Streaks always end. Even Kevin Martin winning streaks, although there was abundant room to wonder for a long period of time.
But the 30-year-old 2006 goldminer beat the 44-year-old 2010 goldminer in Monday night’s feature hookup at the Tim Hortons Brier in London’s John Labatt Centre, thereby ending Martin’s Brier win skein at 30 and reducing Alberta’s current record to 4-1.
The 9-4 Newfoundland decision left Manitoba’s undefeated Jeff Stoughton with a one-game lead on the field heading into today’s three-draw schedule. That will be highlighted by two feature tilts involving Ontario’s Glenn Howard who will face Brad Gushue and his team of Mark Nichols, Ryan Fry and Jamie Danbrook this afternoon and the Manitoba leaders tonight.
So Manitoba was 5-0, Newfoundland, Alberta and Ontario 4-1, and the remainder of the field was left jockeying for secondary positions.
“What are we going to talk about now?” Martin wanted to know following the loss.
“When somebody curls better than us, and they did, I’m OK to lose. I’ve always said that. You have to deal with the hand dealt you out there, you do the best you can and hopefully tomorrow morning (vs. Nova Scotia) we’ll get back to winning and carry on.”
Gushue’s Newfs got out to a 3-0 lead in the first two ends, stealing a deuce in the second when Martin missed a last-rock draw.
“The draw in the second cost us, to be honest,” said Martin, now 30-1 in his last three Briers. “I took about an inch-and-half too much ice. That was expensive. Three points was too much to give Brad. Against him, you’re not going to come back from that.
“It was a good run. It had to end. It has to end. And Brad was good guy to have it happen. There’s nothing you can do about these things, you know?
“The number’s 9-2 (for the Page One-Two playoff), we have one cushion yet, hopefully we won’t have to use it.”
Gushue admitted the win constituted a big boost to his team’s confidence.
“I think we went out there and we played well and we beat a guy that had a 30-game winning streak,” he said. “He’s been pretty good at the Brier the last few years and to go out and beat him by a good margin, that’s a boost.
“They’ve been winning everything and sometimes you’re left to feel like you’re fighting for second place. But we’re here to win this week and hopefully we can step it up another notch now.
“A lot of teams have beaten Kevin in the past, they know he’s beatable, but you also know you have to play your best and maybe get a break or two and you can beat him. We did that tonight. We played very well. We got a couple of breaks. And here we are.”
Martin attempted a triple in the third end and gave up another steal to go down 4-0 before finding some offensive moves. Alberta hit the board first in the fifth with a deuce but Gushue executed a clutch last brick to restore the lead in the sixth. Martin again scored two in the seventh but Gushue executed a precise tapback in the eighth to score three and close out the issue.
Gushue said his team was able to beat Martin four times last year, one in which Martin played in the Olympics but not the Brier.
“To be quite honest, I struggled in the first four games but that’s he best I’ve felt all week,” said Gushue.
“I didn’t have that much confidence but tonight with the exception of one rock I felt I was throwing it good and I knew where the rock was going.
“It’s a big lift, not so much from the win but from the way I felt. If I can feel this good the rest of the week and the guys are shooting we’re going to be right there.
“You know me, I’m pretty competitive. You get out there and the juices get flowing. We wanted to get there tonight and give ourselves the best chance.”
Howard, meanwhile, ran his winning streak to four off a first-round loss., hammering Quebec’s Francois Gagne 12-4.
“There probably are fewer rocks in play than normal (in Ontario games),” Howard admitted.
“It’s not intentional. We’re playing it simple without last rock. We don’t want to do anything stupid.
But nobody’s pushing. We’re getting up early so why get into it? Why get into something when you don’t have to?”
Six teams finished Monday with 2-3 records. In other nightshift tilts, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs rallied for a 7-5 win over Jim Cotter of British Columbia while Shawn Adams of Halifax stole the winner on a measure in the 10th end to nip Saskatchewan 7-6 when hammer-thrower Pat Simmons was a hair short on a last-rock draw to the four-foot.
Stoughton’s Manitoba crew enjoyed a one-game day and scored a routine 8-4 win over Northern Ontario’s Jacobs who said: “We got outplayed once again. We need to make more shots, simple as that. We’re not really the same team right now . . . and it’s extremely frustrating.”
For Stoughton, it was another business-like victory, albeit a sloppy one.
“It wasn’t a great game for either team really, but we made the right shots when it counted so we’ll take the win, that’s for sure,” said Stoughton.
“We shook off some bad shots early… put up that three-ender in seven and that was really the key.”
Said the Sault Ste. Marie skip of his afternoon Manitoba foe:
“Those guys have been hot all year. They’re throwing the rocks really well. They’re definitely thinking in their minds that they’re going to win the Brier. I’ve heard some of the comments from the beginning of the week. They’re a hot team and they want to win. And they are playing great and they show that they want to win.”
Elsewhere in the afternoon, Martin ran his streak to 30 with an impressive 9-2 conquest of winless Eddie MacKenzie of P.E.I., Nova Scotia’s Adams got off the winless schooner with a tidy 9-2 win over Jamie Koe’s Territories’ squad and Quebec’s Gagne failed in a 10th-end bid to hit and stick for two against New Brunswick’s James Grattan, giving up a steal, and a 7-5 decision.
Howard and Gushue recorded huge morning wins.
The Ontario team won its third in a row, a 7-5 conquest of British Columbia while Gushue and his crew nudged Saskatchewan 7-6 in a tight game that swung as early as the third end when a hogline violation charged to Simmons resulted in a big swing — from the threat of a multiple count for the Greens to a Gushue draw for three.
Ontario hit for a second-end three and retained control throughout although Cotter squared the account with a deuce in the sixth end. Then Ontario scored singles in the seventh and eighth frames and eased home.
Saskatchewan was leading 2-1 in the third when the Simmons miscue flipped control of the tilt and Newfoundland took advantage and ran with it.
“I owe Pat a beer,” said Gushue. “If he makes that shot we’re in a world of hurt.“We might not be able to score if he makes that absolutely perfect. Worst case, I’m going to be making a quiet come-around tapback against five. That was a big break for us. In the eight Briers I’ve been to that’s the first time someone’s done that against us so it was a pretty opportune time for us.”
Said Simmons, the 36-year-old Moose Jaw chiropractor:
“There’s some on which you don’t want to be that close but that wasn’t one of them. Over thousands of rocks I’ve thrown I think that was the second time in my life.
“It was an easy double, a half-rock and give or take an inch. Basically, I’d just played that same shot. That makes it even more frustrating.
“I was shocked. I didn’t really expect that. I feel bad about it. From showing him a half-rock on the button and lying four or five to a free draw for three? He’d have had a tough shot for the one.
“There are going to be breaks that go your way and break that don’t and the teams that can fight through those are the ones that will survive.
“It was one I wasn’t worried about. When I throw I look down at the rock and I know exactly where my release point is and it wasn’t one of those I was too concerned about.
“I don’t know what to tell you. There’s nothing I can do and I can’t argue about it, obviously. I noticed in practice I’d had a couple of red lights on draws and I was wondering about that, too, but it’s just one of things . . . you have to release a little earlier.”