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Howard beats Martin in memorable Canada Cup final

Glenn Howard probably figured he had this one coming.

Glenn Howard (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

“I guess he is beatable,” said Howard, of Coldwater, Ont., moments after executing a rousing last-rock carom off one of his stones to erase a Martin rock on the button and preserve a 10-7 Canada Cup of Curling final victory Sunday afternoon over Olympic gold-medallist Kevin Martin.

The win was worth $29,000 to the Howard team while Martin took home $19,000.

It was a thrilling scenario in which Howard jumped into an early lead, then warded off a typical Martin attack in the last few ends.

“You’re never going to get a cakewalk against Kevin Martin,” said Howard, who directed Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill.

“Sometimes you don’t want to get a big lead too early. It’s hard to defend on ice like this. Even at three-up after the fifth end I had a feeling it would come down to the last shot. I just hoped it would be in my hands.

“The good news is we had a bit of a window with that last shot. Kevin, in order for him to get in there on the other side, had less margin for error but he made a great one, too.”

Howard entered the final game having lost to Martin in the Page One playoff and twice in three Canada Cup confrontations. He’s also 0-for-6 in the Tim Hortons Brier, 1-for-3 in the Canadian Olympic trials and 1-for-2 in the Players’ championship.

To boot, he hadn’t beaten Martin and his team of John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert in their last four debates.

The Ontario skip admitted Saturday his record against the Martin outfit has been “horrible lately”.

“The last few years he’s got us just about every time. We throw the odd one in there for his three or four.”

It was one of those “odd” ones at The Arena, today.

“Yeah, he (Martin) definitely has had an edge,” said Howard, “but it’s not just me. That team has dominated everybody.”

Martin lost the button-draw for hammer in the first end but stole anyway, burying behind the button and watching Howard’s last-rock lay-up grind to a halt inches short.

But Howard struck back like a Medicine Hat rattler in the second, executing an open but precise takeout to rack up three.

Martin blanked the third but was forced to draw for the singleton in the fourth, facing two Howard stones with no chance of a double-kill.

There was some disagreement about the nature of a Martin miscue in the fifth end, which set up Howard with an open hit for two more and a 5-2 advantage.

“He turned it in but four of five feet down the ice it definitely picked,” said Howard. “He always does it, hooks it back because he’s got two of the best sweepers in the game. He’s a master at it.”

Martin agreed his rock “picked”. He was attempting to skirt a guard and erase an opposing stone in the four-foot. But his rock quickly over-curled, drove his own long guard into the four-foot ring but left it exposed to Howard’s last rock.

“It was a big one,” said Martin. “It’s probably only a two-point game if I make it.”

In the sixth, Howard was guilty of leaving too much crockery around the back of the rings and Martin took advantage of all the backing to count two of his own. Then Martin succeeded in stashing two stones in the four-foot in the seventh. Howard required precise weight to hit one of his own in front of two Martin counters and erase one of them, leaving the Edmonton unit with the tying point.

Martin jammed on a hit with his last of the eighth, which opened the door for another Howard deuce. But the Ontario team surrendered that count right back in the ninth.

Playing the 10th all even, Howard succeeded in getting a lot of stones around the four-foot but a front guard remained. Martin attempted a “freeze-bump” with his first but angled it back leaving his shooter open.

Howard drilled that to leave himself with counters above and below the button.

Martin was faced with a shot similar to, but much tighter than, the Sandra Schmirler highlight-reeler at the 1997 Olympic trials, hitting and rolling on to the button between the Howard stones. But Howard was afforded a carom off a rock on the other side of the four-foot, doubling off his own to kill Martin’s counter and wind up with a winning trio.

“I thought it was 70-30 Glenn always makes that one,” said Martin. “He’ll make it most of the time. But you have to make him make it.”

Martin was unbeaten in this Canada Cup version heading into the final.

“You have to get there any which way,” said Martin. “But you have to lose some. I don’t mind losing. I just wish I could have had that one back in the fifth. That was costly. But they deserved it. They outplayed us.”

Added Martin’s vice-skip John Morris:

“We have to come out a little stronger against those guys. That was our B-plus game. And that’s a team you have to rise to the occasion when you play it, and we didn’t play like we have to play.”

Howard said he thought “we controlled it most of the way”.

“It got a little ugly in the seventh and the 10th but we survived. It wasn’t quite the 10th end we were hoping for, but it must have been great for the fans. There were a lot of great shot made out there.”

Final attendance for the five-day tournament was 29,126, a total of 908 short of the event record established in 2007 at Kamloops.

Edmonton’s Kevin Koe took home $12,400 from the affair while Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen pocketed $8,200, Randy Ferbey of St. John’s and Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg each won $2,400 and Brent Bawel of Calgary and Serge Reid of Jonquiere, Que., each claimed $800.