The clash of Canadian curling titans was everything it promised to be and unfortunately for Alberta’s Kevin Martin, just a tad less.
That would be Martin’s last stone without hammer in the tenth, which cut too much wracking up front and handing Howard a ticket to tonight’s semi-final against Newfoundland/Labrador’s Brad Gushue.
The winner of that contest will play Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton in Sunday night’s final. The loser of the game will face Martin in Sunday’s bronze medal affair.
“That was a great game, big steal in nine, but he had us up against the wall in 10,” said Martin.
“Even if I make the last one though, he still has to really miss, I thought he’d make that shot anyway.”
The teams swapped singles in one and two, blanked in three, Martin took one with a force in four, Howard scored his deuce in five. Two blanks later, Martin scored one with, stole one without, setting up the big tenth.
“Glenn and I have been tied so many tied in the last ten years,” said Martin
“It was a good game, unfortunate… hate to lose, but that’s the way it goes,” said Martin.
It was the first win for Howard in seven against then Old Bear at the Brier and was sweet for the skipper whose lead Craig Savill battled the flu and reportedly could not have played Friday should the crew made the one-two game.
Savill gutted it out, a credit to him, says Howard.
“That shows how much determination he has, and how much we really want it… full credit to him, I can’t commend him enough to go out there a feel like crap and play that way…” said Howard.
“It was probably a Godsend that we had the day off.”
Coming down to key shots in the last end, Howard says the win was more about execution than engineering.
“We made all the shots and did what we had to do and we had to hope for a couple of misses from Kevin’s team. If you make your shots with hammer, you’re in good shape, but I was sure Kevin would make that tap and I’d have to make a shot,” said Howard.
Both skips thought each other would make those shots, a mutual admiration and respect society between two old rivals.
“That’s good of him to say, he’s a class act… there’s always been mutual respect between the two teams, so that’s pretty cool,” said Howard.
Martin made it clear his crew was anything but interested in playing Sunday’s bronze clash against the loser of Saturday’s semi-final.
“We were focused on today, (so we’re) not interested at all…” said Martin
“You guys (media) have to find a way to get rid of this thing,” he said, adding he was encouraging his second Marc Kennedy to go home and be with his wife who is expecting the couple’s second child.
He refused to speculate on what the team’s lineup might be for the bronze game, but committed to “showing up”.
The game means absolutely nothing, Martin said “other than the Olympics when you’d crawl across the desert for a bronze.”
“But, we’ll be there.”