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Ontario, NL stay within Brier range

Former champion Glenn Howard and 2006 Olympic gold-medallist Brad Gushue remained within shooting distance of the Tim Hortons Brier lead at the John Labatt Centre Monday morning.

Howard and his Ontario team of Richard Hart, Brent Laing and Craig Savill won their third in a row, a 7-5 conquest of British Columbia (1-3) skipped by Jim Cotter of Vernon.

Brad Gushue (Photo: Michael Burns Photography)

Gushue and his Newfoundland/Labrador crew nudged Saskatchewan 7-6 in a tight game that swung as early as the third end when a hogline violation charged to Saskatchewan hammer-thrower Pat Simmons resulted in a big swing — from the threat of a multiple count for the Greens to a Gushue draw for three.

Both winning teams take the afternoon off but Ontario will tackle rookie Quebec at 7:30 p.m. (ET) while the gang from The Rock goes against unbeaten defending champion Alberta in a collision of Olympic goldminers.

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.

“I messed up not blanking the seventh but we wound up a hair better,” said Howard. “That B.C. team is a great bunch.

“We’re not getting too aggressive or too crazy without hammer. But it’s still a little touchy out there. We found a couple of different rocks we didn’t pick up on until the second or third end. I had a fast one and a slow one I didn’t pick up in practice. We were questioning it . . . and it plays on you. You have to figure it out and once you do you’re good.”

Howard said his team has stumbled across anomalies on all the sheets.

“The rocks are fine, I think, but there are a few differences and you have to be careful. The ice, though, is definitely getting better. I’m pleased with the turnaround.”

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.

“It was huge. 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.”

Simmons said it’s something he and his team will have to grapple with and park.

“We’ll have to get over it in the next hour or so,” he said. “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.”

Saskatchewan was 2-2 going into its next assignment against Nova Scotia tonight.

Gushue admitted he was struggling with some of his shots.

“I try to trust it (the ice) as much as possible,” he said. “We’re getting some different rock reactions. But if we’re patient I think it will come sooner rather than later.

“We were thinking it was the rocks, we were thinking it was the ice, but then again we’re not throwing as well as we should, either. It could be any one of those three, but when you’re not throwing it that well it makes it hard to figure out what the problem is. I’d like us to be throwing it a little bit purer . . .”