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Olympic medallists advance directly to Canada Cup finals

Teamwork is proving to be the key for Kevin Martin’s defending Olympic champion quartet at this week’s Canada Cup.

Saturday morning, the Edmonton-based Martin outfit won its sixth straight game at the Canadian Curling Association’s first major event of the season, defeating Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., 7-4 in a crossover Page One-One playoff game at The Arena.

With the win, Martin advances directly to the Canada Cup men’s final on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. MT (TSN).

“We feel good. It’s the truth,” said Martin, whose Saville Sports Centre outfit includes third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy, and lead Ben Hebert. “I didn’t play very well (in Saturday’s) game, but then John did. And John didn’t play very well last night (in their pool-play finale against Randy Ferbey), so then Marc did. So it’s all up to somebody else.”

In Saturday morning’s other Draw 12 results, Cheryl Bernard topped fellow Calgarian Shannon Kleibrink 6-4 in a Page One-One battle of pool champions, and booked her ticket directly to Sunday’s final at 11 a.m. MT (TSN).

Howard drops down to face defending world champion Kevin Koe in Saturday’s semifinal at 6:30 p.m MT (TSN). Koe made short work of Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen in Saturday morning’s crossover Page Two-Two playoff game, prevailing 10-7.

Meanwhile, Kleibrink, who saw her 18-game win streak halted, will regroup for the women’s semifinal against Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon. Lawton dumped Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., 9-2 in the women’s Page Two-Two crossover game.

Both Page One-One results followed recent trends. Martin, who has never lost to Howard in six Brier showdowns, has beaten Howard in four straight confrontations, dating back to Howard’s win at the Cactus Pheasant Classic at Brooks, Alta., in October 2009.

Meanwhile, Bernard has now defeated Kleibrink eight straight times, with Kleibrink last knocking off her Stampede City rival at the Autumn Gold Classic in the fall of 2008.

“Club curling and club ice are pretty tricky, and have never been our forte,” said Bernard, who won an Olympic silver medal at Vancouver with third Susan O’Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire, and lead Cori Morris. “This is really nice to get out onto this ice. Everybody’s playing great and having fun and doing what we need to do out there.

“My stomach is going again, just like the Olympics and the Trials. It’s amazing how quickly it comes back. And that (was) a concern at the beginning of the year. We wondered if we would still have that (magic). But it’s right back there.”

Bernard got the pivotal point she needed in the sixth end, stealing one for a 5-3 lead after going up 4-3 in the fourth by scoring one.

“That was not a good effort on either team’s part. That was a horrendous game . . . on both sides,” said Kleibrink, who walked out on the ice Saturday with third Bronwen Webster, second Crystal Webster, and lead Chelsey Bell, as regular third Amy Nixon was still sick with the flu. “Not well played. I don’t know why.”

In the Howard-Martin affair, with each team having beaten each other once in previous Canada Cup action, the Edmontonians jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, Howard struck back to tie the score 4-4, and Martin scored singles in each of the eighth, ninth, and 10th for the win.

“I was a little heavy on all my shots. I didn’t get the rolls. I ended up being close to the nose all the time. Glenn was getting the rolls,” said Martin. “It was one of those days when John had to step up to the plate. And that’s a good team when one guy will cover for the other.”

The Howard team, including third Wayne Middaugh, second Brent Laing, and lead Craig Savill, didn’t get on the board until the fifth end with a deuce.

“We were really sloppy in the first half of the game, and it looked like it was going to get out of hand, but we hung on and made a real good game of it. Almost came back,” said Howard. “If I throw a little better shot in nine, we get our deuce, and it would have been a whole different ball game. But unfortunately, I threw a little heavier than I wanted, and it ran, and he stole one.”

Kevin Koe (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

Koe has taken the long route to Saturday’s semifinal, after losing a first-place battle in Pool B to Howard, by an 8-6 tally, on Friday evening. That defeat dropped him back into a tiebreaker against Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton late Friday night, which he won handily 11-4.

The Saville Sports Centre outfit, which includes third Blake MacDonald, second Carter Rycroft, and lead Nolan Thiessen, kept up that momentum in Saturday morning’s Page Two-Two game against McEwen — counting three in each of the fourth and sixth ends en route to victory.

“For us to come back and beat Stoughton and McEwen, who’s been having a great year, shows we’re mentally tough enough to shake that loss off,” said Koe. “We played pretty decent today. Probably the big end was (the fourth), when we got that three back after giving up three (in the third), where we played a horrible end.

“We came back and made all eight . . . well, actually, I missed my last one. We could have had four. But that was the key moment. We played really well.”

McEwen, who’d fashioned a 4-1 record in Pool A, also gave up deuces in the second and eighth ends, and wasn’t thrilled afterwards with his team’s performance.

“We were awful. You can’t win games missing that many shots,” said McEwen, whose Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club squad includes third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak, and lead Denni Neufeld. “I had nothing to work with. Yeah, we were bad. Simple as that.

“First three ends, we turned the game around. We were leading (4-2). But every time they had the hammer, we couldn’t do anything defensively to hold them. It wasn’t pretty out there when it came to my rocks, what I was looking at. We were having to make too many tough shots, and missing too many easy ones.”

Lawton started her game against McCarville with a single point in the first, then stole one more in each of the second, third, and fourth ends. She went up 6-1 with a deuce in the sixth, and scored three more in the eighth to end the proceedings early.

“In the third end, they looked like they were going to have a pretty good end, but we ended up freezing on them to kind of get out of the end. Krista kind of had a tough shot to try and get her point,” said Lawton, whose Granite Curling Club quartet includes third Sherry Anderson, second Sherri Singler, and lead Marliese Kasner.

“The ice was great out there. We were definitely throwing well and making some great shots. Krista’s team was going harder for the steals (in the later stages). They were throwing up the two guards . . . and left our rocks around in play, trying to freeze to them. Their freezes didn’t quite work out, and we were able to get some points out of those 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.