winnipeg skip.
“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.”
Ferbey’s team, meanwhile, was irate at the finish when discovering its 3-and-2 record wasn’t sufficient for a playoff berth. The problem was, Ferbey was situated in one pool and finished third while Koe and Stoughton, both with the same round-robin mark, played in the other and finished tied for second.
“It’s frustrating,” said Gushue, “because you spend a lot of time and money to come here and we see Jeff and Kevin with the same record going out there in a tiebreaker and we’re going home.
“I fail to see the logic in these rules. This one’s a lousy rule. I’d be content if they (Canada Cup officials) would admit they made a mistake with the rules but they aren’t admitting that.
“I’ll have to think long and hard about playing in this event again.”
Canadian Curling Association event manager Warren Hansen said the current rules stand. “We can’t change them now, but we’ll look at them later and see if they can be improved upon.”
For the record, the rule pertaining to the draw and playoff reads:
“The top team in each section will advance to the Page One playoff game (both men and women). The second-place team in each section will advance to the Page Two game; however, if the third-place team in either section clearly has a better record (more wins) than the second-place team in the opposite section, that team will advance to the Page Two game (or tie-breaker if necessary) instead.
“What if teams are tied after the round robin?
“The CCA’s tie-breaking formula will be used. This ensures that a team tied for a playoff position is not eliminated from competition without playing a subsequent game. But tiebreakers will only occur within a section and will not include teams with the same record from the opposite section. The accumulated distance of the five draws to the button for hammer prior to each round-robin game shall determine positions in tiebreaker- or playoff-positions in the event of an unsolvable tie.”
In other Friday matches, Martin hammered Calgary’s Brent Bawel (1-and-4) 8-2, Stoughton ditched Rob Fowler (0-and-5) of Brandon 9-5 and Howard defeated Mat Camm (0-and-5) of Ottawa 6-4.